I never considered my pants could speak until this past fall. If I had given it some thought, I imagine they'd tell me that short girls with thick thighs should not wear skinny jeans unless they want to look like their torso is supported by two blue tree trunks. Or maybe they'd finally let me in on the reason why men's pants are sized by waist and inseam and women are stuck with generic labels like "slim" and "tall" or worse, just a glaring solitary number, "2." "7." "16." Given my horrible luck in dressing rooms and how I twitch at the sight of denim, I'd imagine my pants would tell me to just give up and live in skirts and dresses.
Last September, I put on a pair of houndstooth pants that simultaneously drowned my short legs and suffocated my waist. These pants were lying to me: the only place these slacks were an S was in the waist (the XS, S, M, L, XL system is even more depressing than the numbers, am I right?!). I clutched at monochrome cloth, desperately pulling upward in hopes of revealing my feet, which were lost among the extra fabric.
Finally, ten toes emerged. As I looked down at my lavendar nails, it hit me: these pants did not fit. Moreso than the length and the overbearing elastic that branded my skin with deep pink stripes, I was not meant to wear these pants.
I was no stranger to houndstooth, or professional kitchen whites. My dad was a caterer growing up and my favorite game to play with my older sister was "cook and waitress," with me donning my dad's chef coat (with a pillow under it for effect--even then I knew never to trust a skinny chef!), an eyeliner moustache and checkered slacks. Donning this uniform as an adult was another story. I was taking a class in food photography meant for actual culinary majors, so in a way, I was still playing make-believe (anyone watching me attempt to chop an onion that first class would agree with me!). But as I mused upon the tiny checks cascading down my legs, it all became real. For all the daydreaming of pastry school I had done over the past 5 years, somehow I had never actually pictured myself in the uniform. And now, staring at my reflection in the mirror with a skull cap and an embroidered chef's coat, the image didn't fit. At 27, I still looked like an overgrown kid (or an undergrown adult--jury's still out) wearing a too-big costume hoping that people would take me seriously.
That shaky first class I sobbed chopping an onion, both out of sheer terror and because, well, I was chopping an onion. I'm sure I shamed my dad with my wildly uneven dice and hesitant approach to the tomato soup I was assigned (could I have asked for a less intimidating recipe?!). I'm also annoyingly talkative and normally prone to start conversations with new people, but that night I viewed all my classmates as potential contestants on Top Chef and shut off every loquacious inclination in my body. I let my pants do the talking and they told me I was way out of my league.
I wish I could pinpoint exactly how or when it happened, but as the class progressed, things got easier. Memories of my dad's commercial kitchen resurfaced; I remembered my dad's chubby red fingers adjusting my little ones as he taught a younger version of me how to hold a knife. I found comfort standing behind the camera. I got better at styling food. I shined on the day we made macadamia nut brownies. And, maybe it was the anxiety that made me lose a few pounds, but by the last class, my pants seemed less suffocating. They were still a little long (even after my shoddy hem job), but they were seemingly less loud and, dare I say it, they almost seemed to fit.