I am standing here, in one of the myriad waiting rooms of Cancerland, which often seems nothing more than an archipelago of them, suddenly feeling almost human again. And I can tell you exactly why that is. It is because I am wearing pants that fit.
Big deal, is what you’re thinking. Pants that fit are nothing to write home about — and that is literally what I am doing at the moment, writing home about pants that fit. But you simply do not understand. You have to know, first of all, that really I ought to be using a watch strap as a belt. Yes, yes, I am exaggerating. But not by as much as you might think. I will use no numbers here; my waist size would make us both feel bad, even quoted in centimeters. Just bear the watch strap-as-belt idea in mind as we go along, and the problem will begin to take on the appropriate gravity.
Of course, I buy pants I think will fit. Finding a rare XXS, I snap them up and rush them back to my quarters, only to find that I have to do with them what I always have to do: I have to cinch them tight with the smallest belt I have (in which, of course, I have already made extra holes) and then cinch them some more, and then some more, until they are gathered at the waist like the top of a highwayman’s loot bag. From a short distance away, I look to be wearing an Elizabethan collar around my middle.
Worse than that, if I try to walk in this sack-race sort of thing, the vast and complex gathering at the waist begins to undo itself. And, in five minutes, or ten, or fifteen, the pants start to droop, lower and lower and lower, until they threaten any minute literally to become a puddle of fabric around my shoes. I am forced to mince down the street, in short, Geisha-like steps. Then, in the final indignity, when the trousers have worked their way down below my jutting hip bones, I have to resort to the Gypsy-girl business of actually holding my waistband in one hand. That is all right for a Gypsy girl. It is allows her to flounce her skirt about in a lovely show, and makes her confident that, when she breaks into her tarantella, there will not be one of those, you know, wardrobe malfunctions. But I am not a Gypsy girl, or a Gypsy guy either, and I do not dance the tarantella, so I should not be making my way down the street doing a dainty dairy maid impression.
There is a solution, of course, and I have happily made use of it. I have invested (and I do mean invested; paid a pretty price for the things) in a few pairs of very beautiful suspenders. They come from a venerable firm in the UK, supplier of fine furnishings to discerning gentlemen since 1802, and they really are spectacular. I have a pair of shockingly yellow wool felt braces from this firm (mentioned by name by James Bond in one of the 007 books, I read somewhere) which, when I flash them by opening my jacket, inevitably cause whoever is standing in front of me to stumble back a step, as if pushed in the chest. The things are, in a word, glorious. And then I have a second pair with sky-blue straps — the straps are sky blue because they are in fact supposed to be the sky, in which, in bright, beautiful stitchery, RAF Spitfires are shown doing aerial combat with German Messerschmidts. The pattern is called Dogfight. They’re swell, is what they are — perfectly balanced between gaudy and elegant — and wearing them gives me great pleasure.
They do their job, too. No chance of my pants coming down when I am wearing my astonishing ‘spenders. There is, though, a problem: I am about as substantial in the shoulder area as a wire coat hanger. And so, sad to say, after a time, even the very light straps of the braces begin to be a burden, begin to dig into me, as if I had stones in my pockets. I love them still, and I do wear them, but, dearly wanting an alternative sometimes, I continue to search for — pants that fit! That don’t need to be knotted about me like a towel. That don’t need to be hung from my shoulders, as if I were wearing a barrel. And now, glory be, I have some.
They took so long to arrive that I had forgotten ordering them. May have come from Ulan Bator by yak, for all I know. But a puffy gray envelope came in the mail today. I ripped it open, pulled out the pants, and slipped them on.
They fit! There is no chance they will droop. They have good, snug elastic at the waist, and a drawstring inside, just in case.
Yes, I know: They sound like maternity pants. But they look okay. They really do. A nice olive color, in a substantial but comfy corduroy. Even if I tuck my shirt in, so that the elastic at the waist is visible, I think they are quite nice. And they didn’t cost all that much either. I could trade one of my pairs of suspenders (not that I ever would) for two pair of these pants, and be owed a bit of change too.
So here I stand in Cancerland, where the indignities are so ceaseless that one almost — I said almost — stops noticing them, but now with one of those indignities conquered: I will not go about anymore looking like a beer bottle with a paper sack twisted around its neck. I will not have to do the dainty dairy maid mince. I can stretch for something overhead with both arms, and not have to fear that the saggy boxer shorts in which I have bagged my bony arse will be on display for the world to see before I can do a damn thing about it. And, when my wonderful gaudy braces become a burden, I will have a choice…a good choice.
I am going to mark this date on the calendar, in bold block letters: ARRIVED TODAY, BY MAIL…PANTS THAT FIT!
There are so few victories in this place, so much is loss, the changes are so relentlessly for the worst.
Something that is an improvement, a real improvement, is enough, for a time, to make a Cancerlander glow.
I think I will sashay up the street, to let the crowds take in the jaunty, confident, manly stride that comes of wearing pants that fit.