Sunday, July 18, 2010

Confessions of a Reformed 8th Grader


I recall sitting in 8th grade at St. Mary's Parochial School, staring at my worn and tattered shoes and wishing it was my turn for new shoes. The seam on the side was ripping out and I recall sliding my feet sideways so no one could see it. I am not sure how many weeks went by before I got a new pair of shoes but I do remember how embarrassed I was by having to wear the old ones.
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Being one of six children growing up meant learning to go without. Never at a loss for love or laughter, but occasionally, you had to wait until it was financially possible for your parents to replace something as simple as the shoes on your feet. Hand me down clothing was a way of life in our house and God, I disliked the color red and it just seemed that was the color of the dress I always inherited. With four sisters, there was a constant stream of hand-me-downs. Add to that, my mother loved the color red and it was a given that red constantly showed up in our wardrobes.
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For the most part of my life my clothing consisted of uniforms for school. Again, I had to deal with styles and colors not of my choosing although I have to admit I still have a fondness for a good blazer. Still, just the mention of a crisp white shirt with a peter pan collar sends me screaming in the other direction. If jeans did not come standard in navy blue, I would never wear that color either.
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Yesterday, I had to empty out my closet to prepare for new carpet to be laid down in the bedroom. I stopped counting at 30 pairs of shoes. I also looked for the first time at the stacks of clothing on my top shelf, the four bins of winter items neatly stored beneath, the hanging shirts and pants and dresses and jackets. I also knew I had clothes stored in every other closet in the house. ( please do not tell my husband) I also made a mental note to never buy another peasant blouse as long as I live.
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The good news is there was not even a hint of red. The bad news is that I realized I had an obsession. Was I trying to make up for a clothing starved youth? Had I entered a contest where the person with the most clothes wins?
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I began to think about when and why I buy clothing. It wasn't a necessity. I tend to shop when I am feeling overwhelmed as if having another shirt puts me back in my power. I sometimes crave a new outfit the way that most women crave chocolate. Sadly, I crave chocolate too but that is another blog entirely. The point of the matter is that I realized I was an emotional shopper and somehow my closet was a stark reminder that happiness does not come by virtue of the size of your wardrobe.
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I also realized that shopping was my only hobby. Now I am not saying that I am going to take up macrame any time too soon but I am going to try to be fully conscious when I go to the mall. I have decided it is OK to be kind to myself and an occasional outfit does feed the soul but I am not going to shop because I had a bad day or because I am upset about something. I am not going to try to pacify the 8th grader in me who wore the tattered shoes or was forced to wear the color red, but rather, celebrate the 56 yr old I have become. She does not need 30 pair of shoes because she has realized she only has 2 feet.
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Who would have thought cleaning out your closet could bring such a revelation?