Bad Pants

by robin Komm it was a real problem, despite what you might think. A NEW relationship is a delicate thing, and the pants are important.

My friend Mira has a lot of requirements. She can't stand guys who carry man-purses. She has specific standards for the shape of a man's shoe (can't be too pointy, no noticeable heels). I knew she'd understand the gravity of this. I called her after the third date.

"It's just—he has really bad pants."

"Oh no," Mira said. "What kind of bad?"

"For one thing, the legs taper—they're like big funnels." I told her how big they were, how every pair would forgive an extra hundred pounds. I explained the garish patch of purple fabric sewn crudely to the butt of a pair of brown corduroys. I mentioned the gaping hole in the knee of his favorite jeans— which, by the way, weren't even real denim.

"Oh God," Mira said. "They're that fake denim? The pale blue cotton kind?"

I don't consider myself shallow. I was raised in a hippie town in Oregon. During my adult life, I have tried meditation, yoga, therapy, vegetarianism, and civil rights investigating. But the pants thing—that was deep, too. I liked Matthew a lot—I'd felt an instant attraction to him during the first class of the fiction workshop where we'd met. But here we were, living in a city, trying to make beautiful things together, and those pants were pulling him down. He wanted to eat crepes in those pants. He wanted to go get beers in those pants. How could he write sentences like the ones he brought to our writing workshop and still participate in this kind of aesthetic slaughter?

So, I would try to distract myself with his white teeth, the green flecks in his eyes. He was a sensitive man, and we'd already had a few arguments about my criticisms of life and people. Once I commented on another classmate's body odor and Matthew rolled his eyes. He was pro—unconditional love and nonjudgmental friendships. I had to be careful.

For about three weeks, we focused on not wearing clothes at all. This worked well. We spent a lot of time in his basement apartment, pantless. But eventually, things progressed. There were restaurants to visit. There were movies to see.

Then I went to visit my parents in Eugene for the weekend. My father, in his retirement, was learning how to cook. My mom sat at the kitchen table with a glass of iced tea while my dad tried to cut potatoes with a butter knife. Sweat beaded across his upper lip. He assessed the potato, positioned the dull knife, sawed it back and forth. I wanted to tell him to use a real knife. I wanted to show him how to hold it correctly.

"I never knew your father was such an excellent cook!" my mom said. "He's turning over a new leaf." My mother sat there, instructing him: "You put the fish in the square glass pan and then you drizzle olive oil, like that." He opened the olive oil, dropping the cap behind the oven vent. As he went to retrieve it, the oil slipped and he spilled several cups on the fish.

"Good. Oh my! I've never seen the fish look so perfect in the dish! Look at the way you drizzled that oil! You're an olive oil natural!" Her brown eyes gleamed with praise. And my dad got lighter and lighter. He was all puffed up about his olive oil and potato capacity. He was a wonderman. A miracle. A man who could slice and drizzle! For twenty-seven years, my dad had walked through that kitchen as if it were a place of extreme mystery. But for the three days I stayed with them, he couldn't wait to get in there. He made scrambled eggs. ("So fluffy!" my mom said.) He made turkey sandwiches. ("What tender meat!") He made burgers. ("Oh, you are such a pro on the grill!")

On Sunday night, Matthew picked me up from the airport. He was wearing his brown cords. We chatted about my visit and held hands as we drove through the city. We got back to his underground apartment and started kissing.

"You know," I said, "you've got a really sexy body?' He paused, waiting for more. "Most people don't have the body you do." It was working. He was puffing up, holding out his chest. "You should wear tighter pants to show it off." He glanced down at his pants.

"You think?" he said. He went over to his mirror and turned sideways.

"I'll help you find some," I said. It came out overeager but he didn't seem to notice. He was too busy floating around. He was a man with a hot body. Absolutely, the pants would come.

robin Romm lives in Berkeley, California, where she continues to fight the good fight. (She recently helped Matthew buy two pairs of flat-front chinos.) Her stories have appeared in Tin House, One Story, Threepenny Review, and other magazines.

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