It’s one of those shopping trips I’ll never forget. My client had never owned a pair of jeans. They weren’t a big need in her wardrobe but they were certainly a want. I knew just the brand that would suit her figure: Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. I left my client in the dressing room while I ran upstairs in Nordstrom. I pulled a couple of sizes and brought them back for her to try them on.
We found the size pretty quickly. I told her the same thing I tell everyone: I want them as tight as possible from the start because they’re going to stretch out a bit. I suggested the darkest blue pair so she could dress them up or down. I focused my eyes on her fingers as she buttoned up our favorite pair. She was having a tough time. I was nervous.
“I want you to button and unbutton that jean three times in a row while I watch you,” I said. She lived alone. I wouldn’t be there to help her. “If you can’t button them, you won’t reach for them and we should leave them behind.”
I don’t know if it was painful to do what I’d asked her to do. But she followed my orders. I watched her and told myself it got easier each time but I’m not sure that it did. She was determined and that’s all the assurance I needed. “Great, you have your first pair of jeans!” I said cheerfully. She was 86-years-old and I was mighty proud of her.
That was easily fifteen years ago, maybe more. My fingers were more limber back then. While I could coach her through that exercise, I couldn’t empathize with her. That was then. Now I can empathize.
I’m not the only one in my group of colleagues or friends who can. Many of us are starting to complain about small buttons or tiny clasps on necklaces or bracelets. Threading a needle used to be a quiet meditation for me. Now it’s something I avoid unless the eye of the needle is gigantic and the thread is thick and waxed.
I’m not eighty-six but I’m getting closer to that age than I am to forty. I sure noticed it a week ago when I was buttoning a silk blouse to wear at a conference. Gosh darn it! It’s just one little button at the neck. I can slip the top over my head if I can just button and unbutton that top button. As I struggled, I’m not sure if curse words came out of my mouth but they could have.
As my shoes have become more sensible, I’m facing the fact that my buttons may have to get larger to make dressing as effortless as I prefer it to be. I’m not quite there yet. I gave up struggling with heels but if I have to struggle with a too-small-for-comfort button, that will be my sacrifice for fashion.
Time marches on but the principle stays the same: there’s a certain amount of pain one is willing to go through to wear something one loves. Like my client who bought her first pair of jeans at the age of eighty-six, it just means we still have a fashion pulse.