Back in 1996, my paternal grandfather and I met up in Cassville, Missouri. I got to meet his aunt who was recovering from surgery and dig a little deeper into the hillbilly genetics that our family is prone to—it was an enlightening trip –full of great tidbits from Aunt Mary, who, having thought she was on her death bed, was happy to divulge as long as we promised to remind her children never to sell her property to those, “damned Mormons” next door. Her property butted up against a Mormon church and as a life long Baptist, she didn’t cotton to that too well. I was still in my 20s. After a few great days of touring the emptied out hamlets of the Ozarks, finding the one place that sold actual espresso and vegetables, and getting every last sorted detail from Aunt Mary about the Irby side of the family, I had to think of something to do.
So I walked down to the farm surplus store. I had it in my head to buy myself new overalls ever since I ‘d read Their Eyes Were Watching God as an undergrad. I know it’s kinda crazy but I always thought them kinda sexy in a quirky sort of way. Surely, in this obesity ridden state, there must be a pair of overalls to fit me? A farmer ahead of me, came out wearing the largest size overalls I’d ever seen. He must have been 400 pounds. I was under half his size. If they had them for him, they had to have some for me.
They did. They didn’t really come in real sizes. Not any I recognized. At the time I may have been a 14-16. I found some that fit comfortable and bought them for all of 15 bucks. They were rough that first few days and I had to wash and wash them to get them soft.
It’s 2012. I still have that pair of ‘made in the usa’ farm overalls. They are now faded and washed to a soft cotton sheen. They have white thin pin stripes all the way down and gold plated buttons, snaps and hinges are returning to their natural plain metal state. I don’t really wear pants–always been more of a skirt wearer, but I have these in the back of my closet and take them out every once in awhile. Hour glass figures weren’t made for pants. If they are big enough in the hips they are usually swimming in the waist. It just doesn’t look right even when it’s small.
I have had them so long that they’ve seen me through every size and I now gauge weight gain or loss by them. At my thinnest in the last 12 years while teaching in Japan, they were so loose on me that I had to roll them up and could fit a bulky sweater underneath. At my fattest (pregnant) I couldn’t button the sides and they were highwatered about four inches from my heel. So of course, I try them on now with much trepidation for even when we totally know we are over the edge, do we really want to know?
It’s the third week of making an effort a la Gunnar Challenge. I should have tried these on right before I started but I did wear them back a few months ago. The verdict? Well, I don’t have to roll them up yet but they ain’t high-watered neither. The bottom comes right to my heel. All buttons button. And nothing is tight.
I’m wearing them today. Walking around my own hamlet in the middle of nowhere California where there is no farm surplus store. Grandpa and Aunt Mary are both gone. I look just fine near as I can tell and I’m thinking that might be the best 15 bucks I’ve ever spent.