David J. Rosen’s I Just Want My Pans Back centres around Jason Strider, an English graduate and New Yorker bachelor, who typically spends his days ordering Chinese under various aliases or journaling for the hell of it. He mainly spends time at bars with his coworker Tina, has dinner with his more ambitious college friends Stacey and Eric, or becoming heavily under the influence with his older neighbor Patty.
Rosen’s main character is painted as an indulger in drugs and alcohol but becoming comfortable within a party setting is something he can’t grasp. He calls this anxiety “The Fear.” While under the influence and connecting with people at parties, he feels the “mild paranoia…hardly worth bothering with.”
In hindsight, especially, he considers “The Fear” to be “a bottomless pit of regret and shame fueled by drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, and the insidious feeling that you had somehow just fucked up monumentally.” He uses the fear to excuse himself for his lackadaisical attempts to relate to party-goers and to show up, with motivation, to his casting agency job.
Despite his underconfidence, Jason seems content with his social life, lacking the effort to network to execute his full potential but always open to network to obtain some company. He generally exudes the feeling that he doesn’t have much motivation, so when he nonchalantly engages with a hair-twirling socialite named Jane, he becomes excited with the opportunity to intimately interact with another female.
Days pass before he hosts a one-night-stand. The next morning as she’s leaving, she asks to borrow a pair of his favorite pair of Dickie’s pants. He lets her, using it as bait to hang out again. But as weeks pass and she seems to be ignoring his emails to meet up again, he becomes more concerned about his pants.
Initially, he feels insouciant about loaning her the pants and then fails trying to regain them. He eventually decides that his attempts seem meaningless. Unlike his more successful college friends Stacey and Eric, Jason is nowhere near marriage, Cornell Med, or NYU Law. Even local band nights in friends’ apartments are signs that his peers are on a better route than he.
I feel the pants symbolize a substance taken along with “The Fear.” Jason’s friends have somewhere they are going, with confidence and that depresses him into wanting to better himself. But he can’t, not with deliberation: “Ordinary people don’t turn on a dime.” So he decides that he is just fine lacking ambition. He needs to be content where content makes him.
I enjoyed Jason’s epiphany of discovering he doesn’t need an epiphany and Rosen’s use of realistic and well-written scenarios. The banter at the bar, the leisure at his job, and the description of Jason and Jane’s refrigerator intercourse were elements that kept me turning.
I saw myself in his nook and cranny as Jason glids down Nolita, inebriated by the opaque lights. His similes are modern as he comically references trivial figures and renowned situations.
I interpreted his relationship with his relic neighbor Patty to be a little Finding Forrester but I appreciated the characterization, nevertheless; I would have been disappointed if he was rolling blunts with anyone else. Not to mention the actual growth one gains when spending time with a more traversed and conversant person.
Rosen ‘s natural creativity is clear. I recommend this novel and the movie when I make it.