The Clothes We Wear

The Point of Getting Dressed

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I thought about the point of getting dressed today, as I’ve been in my pajamas since last night.

One of the clearest memories I have from being under 10, is me, me in my Talbot’s “teacher” skirt (so-called because I played teacher in it), wobbling around in my mother’s too big shoes (for me), pretending. I associated getting dressed with becoming. If I just wore the right accessories I could transport myself out of this life and into another one, no questions asked.

I was bullied starting in fourth or fifth grade. I didn’t tell anyone. The girls, (wasn’t it Anne Carson who said, “girls are meanest to themselves?”) clambered over themselves, provoking a tightly stuck bobby pin out of the ballerina bun my nanny had preciously crafted the night before. Ha. They snicker. Again, a mean girl’s laugh is comparable to nothing. Or maybe…

I wore my grandmother’s ring for several years. Twirling it around my ring finger, but not the “wrong” one (my left), rather the right, an oasis of opportunity instead of a promise for commitment.

When I was 18, 19, 20, and then 21, the way I dressed came down to those I surrounded myself with. I was a copier. It felt wrong, but also, aggressively right. Like, who else could I be when I was trying to find the person I was?

I went on a date, one night, after a school meeting. I still remember how innocent I felt (well, maybe just in looking back on this moment do I see the innocence), in my new outfit from Madewell. The black jeans hugged my hips just so, the button down felt professional, yet cool (there is that word). I wore a too thick sweater for the weather, it was hot an October evening (too hot, I think). I wore this outfit to a bar, one by my house, and then home, with a woman who would later take the last piece of innocence I had. Or maybe…not. Maybe she took what I was merely holding onto–a token of a childhood not really had but one lived through like a book not really read but read, rifled through absent-mindedly, working pages, loose like the buttons of my jeans.

My outfits stopped being a form of armor, I think, after that night. Or maybe, there is no way for me to know really what purpose clothing served for me. Maybe what I choose (or don’t choose) to put on my body has more to do with protection, hiding, than it does with style or fashion. I claim to love the way clothing feels against my bones, how a good blouse can give me a high like a shot did when I was still trying to prove myself to the world (I still am, just, soberly).

Now, I wear a ring on my left finger. I wear three. One my wife put on. The others I chose. They are a symbol to the rest of the world, they serve as an act of distraction, perseverance, a root. I am connected to you.

My grandmother’s ring is no longer in my possession. Slowly, I lost the artifacts of my childhood like the changing of the seasons: first, I notice how the leaves fall, one by one, then, one day the tree is bare. Naked except for its bones.

I think about my bones, the one that make up a body able to write these words, eat this sandwich, make love, laugh hard (than harder), yell, cry, worship, deny. When I think about the point of getting dressed, it is hard for me not to digress. Because, the moment I choose to wear this and not that, I am forced (without my consent) to recall all of the other choices.

I don’t remember what I wore the first time I got dumped or the first time I said, “I am gay.” I don’t remember what I wore to my first AA meeting or any meetings after that. I forget. My blog is a way to force myself to remember, there’s got to be an outfit more important than the one that sticks out the most, still, 5 years later.


**

I tell my friend A, that she is the “cool girl with books,” or that’s how I characterized her when I stumbled upon her Instagram feed. I also remember her outfits, well-worn, tailored, like she was proud of what she chose to show the world. That is, the parts of herself she offered up for public consumption, willing the world to be kind. Or maybe, that’s me. That’s me when I get dressed and will the world accept me not because of what I wear, but in spite of it.

I walk home late at night. My boots, they cling to the ground, announcing their presence, unperturbed by ice, slush, sleet. My hands rest inside my pocket, the cold mocking my decision not to bring gloves. My head, glances upwards. This. The point was always this.

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