“Snap out of it, they’re only a pair of pants. . . . That’s what I keep telling myself. Actually, they’re a pair of linen pleated trousers I bought at Louis last spring. Little did I know what I was getting in for. The more I wear them, the more I love them, the more I wear them. And it’s not as if they’re my only pair of pants. But when I go to get dressed, it’s like I don’t have anything else in my closet.”
—an advertisement for Louis clothing
store in the Boston Globe
Thirty-one days in hell; lost my girl, my job, my apartment; on the nod, drinking Old Crow out of the bag. An old Army buddy in Men’s Haberdashery sneaked me into the boiler room at Saks, where I sleep on a flea-bitten cot and sweat from the heat, but it’s all scum like me deserves; a guy who’d give it all up for—a stinking pair of pants.
When I think about the first time I saw those babies—laying on top of the 34-inch waist pile, their fresh flaxen smell curling up into the air like a spring morning that had sex written all over it—they almost looked like they were ready to leap off the counter and pull themselves up over my tasseled loafers. I hesitated to even touch them, for fear I would mar their perfection, but when I finally dared to lift them up, they sprang to life beneath my touch and, at that moment, we began to breathe as one.
In a kind of trance, I brought them to the dressing room, but I had no doubt that they would wrap my body as no one, or, rather, nothing ever had. I looked at my old pants with disgust; sure, they were 100 percent wool, but so what? Wearing them now made me feel like a vegetarian buried in a pile of pork rinds. They had become contemptible and vile and I knew they were headed for the Goodwill pile, where all unclean things end up.
I shed them quickly and when I slipped my legs slowly into the new object of my affection, I knew how Mario Andretti must feel sliding into a highly strung Ferrari—”Be careful,” she will purr to you, “I can be dangerous. But if you treat me right, I’ll give you the ride of your life.”
The waist and length were perfect and no anticlimactic alterations necessary. The line, as it fell over my hips, was careless and subtle, like Brancusi’s birds. The cuffs broke exactly at the shoe top and I knew instinctively that when I sat, they would rise to reveal a perfect three inches of imported beige silk stocking.
In an exalted state, the most important events of my life flashed through my mind—my first pair of wing tips, my graduation from the Young Men’s Department, my first cummerbund. Tragic memories, too, rose up from my unconscious—beloved argyle socks lost, cashmere sweaters clumsily snagged, white bucks negligently scuffed. A wave of guilt overcame me.
“God, I am unworthy!” I cried and started hastily unzipping the fly. But just then, I heard a voice, which was coming from somewhere near the double-sewed crotch: “We are bound together forever,” it said, and I knew it had to be so.
Our first appearance was an immediate sensation: when we entered the bar at the Ritz, a hush fell over the hors d’oeuvres table. Half the crowd burst into applause and the other half ran to telephones to scream at their tailors. At that moment, we had it all. We were Tristram and Isolde, F. Scott and Zelda, all tied together in one neat bundle. Every Gibson I drank was as clean and dry as the Sahara; every bon mot shone like the spire on the Chrysler Building. That night, all was heaven.
The second evening, we still made an impact, but the keen edge was slightly dulled. I heard a stray comment about my wardrobe getting repetitious, and the bartender put only two onions in my Gibson. Having worn the pants since I bought them the day before, they didn’t drape quite as well, but the crease was still as sharp as aged Roquefort.
The next day at work, my secretary began shooting meaningful glances at my legs. I glared back at her but knew what she was trying to say. I had now had Them on continuously for 72 hours, but refused to admit that anything out of the ordinary was going on.
That night, I saw my fiancee, Rowena. Madly in love as we were, neither of us thought much about my pants. We progressed through a candlelight dinner and kissed passionately by the fireside. We both began to disrobe, but when I tried to take Them off, some powerful force stayed my hand. “It’s me or her,” it said and I was powerless to disobey. I pleaded with Rowena to give me time to figure out the situation, but she was adamant.
“Lookit, bud, I’m not interested in a ménage à trois. I hope you and your trousers will be very happy. I’d suggest you go to Hong Kong for your honeymoon and have them make you up a couple pairs of cheap in-laws.”
Things spiraled down faster and faster from that point. First, the pleats started to sag, then the crease began to lose its keen edge. Gin and coffee stains mottled the beautiful creme color until I became too embarrassed to show up at work. Every day, I saw my pants degenerate a little more and my life with it. I lost my job and was barred from the Ritz. I took to drinking in sleazy bars; joints where they wouldn’t know linen from gabardine and eventually, even they wouldn’t let me in. The only way to stop the downward spiral was to dry-clean, but I couldn’t let those butchers get their hands on my pants.
I let it all slip away and now, here we lay in tatters. But if you think either of us regrets an instant of it, you’re wrong. We may have taken a few years off each other’s lives, but we’ve experienced a depth of passion that few ever will. And when we go—defiantly locked in each other’s embrace—perhaps our passing will inspire others to proclaim their forbidden love, and finally come out of the closet.