Monday, May 7, 2012
At times in everyone's lives, certain physical objects come to carry certain significance. In small children, these are often a stuffed animal, blanket, or some other soft comfort object. As we grow, these objects sometimes switch from a single item to a category of things (i.e. cell phones, backpacks, books), but in all but those few truly successful Buddhists, there is always some precious object that provides a certain element of security and safety. As adults, many of my friends still cherish some beloved childhood treasure, but a lot of us have switched our attachment to a form that is more easily transported, socially acceptable, and entirely subject to the same loving destruction as our threadbare stuffed animal or demolished pile of shredded blanket. (Mine, by the way is the latter: I'll show you sometime, assuming it hasn't disintegrated into powder by the time you're old enough to appreciate it.) Clothing is the adult teddy bear.
Often, a beloved item of clothing just has something special about it, either by virtue of being unique or somehow expressive of the wearer's personality. Your Aunt Erin, for example, has an electric blue hoodie that is part of my residual mental image of her, so much so that I basically can't imagine her without it. With many people, it's not so much the specific item itself as a representative of a type, such as your Dad's Birkenstocks (one pair of which he had for nearly two decades, the newest he's only just started to break in). Aside from being hella comfy, they reflect back to a substantially formative part of his past and just make him really happy. Like the favorite souvenir toy from a family trip, comfort clothing can connect to a specific time, place, or event, like your Grampa's hat that bears the name of the boat on which he and your Grandma spent a particularly fun vacation.
Sometimes, there is a certain function that much-loved clothing serves that nothing else can. In my case, there was this one pair of jeans. Since I moved to Maine almost six years ago, these pants have been more reliable than almost anything else in my life. Like the stuffed animal that finally bursts a seam after years of snuggling, my beloved pants met a sadly inevitable end. Over years, the cuffs that dragged on the ground snagged and wore away, and the seams along the sides of the legs thinned. A snag on one of the beltloops blossomed into a full-on tear, but I quietly ignored it as I so rarely wear a belt. Raggedy to the last, I happily continued to wear my jeans because damn it, they still fit well. Last week, I noticed the true beginning of the end: a worn through hole on the upper inner thigh too large to ignore.
I've struggled my whole even vaguely adult life - beginning in my earliest of teen years - to find any pants that fit. I feel a little bad saying this, but as soon as we found out that having a heart condition would make it a little harder for you to put on weight, my first thought was "oh, thank goodness he won't have my butt." Seriously, dude, buying pants for this thing is nigh impossible sometimes. The first time I wore denim as a young adult (I think I was around nine or ten), I didn't realize that jeans take a few days to really break in; I suffered through several days of school with an ill-fitting waistband cutting brutally into me while I self-consciously tugged to keep it from slipping down my butt. Eventually, they loosened up enough that I didn't constantly think I was being squeezed in half, but I was wary. Oh, was I ever wary. I never shopped for jeans again without sitting, squatting, lunging, and stretching myself in every possible direction in order to determine that yes, these pants would sufficiently cover me and not be excruciating in any way.
My jeans - those wonderful pants that practically jumped off a rack at me in Macy's one afternoon when I was still trying to convince your Dad that we were a couple, not just roommates - had hit the end of the line. I persisted in wearing them, of course, because what other pants did I have? When your Dad and I threw the bare minimum effluvium of our lives into a few bags and hauled ass to Boston with you, I only brought the pants on my butt and some pajamas. Besides, my jeans were my security blanket, and even if they were getting a little ratty, I needed them.
When they dealt themselves that fatal blow by tearing, I didn't want to accept it, but you helped me out. You managed to goo your stinky formula all over my lap one day, and I was left with no recourse but to buy new pants. Of course these new ones are just pants - not magical jeans with the power to fit through every weight, shape, and season, and the indelible ability to make me feel comfortable regardless of circumstance - but it was time to move on. I've still worn the old jeans a number of times, especially when I'm feeling down for whatever reason, but every time I wear them, you make your opinion of them known. I've been spat up on, peed on, and I'm pretty sure you've deliberately burped on them by aiming your face down when I pat your back. I think you're trying to tell me you're my new security blanket, as it were, and who am I to argue? Goodbye, pants. I won't say you've been replaced, but there is definitely something better and more permanent for me to snuggle now.