Last Sunday I hosted a short and sweet clothes swap. This was to cap off weeks of cleaning out my closets.
I got rid of my suit comprised of a black jacket and pencil skirt that I got for my first interview at Mattel , and I culled the beautiful sage suit I bought after I got the job when my boss took me to Daffy’s in New York during Toy Fair. Even though I lived in Los Angeles, which is not a small town, that suit always felt more stylish than others—it had wide, slightly flaired pants with flat front, and the zipper hugged the curve of the small of my back. I can’t zip them up anymore. Nor can I zip up subtly sparkly skinny jeans, or rock midriff baring tops and the black stretchy salsa pants. They all went into the bag. These clothers were all from the same period, when was I young(er) and feeling financially secure for the first time in my life. At my job I was also on a learning curve and felt that my work was at one with my life trajectory—so I wasn’t split between a day job and trying to do something else with the rest of my time. This allowed me a lot of freedom with scheduling my life outside of work. I went salsa dancing with friends a lot; I went to massage school just because I felt like it; I took Spanish classes at UCLA extension.
I think there’s a small part of me that somehow feels like that life is somehow still an option, that at some point, if I decided to, I could go back to that. I could put on those clothes and be that person.
And the metaphor is really obvious here, but since I love metaphors, I'll spell it out: Those clothes, even if they are fairly classic in cut, come from a past I can’t go back to. I can’t fit into them anymore, and I have let them go. Hanging in the closet, they might seem like an option, but they aren't really.
Because they are one-size-fits all, I can still fit into the Thai-fisherman’s pants I wore in Australia, but I don’t need ten pairs.
The vintage-look Jedi warrior T-shirt I first bought upon returning from Australia and wore on my first day of teacher’s boot-camp for my writing program is plain too small for my belly.
And the maternity outfit I found on sale when we were “trying,” and have carried with me from state to state? It still has the tags on it. I hope someone shopping at Goodwill will be thrilled to find it.
A lot of what were once possible futures are no longer. I’m living in the future that has happened—and, as I’m planning to address in my next post—I feel happy with how things have happened.
And yet, the process of tossing away all the parallel universes hanging in my closet is—bittersweet is not really the word, since I don’t feel bitter, nor does it seem sweet—but emotional.
(I feel like that is the natural end to this post, but I've named it "the clothes swap" and haven't yet gotten to the clothes swap.)
The Clothes Swap (for real now)
I’m really into inanimate objects finding new homes and masters—but as friends went through my clothes, it was interesting to see where they saw value—K didn’t care about the suits, but she loved the swath of wool fabric I had cut into a cape. She liked a vintage quilted jacket but felt no emotional obligation to keep it together with the matching dress. I was sure M would love the Yoda shirt, but she said only “mmm, nah.” She only had eyes for the quiche.
The metaphor in this case, is not that my past doesn't have anything to offer the people in my present, but that I can’t control or predict what they will like and value. And that makes me think of the older people I have known in my life—how my dad might tell a story that he felt had a certain point, and how I would pick some incidental detail to ask him about. His experiences did interest me, but it was in ways different from what he expected. And now I guess I’m the older person, because when I have conversations with my sister’s kids the same things happen. And I guess with some older people I've known, that scenario felt sad, because I could sense their disappointment that certain things that that meant a lot to them, their lives and their memories, weren't something that could be shared.
And I guess, since getting older myself seems inevitable, I have to think about my take on this--and I think for the moment is that, whether I am offering clothes or memories or advice, it's perhaps better to enter into the transaction open-minded, with as few expectations as possible. Then I can simply enjoy seeing what the other person chooses to take from it--which is interesting. I learn about them, as they are now, in the present, because our relationship is in the present, and I am who I am in the present.
And that all seems good.