Tuesday, February 8, 2011

For 32 years I've been unbuttoning my pants the wrong way

How one buttons or unbuttons one's garments is not something of which most of us are particularly self-reflective. I know I'm not. It's something you figure out when you are a wee person, and then it's just an unconscious action. Just like when I walk to the door, I don't think, "Okay, first the right foot, then the left, then the right," but instead I just visualize myself walking to the door -- in the same way, you don't think about the hand motions when you operate a button, you just visualize the button being done or undone and muscle memory does the rest.

I think I discovered last night that I've been undoing the button on my pants in a rather silly way, which probably nobody else does. I'm sure I've been doing this as long as I can remember, and of course you never think about it.

Up until last night, the way I did it was that I grasped the fabric on the left side with my left hand (so far so good), and then with my right hand, instead of grabbing the button, I grabbed the fabric near the button. Then with my right hand I pushed downward and twisted back and to the left, while simultaneously pulling up and forwards with my left hand. This causes the button to turn somewhat, and if all goes well, it just pops out. (Bear in mind I never thought about the mechanics in nearly this level of detail -- or really, at all -- until last night. This is a post hoc reconstruction, based on simply paying attention to what my hands were doing when I let muscle memory do its thing.)

On reflection, this probably puts unnecessary stress on the threads holding the button in place (which would explain why I've had a few pants pop their button after a surprisingly small amount of use) and in any case is just fairly silly. But you'd be surprised how well this actually works -- well enough for me to get into my thirties without ever noticing I was doing it or that it didn't make any sense.

Apparently, though, if the buttonhole is too small, this does not work. I got a new pair of pants last week and I had been having the damnedest time getting them to unbutton. Last night, I was having a particularly difficult time (and I really had to pee, besides!) so I decided to try a different tack. I brought my right hand around the front, grasped the button directly with thumb and forefinger, and slid it through the hole.

"Oh, that was easy," I thought. Then: "Wait just a minute... I bet everybody in the world except me already does it this way!"

Yeah, being a human is strange sometimes.


  1. Interesting and amazing! Things can be more challenging when you really have to pee! Have you thought about writing books? DM

  2. I had a similar epiphany some time back. I realized that I zip up my pants and *then* do the top button, whereas many people sensibly do the button first, since that lines up the two sides of the zip, ready for easier fastening.

    So it goes.

    And thanks for the chuckle.

  3. well,this is interesting...I don't think I touch the button either. I've actually been sitting here at the computer trying to figure it out.(Which proved really hard for me to do when focusing on it.) I find, that the more you share with people, the more you realize you aren't the freak that you imagine you are.

    I'm off to go find out how the rest of my house hold buttons.

  4. I consulted with a co-worker (yeah, that was a weird conversation) and he does it the same way I did it. Well, still do it -- despite this revelation, most of the time muscle memory takes over anyway.

    Keith, now that one I think you clearly had wrong. Button first/zip second seems pretty universal. "So it goes" indeed!

    As Paula says, "I'm off to go find out how the rest of my household buttons." Yeah, being human is weird.