Belly button pushback

The small sacrifices of sitting down and bending over.

Hi, friend. I’m in your inbox today to give you something much more frivolous to think about than the coronavirus: low-rise denim. Because we all need a break from the news cycle now and then. Let’s go!

Back in my early twenties I chanced into the ultimate Craigslist gig and got paid to do something I’d gladly do for free: try on endless pairs of designer denim and give feedback on the fit. A mere 90 minutes stood between me and a crisp envelope with $150 cash inside.

It still feels too good to be true.

This being the early aughts, my favorite was a pair of Sevens with fancy pocket detailing and a rise low enough that any reasonable person would think twice about bending or sitting. They were on trend, made my butt look great, and gave me a pretty serious muffin top.

“These are perfect!” I exclaimed to the rep, who gently asked me about the rolls of flesh coming out over the top of the jeans. Wouldn’t I be more comfortable with a higher rise, or more room in the waistband?

“Oh, that’s just how my body is,” I said dismissively, admiring the blinged out pockets and wondering if I could switch my payment method to denim.

Back in those ultra-low-rise days, part of my morning routine was camouflaging how poorly all my jeans fit. I would guide the waistband to best smooth out the flesh on my hips; I knew instinctually when I could squeeze into a freshly washed (extra tight!) pair, and which tops would free me to sit down or lift my arms up without revealing my butt crack. And even though I knew how to place and adjust, before I left home, I’d still obsessively check in the mirror to make sure I wasn’t ‘gross’ from any angle.

And of course once out in public, I’d be constantly readjusting, repositioning, harboring low-level background anxiety about the collision of my flesh and my jeans.

That’s a lot of energy devoted to contorting and conforming.

Because I’ve mostly graduated from those anxieties (not least because rises have, mercifully, risen), I love watching how my four year old daughter wears her pants. When she’s getting dressed, she pulls them up until they hit their natural roadblock and then she moves on.

It’s so simple I am overcome with giddiness every time she does it.

She hasn’t learned yet that her comfort and freedom of movement is the price she’ll pay to be cool. She’s not slinging her shorts a little lower on her hips. She’s not stressing over how the inseam flatters her shoe choice. She’s not micro-adjusting to best mimic the ‘ideal’ body shape.

I watch her with both joy and dread because this phase is terminal. Chances are that one day she’ll obsess over millimeters of fabric and the disobedience of her own flesh. Chances are she’ll discover that the clothes pushed upon her are those that restrict her movements and highlight her own deviance from the bullshit ideal du jour. Even if she doesn’t seek it out, this knowledge and its punishments will find her.

For now, her belly button pushes back against an elastic waistband decorated with parachuting pandas or sparkly stars, and in its innocence all is possible.


And now, a special section devoted to my grief about Elizabeth Warren’s suspended presidential campaign. Skip down if you don’t care.

Warren’s poor support in the primary felt like an existential wound. I’m butt hurt in a way that helps me understand the emotional ravages of sports fans—a group for whom I have previously had very little empathy. Here was an exceptional candidate—not perfect, the goddamn thing doesn’t exist—but an exceptional candidate. And I realize I’m in a bubble of affluent, overeducated white people, but I naively believed we might for fucking once go for someone effective, competent, hardworking, and so fucking smart. I mean, how necessary do those qualities sound?!

So I’ve been grief reading, licking my wounds in ideas probably only entertained by fellow bubble members. Here are some of my favorite quotes and links.

“Electability” claims to be a benign and objective concern. It is neither. It merely outsources biases, rationalizing them by appealing to the moral failings of imagined others. It talks about neighbors, and “other people,” and “what the country is ready for.” It throws up its hands and washes them at the same time. And it suggests an especially insidious strain of sexism. The sexism of the political past has often been blunt and unashamed in its expression (“Lock! Her! Up!”/ “Iron! My! Shirt!” / “She-devil”). The sexism of the political present, however, is slightly different: It knows better, even if it fails to be better. It is a little bit cannier. It has lawyered up. It is figuring out, day by day, how to maintain plausible deniability. - Megan Garber, The Atlantic

“Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman. If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner!’ And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, What planet do you live on?” - Elizabeth Warren, with the perfect answer to an impossible question.

Also: funny not funny. Even funnier not funny. These sentences are taut with rage and powered me through a brutal workout yesterday. Want to be a successful woman? Make sure to qualify your success, apologize for it, or at least be a hot mess. Yep, rage and sorrow pretty much sums it up.

Okay, deep breaths. If there’s more I should be rage reading with my ice cream, please send me links.


Media I’m glad I consumed this week:

  • Synergy was just the beginning. The garbage language of corporations and startups.


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