Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Blues

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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14

It's a rainy Saturday afternoon, and I am out shopping for a new pair of jeans. The loss of my last few pregnancy pounds coincides quite nicely with a major retailer's release of "jeans for every body," and like many other woman-shaped women, I am eager to go and try on a pair. No longer doomed to the one-size-fits-none catchall of the jeans world, we are finally going to be able to buy jeans in styles that reflect our body types: straight, regular, or curvy. The excitement makes me weak. Now all I need to do is find a pair that isn't so low-cut as to render myself a walking advertisement for the company that made my underwear.

Having birthed my daughter at the high point -- or should I say, low point -- of the low-rise jeans craze, I've witnessed firsthand what happens when post-partum bodies are squeezed into low-cut pants. As a Christian, I value modesty, but my beef with the jeans is more that I just don't think they're attractive. On anyone, really, but especially on the subset of the population that has recently given birth and now spends an inordinate amount of time leaning forward, bending down, or otherwise interacting with someone barely over two feet tall.

With husband along for moral support and daughter along for the ride, I arrive at the store, where a sign as big as a billboard is touting "jeans for every body." In the glare of the lights on the mirrors I see the reflection of my body, which is, purportedly, a "temple of the Holy Spirit." I've heard this phrase for so long it predates conscious memory, conjuring up visions of rudimentary Lincoln Log temples with a little ghost flitting about inside. My image of the Holy-Spirit-in-the-temple has always been rather like Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde from Pac-Man. I'm not quite sure what it says about my spiritual journey that I imagine the Holy Spirit as a video game ghost.

What does it mean to me to be this temple? It's another metaphor for spirituality wrapped in earthly tissue, mortality somehow containing divinity. It's the same logic that gives us a God fully flesh, a God mystically present in the bread and wine at Communion. It's a metaphor I struggle to understand, to work into my daily life: if I am not just a physical being, if I am indeed housing a glimpse of the holiness of God, then it seems to follow that what I do with my physical body matters beyond just this corporeal realm.

It's a lot of baggage to try and squeeze into a dressing room.

While pulsing music blares out of hidden speakers the merits of "jeans for every body" are explained to me, as if I couldn't figure out the inherent perk of clothes that fit. An enthusiastic, straight-as-a-board salesgirl walks me down a row of jeans, each one promising to be the perfect pair. The jeans are available in three different rises: Low, Ultra Low, and Little Better Than Legwarmers. I grab the highest rise they have in the curvy section, plunk a kiss on my daughter's head, and disappear into the dressing room, where I take a deep breath.

Fearfully and wonderfully made, I mutter, and step into the jeans.

Not bad, I think, slipping the stiff new fabric up over my hips and tugging on the zip. I turn around to view my butt in the mirror. The jeans don't fit, of course, but they're only slightly too tight in the hips and thighs, and I probably couldn't smuggle much more than an orange in the space between my body and waistband.

"Let me see!" the salesgirl crows triumphantly at the fitting room door. As if parading around in front of someone who has never had any trouble buying a pair of jeans is going to lessen my humiliation. But my daughter is out there somewhere, watching, and in deference to her I decide to be a good sport. I drop my shirt down over the waistband and open the door.

"Wow, they look awesome!" the salesgirl tells me, swinging her shiny brunette hair around and giving me a huge, I work on commission! smile. "Yeah, I guess so!" I answer equally brightly, before lifting up my shirt so she can see the difference in diameter between the waistband of the jeans and the waist inside them. As I do this, a second salesgirl wanders over. Her hair looks like it has been tie-dyed.

The new salesgirl takes one look at the orange-sized gap between me and the jeans, and starts to gush: "Oh, wow -- you are the perfect candidate for our new curvy jeans! We just got them in today, and everyone loves them!"

Really, I think. You don't say.

"These are your curvy jeans," I answer.

Silence. "Are you sure?" the tie-dye girl asks, her commission-smile faltering slightly.

"Yup," I respond. "The curviest of the curvy." I do a catwalk turn for her, and strike a pose.

"They're too big in the waist," she says, shaking her head at me. "But those are the curvy jeans! How can they be that big?" She looks over at the first salesgirl, who shrugs helplessly.

I decide the fit is good enough, collect my husband and daughter, and go to the counter. Sixty-eight bucks. Apparently loving my curves comes with a price. My husband makes a strangled sound at the register, but as a long-term veteran of my hunt for jeans, he knows better than to say anything.

Later, I am parading my new jeans around for my mother, extolling their virtues and their almost-fit. I am modest, I am stylish, I am woman, hear me roar. "Honey, why don't you just get them tailored?" my mother asks me, ignoring my catwalk turns. "Then they'd really fit you!"

I shake my head at her, vigorously. "No way," I respond. "The last time I got a pair of pants tailored, I got pregnant right afterwards, boom. And then I couldn't even wear them."

She sighs, knowing her protests that the one had nothing to do with the other will fall on deaf ears, and lets me be. For my part: my jeans almost fit, my butt is almost covered, and I am -- almost -- perfectly happy.

Elrena Evans holds an MFA from The Pennsylvania State University and writes the column Me and My House. She is co-editor, along with Literary Mama Editor-in-Chief Caroline Grant, of Mama, PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life (Rutgers University Press 2008) and the author of a short story collection, This Crowded Night, forthcoming from DreamSeeker Books. She writes for Her.meneutics, the Christianity Today blog for women, and lives with her husband and three children in Pennsylvania.

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As a "veteran" of the jeans' wars, I could really relate to this one. I buy "low rise" and wear long shirts. What else is a girl to do?
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