Illustration: Olivia Fields
When I was in college, my boyfriend would often attempt to veto my outfits before I went out with friends. His main issue was crop tops. He’d yank down my shirt to reach the top of my jeans. (It was the ’90s — Aaliyah’s Tommy Hilfiger ads had us all rocking baggy jeans with peekaboo waistlines.)
It wasn’t that he didn’t like my body. Quite the opposite, actually. (A moment of silence for my long-ago six-pack.) It was that he didn’t want anyone else to like my body. Which meant no one else should see it.
“Why do you always have your belly peeking out?” he’d protest.
“Because it’s my belly, and I’m an adult,” I’d reply.
“Still,” he’d say, “you don’t need to show off.”
I’d usually roll my eyes, go to the party, and ignore his nonsense.
As the years passed and partners changed, plenty of men have tried to police my body and clothes. (Even my dad.) My attire has always been considered hazardous. It was classic respectability politics — I was discouraged from wearing anything too short or tight or revealing. The onus wasn’t on rapists to not be rapey; by some twisted logic, it was my responsibility to make sure I didn’t dress in a way that could invite trouble.
Society as a whole is much better now. Perfect, no, but definitely better. Not just for me, but for young women like my 23-year-old daughter, who knows she can wear whatever she damn well pleases. (Well, her dad might have some commentary, but he knows better than to try to dictate what she wears.)
So, here we are in 2020. I wear whatever I want and my current partner, a man I call a feminist (though he doesn’t like the title) would never think of saying something about what I’m wearing.
But I want to say something about what he’s been wearing.
The fall has arrived. Temperatures are dropping. And as a result, he’s been sporting something that I know makes other women raise an eyebrow, drool a bit, and maybe even take a picture on the sly for future reference. This single article of clothing has entire private Facebook groups dedicated to its existence. Women trade photos like baseball cards, instructing others to pervily pinch out at their phone screen to get a better look. I know this because I’ve done it, too.
I will not lie, those gray sweatpants look like lingerie to me. Those are inside pants as far as I’m concerned.
The offending clothing item? The low-rise jeans of the 21st century?
One week ago, I looked up to see my loved one on his way out of the door to walk our adorable, nine-week-old Dalmatian puppy while wearing a pair of heather gray joggers. [Insert Alfred Hitchcock movie screams here.]
I feel terrible because now I understand why my boyfriend was tugging on my crop tops back in the day. I know it’s not right to say this, but I don’t want my man out here getting ogled. (While he’s walking a puppy and hanging out with his cute-as-a-button 7-year-old son.)
I am ashamed to admit this. But I asked him not to wear the gray sweatpants. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and wore them again the next day. And the next. As he should. He’s a grown-ass man!
But I will not lie, those gray sweatpants look like lingerie to me. Those are inside pants as far as I’m concerned.
I posted on my Facebook page to see what my people thought. There was 100% agreement from my friends — these sweatpants are dangerous, and he should not be allowed to wear them anywhere beyond the confines of our home.
Again, I know I’m wrong. But I’m being honest.
If you own a pair of gray sweatpants, understand that you might as well be wearing a Speedo. You might make your partner feel insecure if you wear them unaccompanied. Need to make a quick run in some sweats? Wear a blue pair. Or a black pair.
Better yet? Throw on some dad jeans and call it a day. Your partner will appreciate it.
Read more: Death to the Three-Date Rule