Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Try Me On; I'm Very You

I just happened to read this quote by Helen Gurley Brown:

People's lives change. To keep all your old friends is like keeping all your old clothes -- pretty soon your closet is so jammed and everything so crushed you can't find anything to wear. Help these friends when they need you; bless the years and happy times when you meant a lot to each other, but try not to have the guilts if new people mean more to you now.

As much as I am loathe to admit that anything espoused by HGB might resonate with me, here I go. (Caveat: If you HAVE friends, both new and old, perhaps HGB's point is appropriate (as opposed to being what we'd call in Scotland a "Jimmy No Mates" who relies on Helen Gurley Brown to justify having a raft of former friends but few current ones...). This quote, however gracelessly, nails something that has been in the back of my mind for a while. When I think back to all of the people I counted as friends in high school and college, I sometimes wonder why I don't keep in touch with all of them anymore. My old roommate in college--I don't even know where she lives now. My partner in crime in student government who made me both laugh and think--lives in upstate NY somewhere, I think. A former friend who tore my heart out and stepped on it while laughing, but who didn't understand why that meant the end of said friendship--I know her/his location but avoid it at all costs. All of these people and more I have felt bad about no longer calling "friends" and losing contact.

But perhaps HGB has a point. Life takes you to many varied places; and family, work and home responsibilities necessarily curtail the time you used to spend lunching, drinking, and hanging out with your pals havin' a good ol' time. In the final analysis, we only have so much time to devote to friendships, and so that time is spent on those who mean the most, who care about us the most, and who bring out the best in us.

To use HGB's analogy, I have friends who I might see only once per year but that one visit is always as though we were together only yesterday. They are the comfortable jeans: the ones we bought in 1990, that we may not wear in summer, but who always fit and feel right in the Fall, year after year.

Then we have the "nostalgia" clothes: that izod from 5th grade, the miniskirt you wore before you were somebody's mom, that orange flannel shirt from 1993 you wore till it fell off. All good memories, but representing a younger, less-something or more-something you. They're not coming out for the baby's christening, but they're not being given to goodwill either.

Then there are the clothes you loved but can no longer find. I personally search my house at least once per year for a pair of cute khaki pants I loved from the moment I saw them at The Gap in 1991 but now cannot locate to save my life. I swear I can't figure out where they must have gone and how I could have not noticed their departure, but their absence continues year after year no matter how much I look back on all the good times I had wearing them.

Then, finally, we have the Fat Clothes. Those things you keep in your closet just in case you have a bad day. You think it's okay to keep them around, but it isn't. Their presence is really reminding you of something you'd rather forget about yourself, perhaps a time when you turned yourself into someone you didn't like. They're still hanging there because you haven't made the decision that you are not going to be a size 22 again or you are not wearing your old boyfriend's metallica shirt again--and certainly NOT to bed, or you are not going to wear that horrifying bridesmaid's dress again (the one in which you felt so ungainly and which convinced you that your "dear friend" on her wedding day had but one goal and that was to make her friends look as unattractive as possible, perhaps by devising an outfit that would enhance every single flaw of every bridesmaid at the nuptials). You know those clothes. And when you're strong enough, you've gotta throw them away. Don't give them to goodwill, don't give them to a friend. Put them in the trash or burn them, because you've come a long way from those days and you have to resolve that you'll never go back, no matter how darling those blue capris/leather jackets/fun t-shirts/cute pajamas look at this distance.

So what kind of clothing friend am I? I don't know. I imagine I am that "seasonal sweater" kind of girl: the one with pumpkins and witches hats embroidered onto it, that you lovelovelove in late October but are so over by November. Or the ubiquitous reindeer/santa/snowflake knitted get-up that only homeless people wear in January (and June for that matter)... ;)

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