One of two things has happened since I bought my last pair of jeans a few years ago.
Either a) I have experienced a late-onset growth spurt, in which an elongation of my lower spine has increased the distance between my crotch and waist, making it impossible to insert myself into a pair of men's jeans without damaging my genitalia, or b) the corporate couturiers at GAP have decided that I, almost-40-full-time-father-of-one, need to wear my jeans about an inch below the crack of my ass.
And so a quiet revolution has transpired: I've given up jeans. More than that: I've passionately rejected them. They can go to hell. I've switched entirely to chinos. It's not a perfect solution, but it's no longer the anatomical crisis it was shaping up to be. And it most certainly marks the end of a long, denim-clad era.
It wasn't an easy process. At the end of it, I basically gave the finger to the GAP-J.Crew-Express-Levis-Diesel global conglomerate dedicated to making men look like this:
Now, one of the privileges of youth is to freely choose to look like a fool, but not really know it; one of the privileges of maturity is to know that young people look like fools, several decades before they figure it out for themselves, as they inevitably will when they consult their yearbooks at future high-school reunions.
But to stick to my point: it seems to me that there is a dad jeans problem. It arises when you reach that fork in the road between low-rider/girl jeans, or boxy jeans with the capacious fly that zips up to your navel. I didn't like the choices, so I opted out of the game.
This is interesting only because it allows me to challenge the notion of mommy particularism. What is mommy particularism? It's the idea that, to paraphrase my wife, there is a certain unspoken social threshold with moms beyond which men (or dads) just can't pass, because they don't get certain things.
"So there's an analogy to the problem of moms and mom jeans," I propose, thinking this might help close the phenomenological gulf between motherhood and fatherhood.
"There's no analogy. You don't want to look like the guy in the picture. You're happy with your chinos. The mom doesn't want to wear mom jeans because it means she's not sexy anymore."
"But the common problem," I reply as our dialectic unfolds, "is that neither the mom nor the dad can find jeans that fit once they hit parenthood. So their fashion changes and it's a rite of passage. They're squeezed out of one style and can't stand the prospect of fitting into another."
She's still not convinced. I could have gone to L.L. Bean, I remind her. I could have walked into Eddie Bauer and come out looking like George Costanza. I could have gone for the full-comfort, baggy crotch in powder blue. Part of me still wants to. Her friends would be pulling her over and asking, "What happened?" and she would then understand the problem of dad jeans.
The controversy was settled the other day with a late-morning trip to "the mall," where Spot's mom saw for herself the reality of the dad jeans problem.
But it's not really the dad jeans problem I care about, since I've found my "third way", my chinos. What I care about is throwing another bridge between the allegedly separate spheres of mothers and fathers, comfortable in their mommy ghettos and daddy ghettos, talking about things that only authentic members of each ghetto can understand.
But the mom jeans-dad jeans problem can't be segregated.
The issue is not the jeans problem in and of itself. The jeans problem clearly transcends gender lines. The issue is who we decide we're going to discuss the problem with.