Stuff is stuff. You only have to walk through a thrift store to see how utterly meaningless we consider most clothes. You’ll find racks of discarded shoes, handbags worn but not worn out, and dresses guilty only of the crime of outlasting their peak of stylishness.
But then there are the things we hold onto; the skirt that no longer fits but still hangs in the back of the closet; the jackets with shoulder pads wider than an NFL receiver’s; the torturous, toe-pinching, heels you wisely gave up wearing long ago but just can’t bring yourself to ditch.
Sometimes I’ll hold onto an item beyond reason because I remember how much I paid for it. But eventually, having an unworn reminder of wasted money haunting my closet just makes me feel bad.
I’m fascinated by those items we keep and treasure not because of their monetary value but because of their emotional value.
One such item for me is a certain vest. Most people would view it as junk. And I’d have a hard time arguing otherwise. It’s boxy. The tailoring is rough. It has no buttons or even button holes. The burgundy and green velvet appliqué decorating the front and back of the cheap, black, cotton garment is worn and frayed.
A boy gave me that vest. I can’t remember his name or even if he were from England or New Zealand or maybe Australia. It’s a blur. It was 1974. I'd traveled from Europe overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan to India where I met the boy. I was eighteen years old. He wasn’t much older. There were no sparks between us. We were just two kids trying to survive in a fascinating land we couldn’t begin to understand. He was wearing the vest. I’d seen men wear similarly embellished vests over long tunics in areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The more elaborate ones were decorated with bits of colored glass and mirror held in place with embroidery thread. They sparkled in the dust-colored surroundings.
I told the boy how much I admired his vest and how I wished I’d had the money to buy one when I saw them for sale in the markets. Someone had given the vest to him, he said, and he would give it to me.
And just like that, he removed the vest and handed it to me.
That vest stayed with me when I moved to Nepal for more than a year. I brought it with me when I settled in England for eighteen months. I packed it when I returned to the USA more than three years after I’d left my parents’ home.
I will probably never wear it again. I doubt my daughters have any interest in inheriting a shabby vest that looks as if it came from a hippie festival booth. But I know that I can ever get rid of it.
Anyone on ello holding onto clothes for unreasonable reasons?