The Simple Bliss Of Wearing Pants, A Cautionary Tale

My mother always set out my clothes for preschool with characteristic poor taste; her love of antiques and thrifting left me wandering into preschool on my first day in an outfit so stale and ancient that I looked like a fun-sized cast member in The Crucible.

I was embarrassed. I tried to blend in and was successful until I went to use the restroom, and everything changed. Here, my belt buckle (presumably circa 1890) confused me greatly as I wiggled around and held my pee. This buckle was never unlatched, but instead bypassed through a process that I would call “shimmying.” Unfortunately, “shimmying” proved an ineffective method for redressing myself. Panic ensued. Focusing my attention on the belt buckle seemed incredibly naive to me; solving such a complicated puzzle required a depth of life experience that I had not yet acquired, being only four years old.

I stressed out in the bathroom for about twenty-minutes, pants around my ankles, unsure of what to do. I stressed about everything; pants, iron buckles, public opinion, a recently discovered pocket of loose Play-Doh, zippers, buttons, Velcro, the general vibe of corduroy — which was, in my opinion, trite and tiresome — the rough leather, my child hands. I stressed about global warming. It wasn’t directly related to my struggle but now I was in the mood to stress, so I stressed about nuclear arms and economic inflation too.

A knock came at the door. This was Miss Walker, my preschool teacher, informing me that nap time was about to begin, and that Maureen needed to use the restroom. These matters troubled me greatly. I struggled to pull up my pants in one final and desperate frenzy, belt buckle holding fast, and reached a very moderate achievement; my pants were now halfway positioned on my buttocks and in no danger of dropping back down. The sheer fullness of my four-year-old bottom (regrettably since lost) was causing a sustaining tension in the waistband. I was not thrilled by this resolution, but Maureen needed to pee. Time was short.

Staring in the mirror with disdain, I tucked my turtleneck shirt into my off-kilter waistband, demanding the garment stretch and bridge a wide gap that would otherwise expose some private goods. I looked very disproportionate, like two small aliens stacked in a single outfit, attempting to pass as a church-going human child. I briefly encouraged myself, pointing out that I was about to enter naptime and thus had a half-hour to figure out my situation beneath a thin scratchy blanket. Small solace, but decidedly better than charging into a group activity.

I timidly opened the door and beelined for my nap mat. Luckily, Maureen was reaching the point of bladder-explosion and darted into the restroom without dwelling on the sorry state of my outfit. I resumed my struggle once safely beneath my blanket.

In the same way that a minute takes forever to pass when hungrily awaiting a microwave timer, thirty minutes flies by when you aren’t wearing any pants. The reason for this may change depending on circumstance or the age group in question but nonetheless feels standard to the human experience. As Miss Walker came by to inform me that naptime was over and the status of my pants remained unimproved, I told her, “I need more time.” I said this very seriously, with a certain gravity that one might expect from a neurosurgeon hands-deep in brains. Miss Walker was visibly concerned and allowed me an additional 15 minutes to nap. This time too went quickly, and I asked for yet another extension. Every fifteen minutes, we repeated this charade.

I tugged uselessly, desperately, imagining the dull world that would become my lot as a boy with inadequate pants, speculating, all doom and gloom, the inevitable outcast, struggling with worn fingertips, yanking until my knuckles turned white and then red and then white again, just pulling, one tug after another, but no faith, no hope, because it was the act itself, my birthright was the labor, not the fruits, it was the tugging on pants that I had a right to, not progress or outcome, though I begged for progress, for inertia, for anything that could return me to the simple bliss of wearing pants. I was in another world. Others stressed about other things, but it was child’s play compared to my woes. Jake stressed about the sandbox, which shuddered just enough to topple his castles whenever Giana rode past on her bike. And Giana stressed about brakes, which she never used, but that was only because she found a thrill in the stress. Maureen, who had been stressing about pee, now sat at a Fisher’s Price picnic table, bladder empty, drawing something happy with crayons. Facing the wall, I tried to stress quietly. For a long time, I stressed about it, the belt, my pants, my exposed butt cheeks, all of it, I stressed about gossip.

Eventually, I reached a satisfying and unexpected breakthrough. It was so sudden. Like a speeding Olympic bobsled, my pants slid up my waist. I had been tugging so futilely for so long that when I received an abrupt and severe wedgie, tears of joy came to my eyes. I jumped off my nap mat, picked my wedgie, and ran outside. My outlook on life immediately improved.

The day proceeded so smoothly that I was surprised to remember how long adults hold onto things. When my mother arrived to pick me up, Miss Walker pulled her aside and told her the day had been “overstimulating” for me, exhausting me to the point of needing a two-hour nap. They agreed amongst themselves that a private nap room would be arranged for me, and that I was to be given a two-hour nap period each and every day.

Initially, I considered contesting this decision, but I held back because doing so would require me to come clean. I would have to admit that I couldn’t operate a belt, that I was practically naked all day and very stressed about it. Instead, I weathered the long-winded consequences of my pride and spent much of that year in a dark closet with a sound machine making bird noises while the other kids played outside.

Now an adult, I reminisce about the good old days when my pride prompted long and mandatory naps. Later on, for the same pridefulness, all I got was the emotional state of a beehive thrust over a balcony. No more of that, thank you very much. Today, I treat life like a reasonable toddler treats a belt buckle; I favor simplicity and ask for help if I need it.

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