The Clothes We Wear

The Importance of Folded Underwear

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I almost wore another girl’s clothes the first time I met my first girlfriend. Here’s what happened: the night before I was supposed to fly to Pittsburgh to meet my very first girlfriend, my friend sent me home with a bag full of clothes. I was still small, not taking up more of the world then I thought I had permission to. I don’t remember the majority of the bag, but I do remember there was a red bandana I kept as my own and never returned to my friend, though I don’t know what happened to it after I stopped wearing it. I remember telling my girlfriend that I had chosen to wear my own clothing to which she responded something like, the first time she touched me she wanted me to be me. Maybe, it was more about not having a stranger in the room– but if we’re talking technicalities, we were both strangers having never met in real life and only in the comfort, somewhat amorphous world of the Tinder chat box.

I remember what I wore simply by clicking on one out of three photos I posted on Instagram during the five-week period I dated J. It was tights, black thick ones from the drugstore, a dress from Free People (purchased because my cousin had it and I wanted it too), and a cardigan– though it escapes me where it was from– I just remember the semi-itchiness against my too-sensitive skin as I sat in Logan Airport for five hours awaiting my flight.

It was next month about five or six years ago (if I did the math right) that our fleeting, semi-detached, naive-for-me, courtship began. I remember the dress and then associating the dress with J and then, eventually, growing out of the dress (both emotionally and physically, though physically first). I don’t remember most of the other outfits I wore. I do remember my Emerson sweatshirt. Leaving a relic from my school in her hands, since it smelled like me and she wanted it. I loved that sweatshirt and I spent two years (the rest of my time at college) considering purchasing another one– sometimes so much as going on their website to do so– I never did. I don’t remember much else of what I wore. I know I must have worn something, most of the time.

But, items come to mind one after the other as soon as a type that: a floral headband, a red and white striped crop top from Free People, bought on sale with my friend Kathy, black high-rise jeans from Madewell, they were new and when J took them off, throwing them lazily onto the ground, I cringed. I’m pretty sure she liked my butt in those jeans. If I think about J too long, I start to get sad, because the truth of the matter was she meant more to me than I did to her. I was there, which was enough for her. Cute. Vulnerable. Available.

I bought a pair of black jeans recently. They were too big, so another pair is on its way. I’m about 5 or 6 sizes bigger now than I was when I cringed. I still cringe, but never at my wife. The way she handles my clothing is different. There’s no tearing off, only removing, treating each item like the packages that line our building’s mailroom wall reading: “handle with care.”

When she does the laundry, I return to stacks of clothes on the bed. Even my underwear is perfectly folded. I don’t even do that.

I think, isn’t the present a funny thing? Did the girl flying to Pittsburgh consider folded underwear? Would she have even known to ask?

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