First Person

Can True Love Transcend Sweatpants?

A writer reflects on her history of love and loss after actress Eva Mendes, wife of the highly desirable Ryan Gosling, declares that fleece sounds the death knell to marriage.

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Eva Mendes, partner and baby mama to the almost universally desired Ryan Gosling, recently labeled sweatpants “The number one cause of divorce.” I found this terrifying. My terror increased when I remembered that Christina Hendricks—the redhead on Mad Men—is another anti-sweatpants crusader. Mendes did not mention her solution, but after a long day on the set, Hendricks dons vintage caftans. 

You know the expression “I wouldn’t throw them out of bed for eating crackers?” Well, I don’t think anyone would throw Eva Mendes or Christina Hendricks out of the house for wearing sweatpants, especially since they are both incredibly beautiful, and probably have the finest sweatpants available.

So naturally I was terrified knowing that Eva Mendes believes that one day, she could feasibly put on a pair of ($400 cashmere) sweatpants and come home to find Gosling gone—or possibly in the arms of some other woman who, at the end of a long day, slips into a pencil skirt or skinny jeans or a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress. I thought, This cannot mean good things for those of us who are A) not as good-looking as she is or B) have crappier sweatpants. Everyone knows that at the end of the day after the heels and the tights and the holding in of the stomach and the walking past people with that constant dread that they are thinking bad or good things about your appearance that could potentially be shared with you aloud, a woman really just wants to let the flesh, and the mind, rest. And the way to do that is in sweatpants! And shouldn’t love transcend sweatpants?

Well. Perhaps. But have you ever noticed that the word should often comes up when you’re talking about something that sucks and is going to continue to suck, no matter what you think about it? 

I started to think about my experiences with sweats. 

In my fourth-to-last serious relationship I was in possession of a wonderful pair of pink camo sweats from Old Navy. I wore them all the time. One day they got a hole in them and I tried to sew it up, but sweatpants don’t really lend themselves to being mended. So Mr. Fourth-To-Last saw me tearfully throwing in the towel on this project and said, “Thank god. I hated those. They looked awful on you.” 

I was truly astonished. They were low-cut and soft and of course what could be naturally sexier—in a quiet, stay-at-home and watch HBO for seven hours, because we no longer wish to relate to each other kind of way, but are relatively happy, right?—than pink camo? A few months later he left me for an ex-girlfriend and explained to me that he had been obsessed with her for 20 years, which, I thought, would have been nice information to have upfront. And I actually did not think to blame the sweats. I was like, “He just didn’t love me and was obsessed with someone else. My sweatpants were awesome.” 

At one point I went back to the house that Cheating Sweatpants Hater and I had shared to get some stuff, and stumbled upon (truly) a drawer filled with this woman’s stuff. And so it came to pass that I discovered that “worth 20 years of pining” actually means “dresses like lingerie model while sitting around house.” And I thought to myself well, good for her. She can have him. I don’t need some guy who doesn’t love me for me and all that other stuff that doesn’t really have anything to do with reality. 

Then I thought about visiting two friends of mine, women, married to each other, who I know have a very good relationship. I borrowed a pair of sweatpants from one of them. The other one said, “Wow, those look great on you.” I reported this with some pride to the sweatpants owner and she nodded and said, “She only said that because she hopes you’ll steal them from me. Actually, why don’t you just take them? If I keep them, I’m afraid she might either divorce me or kill me.”

I could not believe a word of this! This devoted passionate couple could be torn apart because of a garment—one I must say I found delightfully cozy and was only too happy to abscond with!

A few weeks later I was actually wearing these wonderful sweatpants—emblazoned with the logo of a decent and expensive but by no means spectacular liberal arts college—when I got an email from the sweatpants-owning portion of the couple thanking me for taking them, because the two of them had never been happier and she was pretty sure that was why. I was confused. Wasn’t sweatpants-hating just this sort of male-gaze problem that intersected with someone maybe not liking you in the first place?  

Meanwhile, I wore the sweatpants that had been liberated with pleasure, and got a new boyfriend, who, in addition to actually really loving and wanting to be with me, does not seem to carry a torch for anyone in his past who dressed kind of like Tinkerbell and, at the same time, kind of like Rosie O’Donnell in East of Eden. And I wore the sweatpants in front of him all the time and he does not seem to mind at all. 

I was actually wearing these sweatpants when I read about Mendes’s crusade. This is not a big surprise. I am always wearing them. And I had my adverse feminist reaction to her article, and I walked around a bit and did some writing and made some coffee—wonderful sweatpants activities—and all of a sudden, my sweatpants did not feel very good. I felt a rush of what I can only describe as self-disgust. I felt fat. I felt old. I felt poor. Now, arguably, on any given day, some of these labels may apply. But they shouldn’t have to all team up on you at once. I also felt dirty, and I realized this is because the inside of the sweats, the fleecy part rubbing against my skin, was really just not a very good texture. It felt dirty and disease-harboring. I took them off.

I called the friend who’d given them to me. “Do you miss those sweats?” I asked. She said that she did not, and that, in addition to feeling their absence had improved their relationship, she reported feeling “greater sensations of self-respect during leisure hours.”

I made a short film of myself throwing the sweats in the trash and sent it to my boyfriend. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more excited about anything. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?” I asked him later. He said he didn’t want to be mean. I asked him if he would love me even if I fished them out of the trash and he said he was going through a tunnel.

I don’t know if Ryan Gosling would ever actually leave Eva Mendes if she wore sweats. (Though if they ever do break up and you stumble on a pair soaked with tears and streaked with eyeliner, they may have been hers.) But I think she is onto something, which is that maybe even if people should love you for who you are, they might not, if who you are is someone that wears sweats all the time.

There are a lot of nice comfortable things to wear in the world but sweatpants, unfortunately, project just a little too much lack of self-regard. They say to the world “I am willing to give up presentability as long I can achieve a feeling of putting forth absolutely zero effort.” So those who see you in them can’t help but wonder what else you might give up—working? parenting? bathing?—if indeed that feeling is so pleasant to you. Also, the whole machinery of it: “I looked good for the rest of the world and now it’s time to put on my sweats!” indicates someone who is really only pretending, at necessary intervals, to enjoy being alive. And no one wants to fuck that person, or at least not when there are other non-sweatpants wearing people walking the Earth. I know it’s tough. That’s why they’re called big-boy pants, and sometimes, you have to put them on. So I am writing this sitting on a couch, drinking coffee, wearing Current Eliot boyfriend jeans. They’re not as comfortable as sweats, but you know what is really uncomfortable? Reading a note that says “I have left you for someone who wears actual pants.”


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