Today I am a man. A crotchety old man. A nasty old guy who yells at people to get off his lawn and can’t understand why kids wear such stupid clothes. That kind of man.
In some ways, it’s surprising it has taken this long. I have already passed several old guy milestones. For instance, when I turned 35 and was no longer a desirable demographic to market to anymore. Or a few years earlier, when I passed out of VH-1’s target audience. Or perhaps when I turned 13 and had a bar mitzvah. Wait, I’m not Jewish, so I guess I didn’t have a bar mitzvah.
My point is that I didn’t achieve old manhood through those traditional means. Instead, I had to do it the hard way. I am an old man because I can no longer shop at Old Navy.
I learned this unsettling fact this evening during a short shopping excursion. I had noticed that my pair of Old Navy jeans was getting nasty, what with all the times our twins had barfed on them or peed on them or something like that. It occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea to have a backup pair of jeans to wear while laundering the other pair. Also, my old jeans were just wearing out. They were fraying at the bottom and the knees are pretty threadbare.
So I went to Old Navy looking for some jeans… and left feeling very old.
Before we go any further, you should know that I am certainly a member of the stonewash generation. Members of my generation were no longer content to spend a year or two breaking in a pair of 501s. Nope, we wanted our jeans to feel just right, as soon as we brought them home. Sure, the stonewash jeans didn’t last as long, but all the time we spent with them was quality time.
Those of you who lived through the 80s will recall that things went terribly wrong later in the decade with acid-wash, but that’s a whole other story. What’s important to remember is that I’m not opposed to distressing my jeans in some manner to make them more comfortable. Now let us move on.
Shopping for jeans at a place like Old Navy usually takes me about 6 minutes. I find my size, nip off to the fitting room just to be sure, throw down my $30, and hit the door. It is quick, it is efficient… it is a thing of the past.
There has been a serious proliferation of jean types over the last five years (I would call it “an increasingly large jean pool” if I was trying to be clever), but I’ve never let that bother me. I just glide past the painter’s pants and weirdo washes and find the least beat up pair of jeans on the rack. But that was pretty much impossible tonight.
The least worn pair on offer was worn down in such a way that they had a big white stripe down the thigh. Not really what I’m looking for. Plus, they spent so much time breaking them in, they were paper thin.
But then I came upon the “ultra distressed” jeans. Check out this pair.
It’s kind of frayed around the bottom and just not in very good shape, but it’s practically brand new compared to this pair… They wore down these jeans so much that there are holes in them! The pair of jeans I’m trying to replace is in better condition than the new pair on the rack. There’s something seriously wrong with that.
Normally I would look at a pair of jeans like this and just laugh and think about the person who is stupid enough to buy a pair of pants that will wind up entirely in your lint filter after about two washings. But there is a problem at my local Old Navy: there are no “normal” jeans to be found anywhere. Not even on a small rack in the corner that says, “reserved for square old fuddy duddies.”
So I left.
The defeat was stinging. I was officially too old for a store that has the word “old” right in the title. Where do I shop now? Really Old Navy? Decrepit Navy? Barely Clinging to Life Navy?
Turns out, Barely Clinging to Life Navy is actually The Gap, so that’s where I went instead. I was able to find my jeans tucked far away from the glamorous Wall O’ Pants on a small rack that said, “If you buy these, you’re a loser.”
So I bought them. I’m a loser. I paid $40 to learn that tonight. At least that's cheaper than a bar mitzvah.