There’s a tradition in our family that started many years ago. Though I like to believe I perfected the approach and I endorse it with all of my heart I am pretty sure my wise wife came up with the concept. It might go down in history as her greatest gift to all of us, and an awesome achievement it is.
It is grandly called ‘Softening of the Pants‘. ‘Softening’ in this context is a transition from a hard trouser to a supple and comfy slack with deliberation and solemnity, usually at the end of each day.
As soon as we are home from a hard day’s work and there are no more legitimate labours to attend-to we get out of our ‘hard’ pants and put on ‘soft’ ones. Jammies, Polar Fleece, Long Johns, Culottes, Sweats, Palazzi, whatevs. No matter what the weather, really. The more emotionally wounded you have been from your day of thankless toil the softer the pant must be to assuage the hurt. (For really murderous days you can toss them in the dryer for 3 mins before donning, warming them till they’re toasty).
I think that for a while we were the only family that consciously, ceremonially softened as a group at the end of a day but I found that it caught on like wildfire. It got to the point that I had to hand out soft pants to visitors as they were overcome with the desire to similarly soften upon seeing us soothed and comforted in our consummate way. I actually have an entire velour sweatsuit set aside for the exclusive use of my friend Matthew. It was a gift and I look great in it if I do say so, but he looks outstanding, just like a swarthy, unsavoury landlord from an episode of Baretta, missing only wretched Adidas Slides and hairy toe knuckles. Incidentally Matthew was instrumental in helping us develop a small repertoire of sound effects used to really sell the wonders of softening. What started as the sigh of a pierced tractor tire has now evolved into a billy goat reaching climax.
Everyone in the entire extended family softens now, some opting to skip the goat sounds, and most of the women spend the bulk of their lives in ‘Yoga’ pants. These are to my mind a ‘Medium-Soft Pant’, not a fully hardened trouser meant for doctors offices, courts of law and at funerals; they are soft enough however to provide succor in the midst of grueling supermarket runs, where the lady in front of you decides at the last moment that she wants a rain cheque and then spends another 4 minutes fishing around for her Air Miles card while you are seized by an impossible-to-ignore urge to pee. Medium-Soft-Pants are also highly convenient when picking up the kids who are usually slathered in something that looks a lot like another kid’s snot – Mom’s ass crack is hidden as she bends down to scrub it off the backs of their coats. Or there’s the surprisingly stressful adventure of driving elderly in-laws to the ferry. They remark at every single sign (“They have a McDonald’s here, too!”) and offer for the ninth time how dry it was in Saskatchewan in 2011. Or was it 2010? Be honest: you will need a ‘region-coddling’ protective pant as you painstakingly discuss the route to the Coastal Cafe just one more time — this in the desperate hope of avoiding a ‘man overboard‘ alert from Auntie’s meandering. Then again Uncle Bill might voluntarily jump off the boat when he sees how much they’re soaking him for 4 measly Chicken Strips. Even so these Medium-Soft Pants are but a stop-gap; little ceremony is used in their donning and though reliable and utilitarian minimal magic comes from sporting them.
Pant-Softening behaviour eventually takes hold; you really get a good supply of ‘softies’ in your drawer. Xmas is a fantastic time to have them gifted to you — Mothers in Law are deeply relieved when they can shop for you at Hudson’s Bay just like they do for everyone else. They pity your lot, married to their offspring, but not enough to find an antiquarian bookstore. The end result is me riffling happily through the dresser in order to locate the ideal pair of Quitters for any given day – as each day’s challenges must be met with the appropriate pantal response.
To soften is to make the day a ‘win’. To re-harden is to write it off as a ‘loss’.
Heads up: The very, very worst thing I’ve done when softening is to leap into it too eagerly. The rule is NEVER RECKLESSLY SOFTEN. Re-hardening after a luxuriant softening is cruel beyond belief although it can sometimes appear unavoidable. Maybe you forgot about an appointment; one of the kids got a flat; you’ve run out of booze. Re-hardening is a soul crushing disaster so I warn you to survey your stock of vino and snacks, examine your surroundings with care, and triple check your calendar soberly before you soften for the evening.
One of the best days I can have is when I soften upon rising in the morning and never have to harden the whole day, taking the soft-pants off only to go to sleep that evening. A day like that requires a type of soft pants with deep pockets and a good elastic at the waist. I might need to load up those pockets with a wallet, keys, rocks, shiny things, or toy cars, cans of Raid or aerosol whipped cream, leftover Ikea bolts, a sweet & salty snack, or of course my famously huge mobile phone. Just because I’m not ‘hardening‘ that day doesn’t mean I won’t be going to the store; I don’t want the weight of my built-in beer holders pulling down my trou near the Canned Goods unless I explicitly have a need for it.
Pajama-type soft pants, on the other hand, are better suited to those days when you’ve worked late, it’s dark by the time you hit the door, and you won’t possibly be filling your pockets. This is just lazy man’s softening, really, but if the cut of the garment is predictable the pattern upon it becomes key. The visual pleasure of the pant adds ever so much! I got many years of deep joy out of a red flannel pair with smiling Polar Bears on them. I wore them until, as they say in Newfoundland, ‘the arse was outta them’.
You’ll no doubt have begun to realize by now that the main goal of such a lifestyle choice is to make it permanent, never really having to harden again, like a Pajama Pasha. It is the 21st century’s version of the Mumu, although my huge pink onesie, bought in a spasm of foolhardiness from a late night TV ad does admittedly vie for the “New Mumu” title. (It has a hood and a zippered trap door! It’s the clothing equivalent to a crossover station wagon with a sun-roof.)
But you only have to ask the friendly staff down at the local grocery store about my many visits in the softest imaginable pants. I have, on at least 3 occasions brought with me visitors, new soft-pant converts all, who giggle and frolic about the store in their delightful new togs. I, magisterial and dignified, simply sail in-and-out taking swift possession of the crisps and Twizzlers as I softly glide homeward.