FIELD NOTES | A Pair of Shorts is Judging Me

By Kyle Thiermann


My favorite pair of shorts is missing the top button. If I use a belt I can keep the shorts from falling down to my knees, but the system is far from ideal. Replacement buttons are sewn to the inside of the shorts, and every time I lock eyes with the buttons, they mock me, and I am forced to look away. The buttons know that I never learned to sew and I can feel their disappointment.

They are replacement players, and now that the first string is down, their coach is too incompetent to put them in the game.

If the busted shorts belonged to my father, they would have been sewn in minutes. Alas, they are stuck with me, a millennial who would rather wear a pair of malfunctioning shorts for years than learn how to sew. My father tried to teach me the old ways. He has repeatedly walked me through the process of fixing a lawn mower. (Because if you can fix a lawn mower, you can fix anything, or so he tells me.) But, like that dude from the movie Memento, I forget the steps the moment we finish the job.

“Automate and outsource!” If there were a slogan for my generation that might be it. The mindset has allowed us to save time, but it doesn’t go without corrosive side effects, like the feeling of total overwhelm every time the shower head needs replacing.

Household items of all shapes and sizes expected more from my generation. Leaky sinks wait for years before a plumber is called, and all they needed was five minutes with an allen wrench. Everyday, bike chains are tossed into the dumpster, when all they needed was a little love from WD-40.

Industry propels the throwaway mindset through planned obsolescence. Computer chargers, vacuum cleaners, and even refrigerators all seem to have shorter lifespans than their predecessors. Of course this has environmental impacts, but it also has a pernicious effect on our self-esteem. Take it from me: I can’t even look a pair of shorts in the eye, let alone another adult.

Whenever I have taken the time to fix something with my hands, though, I felt a sense of calmness that is difficult to achieve behind a computer screen. Perhaps we shouldn’t only adopt a “fix it” culture for Mother Earth, but also for own well being. And with that self-reverential idea now put to paper, I should probably shut up and mend my shorts.


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