Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

by Roseana Auten

There is a burgeoning epidemic in North America, and it gets worse daily. Every five seconds, another woman rises from her chair (in a restaurant, at work, at home, on television), slides her thumb into the back waistband of her pants, and hitches them up, not sure if they're covering her behind, or even her underwear. There, it just happened again.

It wasn't always this way. After the first attack of hip hugger jeans in the late 60s to mid-70s, pants began to rise again and stayed waist-high for almost another 20 years, and thankfully so. The fitness craze had not yet arrived, and thousands of tummies and hips cried out in delight to be reined in by panels of denim again; derrieres rejoiced to have rear pockets that were flatteringly-placed; thighs were happy to roam in one, two or even three inches of ease in the pant legs.

But now, even with Pilates-this-and-interval-training-that, scores of abdomens are spilling over the tops of jeans; tight, low waistbands make otherwise luscious hips resemble the features of a balloon animal; and girls' asses have the illusion of more volume because the back pockets of jeans are placed somewhere around the top of the thigh, rather than on a strategic portion of the butt cheek (that's where the waistband is now). Worst of all is the poor thigh, once again encased in fabric and getting no slack for wanting to be in a seated, rather than standing, posture.

I am all for body acceptance, I am all for girls and women feeling good about themselves just as they are, in spite of daily exhortations for them to look like something, someone, else. It's just that I am tired, tired, tired of this fashion attack upon our numbers, on those of us who wore these pants the first time they were fashionable and could never imagine them becoming so again. I have resisted falling into the snare, I have decried this trend as an abomination for all but the very young and trim.

I have just recently bought some very un-trendy, very comfortable, loose, wide-leg jeans that sit on the waist and do not make any new fashion statement. They came from Catalog Company X (I don't want to say where, because even I, in my defiance, am not proud of my unfashionableness). I just wanted to not dread getting dressed every day.

And I have worn these jeans, held up by a cheap belt, and not tugged on them even once to get them to cover my own ample behind. Still, even though I'm feeling superior for not becoming the proverbial fashion victim, I'm also feeling self-conscious and very "out of it," as they used to say. Looking again through the literature of Catalog Company X, I see not only my dork jeans, but a new selection: lower-waisted ones.

Should I? I can rest assured these pants won't make me look like I'm trying to dress too young (Catalog Company X has been keeping women behind the fashion curve for many years now ) But what about my tummy, never flat enough to begin with, and now it's poochier than ever? Will my hips look like two mammoth matzo balls? How will my fanny fare? Will the back pocket placement work against me? Will I be able to sit comfortably and not get... um, crotchety? How will I feel about seeing a snapshot of myself in these jeans 18-20 years from now?

Probably the same way I feel about seeing myself in photos where I am wearing blouses with leg-of-mutton sleeves, a perm, or heavy eye makeup. I did those things, too, not because I felt sure they enhanced my appearance but because I wanted to be part of an era. I was not ready then to be totally anachronistic in my dress and grooming, and I am not ready now. The jeans have been ordered. My stomach and buttocks will have to learn to cope.
Roseana Auten is an Austin, Tex.-based writer. The jeans worked out fine and she even bought another pair like them. She thinks she'll probably have to buck the trend of wearing shorts with a 2-inch inseam, however.