I'm in the market for a new pair of jeans. I know, stop the presses, but stick with me for a second and I may (repeat: may) say something interesting.
I forever seem to have the one pair of jeans that I wear when I'm not at work, the beach, or in bed. A pair will usually last 18-24 months with this sort of use before holes begin to appear in the crotch (a common enough occurrence for guys, though I have a friend who wears out the knees first… I'm not going to comment on the implications).
Being monogamous with a pair of jeans till now has not been a conscious decision on my part. In fact, I've actively pursued infidelity, purchasing second and third pairs to alternate with the incumbent, but these others never seem to take. They don't fit right, or they don't look as they did in the changing room mirror, so they get folded up and left in a drawer while my alpha jeans stay draped across the back of a chair for ease of donning.
When I was twenty-one I bought a pair of dark blue levis from the outlet store in Taihape on the way back from the Big Day Out, and as I was still at university I probably wore these jeans every day from then on.
Later that year I set aside the month of July to write my first novel, and continued to revise it once I moved to Brisbane, though nothing ever came of it.
My Taihape Levis lasted me almost three years all told, no small thanks to the year round shorts-weather in Brisbane. But when I came back to Wellington in 2006 to do my MA and have a stab at a second novel, I really needed a new pair of jeans. Levis again, though dark grey, purchased from a shop in the Plaza, Palmerston North.
As with my first stillborn novel, the first draft was completed in New Zealand, the revision in Australia, and then further revision once I settled in Edinburgh. By this time I'd also been through South-Eastern Africa and Europe with just the one pair of trousers and really needed a new pair.
At the same time I was getting more and more into writing short stories. I didn't know it at the time, but purchasing my light grey jeans from French Connection in a Bathgate signalled the transition from one book project (stillborn novel numero dos) to another (what would become my short story collection: A Man Melting).
I'm still clinging to these last jeans, but it's a matter of time before I find a new pair.
As I've stated here before, I'm trying to press on with another novel, but the process of putting A Man Melting to bed (choosing a title, going through proofs, choosing a cover, author bio & photo…) continues to intrude.
Is it superstitious of me to think that the purchase of a new pair of denims will propel me headlong into my novel?
It's all coincidence, isn't it. The lifespan of a pair of jeans roughly matches the life span of a book-length project.
We are so used to dividing lives up into twelve month chunks, but when I look ahead, I see a life divided into larger, book-sized chunks.
Hopefully these subsequent books will be published, so that these chunks have their versions of Christmas and New Years (receiving the book in physical form, the book launch)… but even then, these red letter days are all loaded at the back-end of the process.
What harm, then, in making the purchase of a new pair of jeans a ceremonious occasion?