My husband and I sit on our knotted pinewood bedroom floor doing our yearly clothing purge. There is only a small amount of cupboard space in our two-bedroom bungalow. The terms “walk-in- wardrobes” and “built-ins” are foreign words to me. I have never had the luxury of having either in my life. We are constantly shuffling our belongings around and getting rid of clothes to make room for the new. Unfortunately, it always leads to the same discussion that it always has for the last 10 seasons.
Him: “Can I get rid of this old University hoodie?”
Him: “It takes up too much room”
Me: “I love that sweatshirt!”
Him: “What are you, 19 years old?!”
I always resent my husband pressuring me to part with my favourite article of clothing. It isn’t just a hoodie. It’s what it stands for. I worked so hard to pay for all my university fees and it is all I have left to show after a $50 000 education, (Oh and a fancy piece of paper with a gold seal on it). That jumper signifies a time in my life when I was young and free and brave and independent. I left my parents’ home to share with other students my age. The university hoodie was the first thing I bought with my own money when I arrived.
From then on, I constantly lived in that navy and red fleece. I wore it as I went to early training sessions at the gym, or while pulling all-nighters cramming for exams. I also wore it on social occasions meeting new friends from everywhere. It was so cosy after a swim in the university pool, perfect to wear while eating pizza on the couch hungover and so warm in the cold Canadian climate, walking across campus to class. It was more than just a bloody jumper it represented the best era of my youth!
Nearly twenty years later I bring six bags of clothes to the local charity dumpster. In the bag is my well-loved university hoodie. As I push the bag in, I get the urge to pull it back out again. I feel like my toddler when I made her mail away her dummies to become a “big girl”. She proudly popped them in the mailbox only then to fall to the ground and burst into tears, crying out, “I changed my mind!” Now I know how she felt because I want to change my life too. But as I stand beside the dumpster, I think about why we attach our identity to such treasured material items.
I think about my Great Aunt Clair, who still wears one-piece, strapless jumpsuits with no bra and platform shoes in the summer. She used to look hot in those outfits in the 1970’s, but at her age now she is in dire need of some supportive nickers and bra. And what about Aunt Maggie with the thick fringe and long straight hair to her waist. It used to look gorgeous, but now as she has aged, my daughters think she resembles a witch. Then there is my husband's 99-year-old grandma who still sports a jet-black beehive hairstyle as she did in the 1950’s. That was a time when she was the slimmest, prettiest and most confident. She even has a large photo of herself at that time in a bathing suit on the fireplace.
Men can also be just as bad when wanting to freeze-frame the pinnacle of their lives. I have a friend who only wears ACDC T-shirts and tight, stone-washed jeans. He also has a mullet-style haircut because his best years were in the 1980’s.
Yes, I loved wearing my University hoodie in my prime, but I’m not 19 anymore. I don’t want to be stuck in time vainly trying to hold on to my youth by wearing it until I am 99! Finally, I push the bag into the dumpster, walking away from my past and heading towards my future self.