Altering a Levi button an easy task for an experienced hand

Photo supplied.
Photo supplied.
The first gift I ever gave my wife was a sewing machine. Used. Thirty dollars. Green. You could buy a car for thirty dollars back then.

It was a time when violent uncontrolled feminism swept the planet like a forest fire only Satan herself could have ignited, and giving a woman a sewing machine was considered an act of heinous sexism.

Pig man, what were you thinking, what rock have you been living under.

It was a terrible time for men. The word gentleman disappeared from common usage, even, I am reliably informed, from many school textbooks.

Holding a door open for a woman was akin to thrusting her head into a bucket of wombat offal. And, my own personal favourite, guiding a woman to dry dock by dropping a jacket over a puddle (one winter I lost 11 quality jackets), brought hissing hitherto heard only from railway steam engines.

It was worse for me; I could not sew.

Still can't. My gifting of the sewing machine was as much a cry for help as an act of misogynist love. But my fear of feminist outrage left me with a raft of stunningly ill-fitting garments desperately in need of fixing. Add to this a series of body-changing abdominal surgeries in recent years which have seen my waists ebb and flow like the Middle Beach tide, and you have a man with a problem only a sewing machine can solve.

But I am not someone who sorts a problem by throwing money at it. I believe in rational thought and spending as little as possible, so I have dived into the shallow swimming pool end of manual sewing, assuming, like golf and shoplifting, I will get better through practice.

My initial worry was Levi jeans, which I possess in considerable numbers after being forbidden them as a youth by parents who believed jeans led straight to juvenile delinquency.

And I have not become a juvenile delinquent. Parents, I mutter to myself, still scarred by a jeanless youth, this will show you, look at my Levi's drawers and learn. My parents died in 1997, but they will be watching from wherever the jetsam lives. All parents watch.

After the most invasive of my abdominal surgeries pushed the waist out to 32, I foolishly threw out nearly all the 30s. I know 32 is hardly a wide waist. Heavens above, Robert Hughes, not the exquisite art critic, another Robert Hughes, clocked in at 122 inches in 1958. But now, after yet another invasive abdominal surgery, I am back to 30. I could just stumble around in 32s like a food-stained slob, but I chose instead to resurrect the one size 30 left. All I needed to do was whang off the proprietary Levi button, a vicious industrial round thing that can't be whanged off a Levi waist unless you slash it clear with pinking shears. So I did this, wrecking the entire area in the process. The conventional replacement button would have to be sewn on above or below the gaping chasm I had created with the pinking shears. Testy.

It took hours. My eyesight precludes threading cotton through a needle. A camel would be easier. And what makes this even harder, it is my wife purring with faux sweetness, would you like me to do that for you, dear. As if I am a woefully incompetent picayune. I tried everything. I even put superglue on the end of the cotton to make it hard and stiff, surely then easily poked through the eye of a needle. But with Super Glue, the cotton inexplicably became bigger. Who would have thought?

Is this Murphy's Law?

But finally I sewed the button on, stray loops and unconnected strands spewing everywhere like errant spaghetti. If I pull just a little harder and twist with all my might, the button goes into the hole thing, though the dynamic of the fly has been destroyed, two upper buttons forever undone. But my fear of feminists has gone; I am asking Santa for a sewing machine this Christmas.

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.


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