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Sweatshirt Lessons...

While I was in Ireland, I noticed things.  I noticed the community feeling that was present wherever I went.  The neighborliness.  The way each different community I was in had the feeling of a community.  It was like you could feel the heartbeat for each place, while you were in each place.

I noticed the way the landscape changes manifested in the people who lived there.  The vibe was very different in each location, but there was a sense of community that I have not felt in a long time, and it was present wherever I went...

I also noticed the clothing.  I didn’t see anyone the entire time I was there dressed up.  It was a very casual lifestyle and the clothing matched it.  Now, I spent most of my time in the remote country areas, so I am not surprised by this.

But there was this absence of designer, an absence of fashion, of people trying to dress up the outsides so that you would not look too closely at the insides.  People there just wore clothing.  There was little to no fanfare about it.  Spending more of my time in Ojai and Santa Barbara, this came as quite a shock to me.  Everyone I see, pretty much everywhere I go, is wearing some known brand, and looks like they just stepped out of a magazine.

Not so in Ireland.  People there just put clothes on, without any real concern for making any kind of fashion statement.

I was in the post office one day, buying stamps so I could mail some postcards back home (postcards that to this day have not ever been delivered to anyone I have sent one to...).  The woman behind the counter was wearing a sweatshirt that said “CALABASAS” on it.

Being so far from home, I made a comment that I lived near there.  The woman looked at me as if to say, “ok, that is weird, what the fuck are you talking about?”

I pointed to her sweatshirt.  And she looked down at it and laughed...”oh, this?  Yeah, they just came in to the store in town and I thought it felt good on the inside and felt warm, so I got it.”

And for a moment, my mind was blown.  This woman had no idea where Calabasas was, she had never been there and wasn’t all that interested in going.  Not that there are a lot of people in this world who want to go to Calabasas...why they even have sweatshirts made for the place is kind of beyond me.  I can see no one I have ever seen in Calabasas ever wearing one.  I mean, they are the kind of thing that no one in Calabasas would ever wear!  And to my knowledge, Calabasas is not a well known tourist hot spot.  I mean it is kind of a stopover place on your way to somewhere else.  Or you live there because you can’t afford to live in LA but you need/want to be close to LA. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people and places in is just not a place that I would think would bring an international flavor to the sweatshirt market...

I got my stamps and left.  But the exchange stayed with me.  I mean, here I am writing about it, so it is still lingering around in my mind.  And so I am writing about it in the hopes that if I do it will not take up space I need for other things.

What continued to kind of shock me was that this woman purchased a sweatshirt with a place name on it and that had no impact on her decision to buy the sweatshirt.  She, instead, purchased the sweatshirt because she liked the feel of it and it was warm.  Clothing, at least to her, was functional over fashionable.  And this woman was very pleased to have a quality sweatshirt.  She smiled as we talked about it.

Now, no one I know in California would care about most of that.  The sweatshirt was the kind of sweatshirt you would find at some tourist trap.  Quality dubious and made in bulk for the masses.  Now I also find it hard to believe there is a market for Calabasas sweatshirts...but maybe I really need to get out more.

What this whole exchange really left me with was this ongoing examination of my own shopping habits.  First of all, I have absolutely no need for a sweatshirt of any kind.  Ever.  I mean I have many.  And I didn’t necessarily buy any of them because of the quality or because I needed one.  They were all purchases because of a statement made by the sweatshirt, either by the brand, the fit or the statement printed across the front of the sweatshirt.

And in my ongoing examination of why this minor exchange about a fucking sweatshirt so got to me, it took a few days and then a few more to allow my thoughts to seep into what might be called some kind of awakening, but the whole sweatshirt thing kind of ate away at me because I have so lost my perspective on the role of clothing.  My every day needs so met and addressed that I have been allowed to unfurl myself in the direction of want.  I do not buy clothing anymore because I need it, clothing has become something that is only and forever attained because of wantonness.  I want it, therefore I buy it.

And I will completely own, my love of clothing and fashion is because I have been trying, quite desperately, to dress up my outsides to keep you from ever really needing to examine the insides.

But now I feel so lost.  I mean I see that clothing has taken on way more interest and meaning for me than I really believe it should.  I have gone into debt to buy clothes and shoes and purses.  I have stated that I “love” them.  Why??  How did I ever get so far away from the functionality of the clothing I was buying?

So now I feel at odds with myself.  And I have this ever increasing need to purge.  I have so much.  So fucking much, I can’t even fit it into all my dressers and closets.  Why do I feel like I need so much?  I can’t even keep track of it all or ever wear it all!  When did clothing become something so compulsively purchased and accumulated.  And when exactly did I become a person who was so hell bent on ensuring that I always looked the part...I am not sure what part I was ever attempting to look like... I just know that I was, in fact, attempting to do something about myself with how I dress and how I show up in this world.

And before I had this sweatshirt exchange with this random woman in post office in Ireland, I had never thought of this an issue for me.  I loved clothes and shopping and suddenly, this whole minor and relatively brief exchange shifted my entire world.  This exchange caused me to call into question a long standing pattern of behavior for me...

I am not sure I am done processing all of this yet.  I am fairly sure there is more here for me to learn.  But so far, this is what I know to be true:  I think the clothes matter.  I think the clothes make me more desirable.  Like something so basic and unimportant is going to make me more attractive to others.  That if I dress up myself outside, that somehow that will invite others to come take a closer look at the insides of me.  And what I am learning is that sometimes, with some people that may be true.  But are those the people I really want to get closer to?  Are those the people who are capable of being closer to?

Yep, see I reached the same conclusion.  And as bad as this is going to sound, I just realized that someone is not going to love you for the way you look, or the way you dress, or the way you appear in society at large.  And for a very long time now, I really believed it mattered.

So one more time, I am felled by my own con.  I make decisions about things and then I run with them.  Never really thinking about why or how or what they mean or if they hold any water at all.  They just land in my brain and then become fact for me.

I feel really stupid for believing for all these years that what I wore or how I dressed mattered to anyone.  I mean, do I love others because of their wardrobe?  Fuck no!  I could care less what they wear, in fact, most of the time, I don’t even notice it.  But my life has been consumed with the conspicuous consumption of fashion items, in some misguided notion that I was responsible and needed to market myself in order to be loved, or liked, or wanted or included.

Fuck, how sad is that?  Honestly, it has totally devastated me.  I am totally lost because of this small encounter with a Calabasas sweatshirt.  Like my life is upended and I am not sure where to go with this new information.

And then I realized...that if I am really honest, I use the clothing as a barrier to intimacy.  I use the fashion to keep you away.  I do not want you to like me, I have wanted you to envy me, to want what I have.  And how is one ever going to form any kind of intimacy with someone like that?  They aren’t.  And that is why I am struggling in relationships right now.  I have not wanted to be close and clothing and fashion and accumulation is just one of the ways I have used to keep you at a safe distance.

And I suppose I knew this all along.  But it just never landed in a way that felt like a change was required.  But today, I feel like a change is absolutely necessary.  I am just not sure what or how to make that change.  Part of me wants to rid myself of most of my clothing.  The other part of me thinks this is just a set up for me to buy more.  So instead of engaging any further, I am just sitting with the idea that sometimes you can be grateful for a Calabasas sweatshirt, even if you have no idea where that is and give not two fucks as to whether anyone else thinks well about you and your attire.  Clothing is functional.  And that is a total and complete mindset shift from where I have been all of my life...

It is gonna take me a minute to allow that to permeate and sink in, like all of my many and varied revelations.



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