What I've learned thus far in life is that men don't understand jeans. Mark, for example, thinks that one sturdy pair of denim pants is all that's needed to get him through the next 10 years of his life.

"You're kidding me, right?" I ask him, my response to most of our marital discussions.

"What I don't get," Mark admits, "is why you need to own seven pairs of jeans."

"Each one serves a different purpose," I explain, "and I don't own seven, I own 12, accumulated over the years for different occasions."

"I don't associate jeans with occasions," he says.

"They're my heirlooms," I tell him.

This is the part of the conversation where a man is advised to keep quiet or risk digging himself deeper into a state of futility from which he will never emerge intact.

"The thing about jeans," I feel compelled to support my stand, "is they're multi-faceted. You can take them anywhere and they'll fit in, like, for instance, the little black dress. You can never have too many."

He reminds me that my black dress collection is also bordering on obsessive.

"Did you know," I continue, "that it was once reported that a first lady showed up at a White House luncheon in jeans?"

"It couldn't be Hillary," he said. "I can't imagine Hillary in jeans."

"Probably not," I agreed. "But, can't you see Bill sprinting around the Oval Office in a nice pair of Calvin Klein's?"

Jeans have gotten me through many of life's pivotal moments and are categorized accordingly. For those fluid retention days my "bloated jeans" are plucked from the shelf and get me through some of my worst moments. However, if I have put in some heavy-duty treadmill activity, I am rewarded by being able to slip effortlessly into my "skinny jeans" which are tighter than my Cousin Elaine's recent facelift. These provide an actual workout just putting them on. By the time I have maneuvered these stretchy denim bun-shapers over my thighs and hips, and sealed them shut, I am sweating profusely, and am ready for a nap. Except, if I even tried lying down, I might never be able to get up. As it is, my "skinny jeans" cut off my air supply, a small price to pay for a look that can kill.

My baggy jeans are my trusty companions that I rely on when I don't want to be bothered. They accompany me on errands, dental appointments, or Saturday afternoon movies; they are low-maintenance, and, like a good friend, never let me down. In my baggy jeans, I can be myself. I once made the mistake of throwing them in the washer on the hot water cycle. They emerged bearing no resemblance to their former self, and had shrunk down in size. I ended up giving them to my friend's 2-year-old granddaughter, who instantly became the fashionista of the toddler set.

My formal jeans are the ones that knock 'em dead every time. They are the sultry specimen of denim pulchritude, and cost as much as two tickets to a hot Broadway play including dinner afterwards. These I keep folded in tissue paper on the top shelf and away from the riff-raff of their less important denim relatives. They are in a class of their own: satiny soft, glamorously chic and always in vogue. If I were to pair them with a sequin tank top and high heels, I would be the hit of any function.

In fact, I was once the "hit" -- or more to the point, I was "hit on" by several men who assumed my attire represented my social status, in this case, a lady of the evening and not an invited guest. I turned heads in those jeans, which Mark, considered lethal weapons, aptly named as a dangerous body appendage -- a menace to society by destroying the last bastion of hope in preserving decency and decorum in the world of fashion.

I wore my formal jeans to an outdoor brunch at a swank hotel -- the word "outdoors" is code for "jeans are acceptable." They weren't. The maitre d' banished me to the children's table where I would be less conspicuous. As it was, I lucked out: instead of the adult meal of spicy Asian chicken and water chestnuts on a bed of cilantro with an aspic garni, I was served chicken fingers, french fries and an ice cream sundae. My jeans saved me from an aspic calamity.

In the end, you are either a jeans person or you're not. Jeans are an entity unto themselves. But, caution is advised. Unless a woman has a "designer genes" body to go with them, jeans can be either the ultimate fashion faux pas or a seductive reflection of her inner diva.

"So, what do you think?" I asked Mark when I recently purchased my 13th pair of denim delights that I was unable to resist.

He watched me pirouette around the room. "You need to return them," he said, "They're ripped at the knees."

"That's the whole point," I said. "It's intentional."

He skulked off, bewildered, knowing when to leave well-enough alone. Then again, who is he to complain? He owns eight pairs of saddle shoes and 15 pairs of argyle socks. He exemplifies the 1950s run amok. Together we make quite a statement ... of what, I'm not entirely sure.

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views every Wednesday in the Westport News. She can be reached via e-mail at joodth@snet.net or at www.judithmarks-white.com.