The Tyranny of Clothing

My first round of clothing to pack, some will not make it.

My first round of clothing to pack. Some will not make it.

In planning the move to New York City, I’ve thought a lot about clothing. What we wear in Los Angeles (or at Brown) is quite different than what is worn in New York. Here, people at my office worked in t-shirts and jeans. In New York, a button-down shirt is common for a trip to the grocery store. So I’ve been planning what clothes to buy and wear, and testing combinations out while I’m here.

But it’s all a trap, a terrible trap, and I’ll tell you why.

My mother has been pushing me to buy more clothing – “get some nice shirts for an interview, ask the hip-looking people at Bloomingdales what to get!” First of all, there are no hip people at Bloomingdales. Second, I already own more than enough shirts. But after repeated insistence from my mom and the fear that maybe, perhaps, I don’t have nearly enough clothes to be a good enough human being, I gave in and went shopping.

When I swiped the credit card for some monstrous amount, I felt a lead weight in my stomach. No utility to these clothes, I thought. But more clothes in the collection, more choices. It just felt wrong, and later I saw why. I went to LACMA with Sinan and Pauline, who were still in town visiting LA. In my sport jacket, button-down shirt, I felt snazzy but it didn’t feel like me. I took off the sport jacket out of self-consciousness.

There is a hill at LACMA that I love to roll down – in a city like Los Angeles, there are few parks, and precious few nice grassy hills. In fact, this is the only such hill I can think of. Every time I go there, I take my friends and roll down it at least twice–and right then, I really needed a roll. “But you can’t, you’ll ruin your shirt,” a voice in my head said, quite proud of my fancy clothes.

No! That thought is so wrong and unholy. There is something so disgusting about shirts that can’t be rolled in, heels that can’t be run in, shirts that are tight and don’t let us dance. Beyond a certain point, clothes and possessions define us by constricting our world, and it’s a supremely delicate balance to deal with our things in a healthy manner.

Packing my clothes, I’ve once again come up against the terrible disconnect between the stuff I need to survive and the stuff I own. I’m a hypocrite because I pack things I don’t want to pack, or believe I need, and today I will try to avoid that trap.



One Comment to “The Tyranny of Clothing”

  1. Pauline Alonso 17 March 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Well, Mike, I wish you can see my luggages lol…i have 3 HUGE ones and it cost me a lot for the extra fees for the extra kilos !
    I wish i bought less stuff !!!
    But i guess it wont stop me to buy shirts and records !
    Hey what did you do for st patricks day ??
    I dont remenber when u are leaving but in case its today, have a safe flight, and enjoy NYC lucky you !
    Tu me manques chouchou !
    A bientot

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