This week, I got really upset about jeans. A pair of Levi’s. A pair of missing Levi’s. I’d been searching for them calmly each day, every morning waking up, hoping – ridiculously – to discover them hanging in the wardrobe, waiting for me. I’d mentioned it to my boyfriend, whom I live with, as he does most of the laundry; you know, just a few “keep an eye out for my jeans” prompts. But then on Tuesday night, my calm crumbled. I couldn’t take the not-knowing and I started tearing the house apart. I wanted to wear my jeans on Wednesday. WHERE WERE MY JEANS?
Finally – well, around 40 minutes after the search began in earnest – they turned up in a drawer that was also harbouring some travel pillows and a fan heater that has never been used.
“I’m sorry,” said my boyfriend. “I must have put them in there when they wouldn’t fit in the wardrobe or any of the other drawers.”
We should have left the discussion at that. I should have said, “No worries, thanks for ironing them.”
But we didn’t. We allowed this case of the missing/found jeans to unmoor us.
“I think we have to move,” I announced. “I can’t live like this any longer.”
“Well, we’ll probably have to leave London then,” he said. “We can’t afford anything better or bigger than this flat.”
“I am so envious of this one woman on Instagram,” I admitted, “not because she’s rich or beautiful, and she is, but because I saw a video of her wardrobe once and it was so well-organised. And so big.”
“I feel like a failure,” my boyfriend said, “not being able to provide you with adequate storage.”
“I feel like a failure, too,” I said. “I work and I work and still I end up in a position where I can’t find my jeans.”
We continued like this, eventually stopping to wonder, just briefly, if we were doing the right thing by getting married. (We’re getting married in in a little over two weeks.)
When we woke up, we felt stupid. It was a new day, I put on my Levi’s, I kissed my boyfriend and I headed out into the world. We were fine, we were happy, we had perspective once again. We didn’t care about wardrobes, or drawers, or any of that shit.
Nail varnish is going to chip, cut flowers are going to droop and bags of old clothing donations are going to linger by doors. Those are simple certainties
And I was able to wonder what’s happened to a couple who posted a bizarre personal assistant job advert on Craigslist (that has since been shared widely on the internet) to drive them so deep into a missing-jeans, missing-perspective vortex.
If you haven’t seen the advert, you can read it in its entirety (and indeed apply) here. It’s a reaaaaallllyyy long post but basically, the apparently overworked couple is seeking an assistant (some would say slave) who will help them solve their “problem”. They define their “problem” thus: “I buy fresh flowers but don't have time to trim daily and change the water, indoor plants are dying, vacations and fun trips aren't taken because there's no time to plan them, dirty laundry is neglected until we run out of clean clothes to wear, merchandise that should be returned doesn't get returned, phone calls to customer support don't get made, prescriptions aren't refilled, instead of dry cleaning something it will just never be worn again … things that we're meaning to order don't get ordered, items slated for donation sit in a corner for months … nail polish gets chipped and remains chipped, investment opportunities go un-researched.” (I’ve edited that down but you get the drift, I’m sure…)
In Northern California, where this advert was posted, anecdotes about Elon Musk letting his assistant go because she asked for a raise are seen as inspirational rather than cause for concern, but this post feels off, even for a place with huge income inequality and a population with a high proportion of tech bros. People on the internet are calling it everything from “bananapants” to a perfect symbol of late capitalism. And when I read that “problem” paragraph, I couldn’t help but think of the Samuel Beckett line: “You’re on earth, there’s no cure for that.”
Nail varnish is going to chip, cut flowers are going to droop and bags of old clothing donations are going to linger by doors. Those are simple certainties, whether you’re a wealthy San Francisco resident or a woman who can’t find her jeans in a one-bedroom London flat. And we look for ways to solve it: Marie Kondo has become a millionaire by telling us all to simply tidy up; the rich post tone-deaf job adverts and harangue staff; and the slightly less rich think that if only we were richer, we wouldn’t have this problem. But really, it’s not a problem at all. And recognising that is the only way to solve it.