One of the catalogues calls them soft pants and sells them near the towels and the loafers, but I’ve seen them in other catalogues, called by words with many more syllables. Other vendors call the pants women’s names, the fancy kind. The names you’d see curlicued on luggage tags at the airport valet. You don’t have to remind me that these are the same pants. But I am drawn to them only when they are called soft pants and I have become fearful of how this re-names me.
If I order the soft pants, there will no doubt be a great shifting of my own tectonics. Like I will only be good for reaching over the lip of a single-serving bathtub (while clad in my soft pants). And after the bath, I will dry myself off as best I can and squish over to the party, where the all the other women wear the harder pants, and they will watch me like I’m shoplifting.
They will drive their hard pants to the party cloakroom to confab and I will stand in the hall, damp-pantsed and not really blaming them. They are right to be proud of their arduous pants, which they spell with stabby z’s and squeezy vowels and pronounce as evil things that echo behind them, scrawled across the back pockets of their not-wet not-soft-pants. They will never give the pants up because hardness helps us all.
I don’t know what made me want for pants to be soft with me. It was not always like this. But there is now in me some craving for names like gentle contracts. I need pants that say Come, in a voice like mashed potatoes. Don’t you think it’s time to get dressed?
At the end of the party a young man spoke to us in a pair of anonymous shorts. He just stood, at ease, with his flat face, and let our questions mist him so very lightly that he was soon shining, glazed like a hot cruller, as if we could pull him open and breathe in the easy smell of his interior, and all the women smiled and stretched forward in a way that, no matter what they called their pants, was like kneeling.
And then it was time for my question and I was kneeling too and rolling out my face like dough and looking for the wet footprints that could show me the door, and my thumbs were dug into my waistband as I opened my soft mouth, and, despite my pants, it all still felt so difficult.