Over the past year, I’ve worn a hole in the left knee of two different pairs of jeans.
I was so annoyed to discover those thin, fraying spots, and then it only took one of two squats before I had a full-on hole to contend with. The first time this happened, the jeans were from Old Navy and I thought, Well, you get what you pay for. But the next pair was from Lucky. My beloved Lucky jeans! They are not to cheap. But still, a hole.
I took a pair of scissors to the Old Navy jeans, fraying and ripping the denim, trying to make the hole appear trendy and intentional. I’m not sure it worked. I’ve since just moved them to my “donate pile.” The Lucky jeans I’m mulling over. Do I just keep wearing the jeans, even with a big and rather obvious hole in the knee?
Never in my entire life have I worn a hole in a pair of jeans—not once! And suddenly, in only a few months, two pairs! It seemed so strange. Isn’t this problem meant for pre-teen boys, who slide into first base on the playground after school? Isn’t it meant for punk rock teens, who intentionally thread giant safety pins through the intentional holes in their thrift store clothes?
How did I—approaching thirty now—end up with holes in my jeans?
The answer seemed obvious, once I gave it some thought. These days, I spend an awful lot of time crawling around on my living room floor. I drive Hot Wheels cars around construction paper tracks, and I dump loads of pom-poms out of dump trucks onto imaginary construction sites. I quickly lunge after a now-mobile baby, protecting his head from sharp corners and pulling his fingers away from electrical outlets. I am constantly kneeling and bending down to pick up one crying child or the other, and I throw my self onto the floor for more than my fair share of tickle fights.
Are they any wonder, then? These holes in my jeans?
Sometimes, I feel that if I was a real adult, I’d have more control over my life. I would have fewer stains on my clothes, and I’d always have birthday cards in the mail on time. I would eat a lot more veggies, and certainly—certainly—I would not have holes in my jeans. Each of these constitutes only a small mess, but each small mess and moment of disorder is enough to convince me that I have failed, that I am missing some obvious key to life and adulthood.
The holes in my jeans testify that life is not so easily controlled or maintained. There is an inherent level of wear-and-tear required just to make it from day to day.
The holes in my jeans remind me that right now, life might seem chaotic, but it is full. I am doing important work on our living room floor every afternoon, and the frayed denim testifies to my labor.
I’ve heard people say that they are grateful for a sink full of dirty dishes because it means food was served, and grateful for dirty laundry because it means people have been living in the house. I always rolled my eyes a bit at those platitudes; I’m pretty sure I’d love my people a little more if they stopped reproducing piles of dirty clothes.
But you know what? I am grateful for the holes in my jeans. They remind me that life here is being lived—hard and full and yes, exhausting, but so good. While the strands of denim weaken and pull away from each other, the bonds between Evan and me, the boys and me, and the boys with one another only grow. And meanwhile, my sense of calling and purpose is strengthened and confirmed.
So, if you’re feeling a little aloof from your right-now, physical life… If you’re trying a little too hard to be a responsible adult… If you can’t shake the feeling that maybe everyone else has it together, and you’re the only pretender…
I highly recommend ripping a hole in your jeans.
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ —The Velveteen Rabbit