Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ten Riffs on Zippers

My blog needs a jumpstart today so, inspired by Diana’s writing prompt, I’m going to see how much random stream-of-consciousness stuff I have to say on the inexhaustible topic of zippers.

1. The Zipper on My Band Pants. When I was a freshman in high school, we had to show up one Saturday for a uniform fitting. I totally forgot about my appointment, which was bad, since my dad was the band director and I was expected to be the model band student at all times. So I arrived tardily at 4:00 PM or so to scrape the bottom of the band uniform barrel and see what I could find.

The only pants left were huge sack-like wool trousers with 1950s-style tailoring or one pair of newer polyester pants in an ultra petite size. I was a skinny runtish kid, I took a deep breath, sucked in my tummy and managed to wriggle into the polyester pants and zip them up. The band moms helping out with the fitting all advised me, an adolescent girl who just might one day soon develop hips (not to mention a pookier tummy), to go with the baggy 1950s woolen sack slacks, but I would have none of it.

As punishment for not heeding their advice I spent a lot of time lying on my back on gym floors (we changed in gyms before band competitions) writhing into my pants and struggling mightily to get that zipper up. It took ages, and many a time I was the last person out to the warm-up, because it had taken me, like, 20 minutes to zip up my pants. My dad was not amused.

2. Bedding Bags with Zippers. A few years ago (or maybe more than a few years ago), manufacturers started selling sheets and blankets and so forth in plastic bags with real zippers. I cannot throw these bags out. They have an actual zipper—you know, technology—and they look like something that you might have to pay money for at one of those Container Stores (or similar). Yet they are free! I recently did buckle down and toss my little cache of them only to learn that that genius of organization and innovation, Nervous Ned, uses them to store spare skeins of yarn. Doh!

3. Zipper Shirts of My Youth. At some point when I was a little kid, these shirts that had zippers instead of buttons became wildly popular. The zipper started about mid-chest and zipped all the way up to the neck. The real selling point for me was that the zipper pull was a metal ring. How super groovy can you get? I’m pretty sure Greg Brady had a few of these shirts. Neil Diamond definitely had one (wait, I guess that would make it uncool). Anyway, I wanted one, and it seems to me I had to beg long and hard to get one, but finally my mom caved in and let me have one. I wore it proudly in one of my class photos. It went really well with my shag haircut.

4. The Wad of Zippers. My mom and I were both off-again/on-again seamstresses, which meant that we somehow acquired this hoard of zippers (probably mostly from garage sales) that my mom figured we might one day be able to sew into a skirt or something. These zippers (of all descriptions and vintages) were thrown into a shoebox where they soon got all wobbed up and entangled with thread, tape measures, and other sewing miscellany—a snarled mess resembling quite closely the recent state of my knitting bag. I’m pretty sure not a single one of them ever got used.

5. Zipper Shopping. In 8th-grade home ec class, I had to learn how to install zippers in the garments I created. Because it was too difficult to extract a zipper from the wad of zippers (and also because many of them were decades old and thus made of loathsome, unzippy metal), I went to the fabric shop to buy brand-new zippers. They had quite an extensive range of zippers, arranged by color and length. I recall holding fabric up to zippers to try to get the closest color match possible. I spent way more time in front of the zipper display than I needed to. It was very aesthetically appealing. It probably wouldn’t have taken much to get me to start collecting them. I mean we already had a zipper collection, of sorts, but it was more annoying than pleasing. Yeah, I was a dork.

6. My First Zipper Fly. For quite a few years I was immune to the influence of fashion. (In recent years, I’ve regained some of that immunity, it seems.) I believe I got all the way to fifth grade before I realized that not all the girls frumped around in pants and skirts with elastic waistbands. Some kids—the cool kids—wore jeans.

I surreptitiously made a study of the brands of jeans they wore, rejecting Lee and Wrangler (which tended to make butts look weird) and concluding that Levis were the brand for me. It was surprisingly easy to talk my mom into letting me get a pair of Levis. Perhaps I used my allowance to pay for them. I may have been faced with the choice of button fly vs. zipper fly (if not then, then later—it came up at some point). At any rate, I didn’t even consider the button fly choice—too much trouble and potential for oversight and embarrassment. I went with the zipper fly. The zipper was metal—coppery-gold and indestructible.

7. Where Zippers Should and Should Not Be. Hardly anything looks worse, in my opinion, than a pair of women’s slacks with a freakin’ zipper in the back, basically right on top of one’s butt crack. I don’t believe we need to call attention to that. And that is what zippers in that location do. There’s a checker at a drugstore I frequent who always wears a pair of tight black synthetic slacks with a rump zipper. Every time I see her I can’t help but think about how much I hate that damn zipper. It’s not doing her butt any favors. Plus, it’s more inconvenient when you need to go to the bathroom. So here are the rules: All pants, slacks, jeans, and trousers must have a fly front. A few exceptions can be made for side zippers, but get my approval first. Rump zippers are strictly forbidden!

8. Tricky and Troublesome Zippers. This would describe pretty much all the zippers on all the winter jackets and “snowmobile suits” (worn on my paper route on those mornings when it was 20 below zero) I owned during childhood. I was late for school on more than one occasion because I could not get my coat to zip. Sometimes my mom would grease up the zipper with a candle or a bar of soap, but I don’t recall that as being very effective. It just made the zippers gross.

9. Zipper Pulls I Have Known and Loved. At this very moment I am wearing an exceedingly shabby cardigan that I should throw out. I continue to keep it and wear it in part because of this darling little pinecone-shaped zipper pull. I am also inordinately fond of the squishy rubbery pulls on the auxiliary zippers of my rain jacket. I’m not quite sure why; I guess I just like the paradoxical way they feel—they are squishy and solid at the same time.

10. Zipperskin Tangerines (Losing Momentum). Has anyone ever heard of these? I doubt it. Zipperskin tangerines are something my dad talks about every time he talks about tangerines. I guess they’re the type of tangerine that is nearly effortless to peel, because the skin just sort of zips off.

But no one calls them this. Only my dad. Maybe once (long ago) they were called zipperskin tangerines at the grocery store where he shops, and he just latched onto the name even though it never caught on with anyone else. He does that. Back in the ‘70s he apparently went to some pizza joint where they had something called a “garbage pizza,” which was a pizza with everything on it (including anchovies and zippers—OK no zippers, but definitely anchovies). Ever since then he’s been mystifying teenagers in pizza places across America by ordering garbage pizzas. It’s actually pretty funny to see the look on the kids’ faces when he orders a garbage pizza. There’s always this look of horror. They’re so literal, those teenagers.


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