Past their prime favorites need tossing

I have a love-hate relationship with clothing. I love the feel of my favorite items, but hate discarding them once they’re past their prime. Well past. My mother loves to tell the story of the third-grade summer when I refused to wear any bottoms except for a particular pair of pink polyester shorts. She laundered them daily, hoping they’d disintegrate and she wouldn’t have to look at them again.

Mom felt the same way about many, okay MOST, of my father’s T-shirts. The fronts developed horizontal wear marks from repeated washings and the pockets were forever developing holes and coming unsewn.

My frugal farm stock heritage surely contributes to my inability to discard clothing. The menfolk in our family regularly wear tattered and frayed gear that would make a hobo blush. If my brother-in-law stood still long enough in a cornfield, you’d mistake him for a scarecrow.

My ex-husband grew up on a dairy farm and also liked to wear clothing way beyond its expiration date. His mother taught me the proper way to seam rip out frayed flannel shirt and jacket collars, flip them, and reinstall them. It felt slightly illegal, like turning back a car odometer, but saved money and bought the garments a few extra months of life.

Apparently, this tradition is not reserved just for country bumpkins. A table topics question posed at a downtown Jackson Toastmasters meeting was, “What article of your spouse’s clothing would you like to get rid of?” This mostly city slicker group had zero problem hilariously hanging out spousal dirty laundry.

My husband, who grew up near Chicago, has a plaid shirt he bought at a used store to wear to a “Clad in Bad Plaid” themed party I held a few years ago. It has several sections of different colors of plaid. I mentally refer to it as his “Jethro shirt.” The dollar he paid for it then was way too much and it’s worth far less now.

I was actively plotting Jethro’s disappearance when I found another, remarkably similar shirt at Goodwill and bought that for him, too. I tossed it in with his laundry and he didn’t even notice it was a different shirt. Figures.

My mom, Susie the sock martyr, brags she hasn’t bought new socks in years, but is still wearing old socks my older sister and I left behind when we left the nest a quarter century ago. I’m leaving it up to the laundry department of a future nursing home to “lose” those socks, except for the pair I’m saving to bury her wearing.

Could a member of our family ever develop such a deep, meaningful attachment to a new article of clothing? The answer, unfortunately, is “yes.”

When my husband received a Gander Mountain gift certificate from his employees, one of the items he used it to buy was a pair of thick, cushy, wool socks. The kind in which you could never indulge yourself, but can only truly enjoy if someone else pays for. Like back when you were a kid.

Kerry was so overcome with joy that he called me to rave about them. “Do you know what I’m wearing?” he breathed heavily into the phone, oblivious to the nightly violin practicing ritual he was disrupting.

“Who is this?” I demanded, not recognizing his voice and thinking some drunk had mis-dialed.

“It’s your sock-loving man,” he replied giddily, “I’ve got them on. I’m loving them and they’re loving me.” Oh, baby.

It had been socks, socks, socks since the day he got them. The socks were starting to feel like a third party in our marriage, the woolen “other woman” who was capable of pushing his buttons, massaging his metatarsals, and eliciting emotions he didn’t know he had. He’d tried to wear them to bed the previous night, but a fight had ensued and they’d spent the night on the couch.

“You need to get a life,” I said, seriously considering allowing my daughter to transform the socks into an outdoorsy pair of sock puppet characters.

“I don’t need a life,” he said. “I have my socks.” Our marriage was saved by giving them to my mom.


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