Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Breakup Sweater

I'm cleaning house this week. Well, actually it's an ongoing process and this will likely take me several weeks. Aside from the usual dusting and vacuuming, I'm also going through the mounds of old clothes and toys that have collected in the basement. It's amazing how much stuff you can accumulate when you have a toddler. Particularly when you waited until you were in your early 30s to get married and then your parents had just about given up hope for a grandchild when you finally announced you were pregnant five years later. Our daughter has been showered with love and gifts, but she outgrows clothes and toys astonishingly quickly. We haven't had the time to do much with these castoffs other than pile them up in the basement with the thought that we'd sort through that stuff when we needed to spend a rainy day inside. I wanted to donate some clothes to charity, maybe hold other items for a garage sale, and then save a few things as keepsakes. Except now there's so much stuff that it would take an entire monsoon season to go through everything.

In addition to my daughter's stuff in the basement, there's my own flotsam and jetsam that requires culling. I regularly visit our local thrift store and I enjoy going to garage sales. I have a hard time passing up a good bargain when I see one, and as a result I have more clothes than I will ever wear in a lifetime. On one hand this means I don't have to do laundry nearly as often as normal people do, but it does clog up my closet and dresser. To make matter worse, I tend to hang on to clothes much longer than I should. I have old shirts set aside for gardening and cleaning the house, which is reasonable, but I usually have at least a dozen and that's about ten more than I really need just for grubby jobs. I have clothes that I really, really like but don't usually wear because I feel like I need to lose 5-10 pounds before they would look good on me. So they hang in the closet, reminding me each time I see them that I need to lose weight. No one needs that kind of negative energy in their closet, so I've resolved to go through my own things and donate or sell anything that doesn't make me happy in one way or another.

Thus we come to the subject of the breakup sweater. I've always thought of this sweater as the breakup sweater, although the revenge sweater is probably a better descriptor. In my mid-20s I was in a relationship that expired in a very ugly way and it took me a couple of years to get over it. But oddly enough, after several years of silence and absolutely no contact, my ex and I agreed to meet at a bookstore for coffee and maybe dinner at a nearby restaurant over the holidays. I don't remember who emailed whom with the suggestion, but both of our families lived in the same area and we both came home around Christmas. We continued to do this around Christmas for several consecutive years. We always kept the conversation light-hearted and rarely referred to our past history. I think I wanted him to see how well I was doing without him in my life.....classic post-breakup revenge. As such, I picked out a spectacular sweater for the sole purpose of wearing to that first holiday meeting.

It was a beautiful silky chenille cardigan, a lovely gray-green color that looked almost silvery if you brushed the nap in one particular direction. There were abalone buttons and an intricate pattern knit into the cuffs. I looked fabulous in this sweater, and nothing will convince me that my ex didn't know it when we met for the first time several years after our breakup.

Eventually we stopped getting together over the holidays. Our lives diverged into other relationships, other jobs, other priorities, and I no longer felt the need to show off my post-him self. For some reason I kept the sweater all these years, maybe initially as a reminder of my triumphant revenge of looking so good after being so wronged. The sweater still fits and still looks good, but I stopped wearing it years ago. At some point it began to remind me less about feeling good about my self and more about how hurt and wounded I felt when the relationship ended. That's negative energy that I don't need, so today I finally put the breakup sweater in a bag of other items to be donated to charity. I like to think of someone else being excited to find this terrific sweater among the racks of other clothes, not knowing its prior history of breakup and revenge. Maybe she'll think of it as her killer office sweater or perhaps her best date sweater, and I hope she looks drop-dead gorgeous in it.

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