I scanned the jeans, the hangers making that annoying screeak as I pushed pair after pair past my searching eyeballs. Nope. Nope. Nope.
God damnit. When did every single pair of jeans suddenly become skin tight leggings? Why can’t I find a pair with regular stovepipe legs? Why the hell do I have to pay extra for holes when I don’t want them?
Why am I paying for extra air conditioning? Jeans like this rip where I go, they get turned into rags.
Whatever happened to just plain everyday work jeans?
Designers. In the Eighties, in fact, when it was de rigueur to drape a coat over the back of a dining room chair in just such a way to reveal the name tag at the neck. One had to let the room know what one was wearing.
At the time, jeans were going through a massive makeover. Poor little heiress Gloria Vanderbilt (CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s mom) was one of the very early entrants in the designer jeans business. In a statement of how far the mighty can fall, along with the once-superb Calvins, those brands now sell for under twenty bucks at Kohl’s. They used to rule the runways, and were cause for much argument and negotiation at the doors to discos all over America. You could only wear expensive designer jeans, which spawned all manner of stupidity.
That would include jeans so tight that a friend actually had to stand on your abdomen for you to be able to zip them up. Jeans that now can bring $250k (yes, your eyes aren’t going bad) if you are in fact, that mad to pay that kind of cash for dungarees studded with precious gems.
Preciously idiotic, but I don’t have a quarter of a mil to toss at a pair of denims. Mine get filthy with horse hair, mud and sweat,the way they were designed. I’m a farm girl. I work hard. I don’t just want to appear as though I do. I do it.
These days even effing Carhartt has been hijacked by what the Canadians refer to as “Lumbersexuals,” a term that made me pee on the floor laughing. The Canadian who offered it up did so with such disgust — because he is a legit mountain man- that his meaning was obvious. No Lumbersexual has ever gotten a splinter in his well-manicured hands. This article gives a guy, in all seriousness, guidance on how to get the Chris Hemsworth look without a bit of the work.
Very much to me like getting silicone ab implants, but I digress. A fake is a fake is a fake in any culture.
In his lovely, funny and insightful book The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz discusses a similar experience. When he went shopping for a plain old everyday pair of jeans, he was met with such a plethora of choices (style, color, washes, holes, zip, buttons, I could go on forever) he was temporarily frozen in place.
When did buying a pair of jeans require a plenary session at the UN? You try them on. A pair fits. You buy them. Done.
Yesterday after finally getting back to Denver after a month in the wilderness, and eager to get a handful of ice cold grapes, I went to my local Kroger’s outlet. Grapes and blackberries and nectarines and bananas and fresh eggs and cream and all those things that for a month I’ve had to rehydrate (and push off on others, who didn’t want them either). Justin’s Nut Butters come in awfully handy, and so do apples, which can weather a month of banging around inside panniers.
I needed to soak. I found bags of Dr. Teal’s, but couldn’t find my lavender or plain or eucalpytus. Now they have designer versions. Ginger and clay. Huh?
Can we not just leave good enough alone?
When I was up at 5 am with the wilderness guides having coffee, we often spoke with real sadness about superb products that we can’t find anymore. Thermarest mattresses so solid that thirty years later, they are still going strong, not a single hole. Certain glue products that disappeared off the market. Tools. Well made things that last, like the kinds of tools you can find in antique shops, so well made they work as well now as they did 150 years ago. They have a heft and feel and smell to them, like an old Ace Hardware store, but with the tang of dirt and sweat and work deep in the wood and metal.
Mind you, three of four of these guides are under thirty. That’s intriguing.
The charming annual catalog from The Vermont Country store that arrives in time for the holiday season is, for me, a reminder that there are plenty of us who still like old things made well. Old style candies and sweets (any fellow Southerners out there pining for an RC Cola and moon pie (pronounced PAH)? Charles Chips? Charles Pretzels? You can still get them along with old-fashioned scents. Were my mother still alive she would do backflips to know she could still buy Evening in Paris perfume. Along with old style jammies and all manner of items, including toys, that disappeared off store shelves years ago. Sock monkeys, Gumby and Pokey, Raggedy Ann and Andy.
There are things here that rush the past into my mouth, my mind and my memories. I don’t pine for them. However I do periodically enjoy simpler choices. There’s something rather wonderful about Henry Ford’s admonition that you could have any color of Model T you wanted, so long as it was black.
In 2017, in the high Altai mountains of Kazakhstan, I walked into a small store that was miles from our campsite. We needed supplies. At the cash register - or where one would be - was an ancient abacus. You ever want to be duly impressed, watch an eight-year-old girl add up three bags of groceries at warp speed on an ancient abacus. She had a cell phone. The abacus works better.
When I come back from a long, remote expedition, I am regularly shocked by the plethora of things as ridiculous as douche flavors (really?) and just exactly why do I need a glow in the dark condom? Is Mr. Happy that shy that he needs neon to be found at all?
Such questions always arise (okay, pun intended) when I wander a store after a trip into the outback.
What on earth do we need all this stuff for?
It’s okay to get old enough to miss some things about a life lived decades ago.
It’s even better to get to enjoy them again, once in a while.
That’s one of the benefits of aging.
I’m going to do something very old fashioned: put a pillow onto the couch and read a book. Something to be said, at least on occasion, for simple.