The Origin of the Fun Pants
For reasons of sickness and other practicalities, Christmas happens late for my sister Kari and me. One evening in late January we meet at a crowded Seattle restaurant to exchange our gifts. While waiting for our meals, we create a large pile of thoughtfully selected items, empty boxes and discarded wrapping paper.
Finally I get to the last gift. Inside are two boxes. The first contains a tie-dye tank top, something I have always wanted. “It’s a late birthday present.” Kari says. “I found it on-line and the colors totally reminded me of you.” Deep blues and purples splash across the form-fitting, scoop-necked tank top.
“I love it!” I say holding it up. “Thanks for remembering how much I like tie-dye.”
Curiously, I open the second box. Under the tissue, I find another tie-dye… something. On closer examination it appears to be a pair of pants. Cute, but tiny. Like a pre-teen might wear. My puzzled expression says it all.
“The bright colors reminded me so much of Dad!” Kari explains. “I couldn’t pass them up.”
“Yep, Dad would love them.” I agree. “I love ’em. But…are they for an adult or a child?
“They were advertised as one size fits all.” She says, both apologetic and hopeful. “I think they are pretty stretchy.”
“Well”, I say with a conviction I don’t feel, “I’m willing to give them a try. For Dad’s sake!” We toast our plaid and color-loving father who died six years earlier.
After dinner and as we pack up to leave, Kari pleads, “At least try them on. If anyone can pull it off, Katho, it’s you!”
Fear Creeps In
I think about her statement on the drive from Seattle back to Bellingham. I don’t know if I can pull off — or on — the pants. From the backseat they seem to emanate a strange power to intimidate, and irrational fear sets in. A fear…of what? This cracks me up as it reminds me of one of my favorite childhood stories, “What was I Scared Of?” by Dr. Seuss.
In case your childhood lacked this lovely story, “What Was I Scared Of?” tells the tale of a character, the narrator, who repeatedly meets up with an empty pair of pale-green pants. The character is terrified of the pants, as they can stand on their own despite the lack of a wearer. But when the character screams for help, the pants also start to cry and he realizes that ‘they were just as scared as I!’ The empty pants and the narrator become good friends.
I feel far from friendly with my scary pants. But it’s no mystery what my fear is about. Simply put, I am afraid the pants will make me look fat. Then I’ll feel badly about myself and spiral down into negative self-image territory. I’ve come a long way with body image issues. But far enough to wear tight tie-dye pants? That might be a stretch.
Back home, I take the pants inside, place them on the kitchen table, and pray for courage to try them on in the morning.
Courage Replaces Fear
Emboldened by rest, I text Kari mid-morning. “I am going to try on the pants!” Out of the box and in the daylight the pants seem innocent enough. I sit on my bed and inch them up over my ankles, knees, thighs, butt, hips and finally waist. They fit like tight tights, but they do have incredible stretch and the ankle is flared, which I like.
I stand up and look in the closer mirror. A confident, energetic me reflects back! I immediately christen them the Fun Pants, in direct irony to what I (and most women) would call Fat Pants — the baggy pants we wear when we feel too much bodily shame to wear anything else.
I wear the Fun Pants around the house all day so we can become friendly with each other.
The Fun Pants go on a Journey!
But I know the real test will be wearing them in public. I decide I’ll wear the Fun Pants to the hospital for outpatient ankle surgery scheduled later that week. What better way to bring fun and liveliness to an otherwise semi-depressing event that will take me out of activity for 6 weeks?
When my friend Connie picks me up for surgery Friday morning, she comments on my bright pants. I tell her about the Fun Pants and the bold declaration that I am done worrying about how others perceive me. Connie knows of my long time struggle and how much of my self-worth I’ve let be tied up with my appearance. “Good for you, Kathie.” She says. “You look wonderful as always.” A great friend, a great sister, a great Dad…how many others do I need to nail home the message that I am fine as I am?
I get more positive comments at the hospital before the pants came off in preparation for surgery. I am delighted and excited about what wearing the pants represents. Surely, I think, others can also benefit from the love and acceptance radiating from these magical pants! Just before surgery I boldly post on Instagram a photo of me in the pants outside the hospital. “Who says you can’t wear Fun Pants to outpatient surgery?” the caption reads.
Just before lapsing under anesthesia, I answer my earlier question. It’s up to each individual to accept for herself, finally and forever, that she is OK just as she is. The Fun Pants aren’t just a celebration of my Dad’s life, they are also a celebration of personal freedom and self-love. Freedom from shame, fear, and obsession that I and countless others have lived with for far too long.
I know I’m not alone in this. The Fun Pants represent a universal encouragement for all women (and men!) to wear whatever makes them happy. Powerful self-expression takes as many forms as there are people on the planet. Ask yourself: “What attire makes me feel bold, strong, and confident?” Determine your Fun Pants and wear them with pride!
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