LIFE IS AN ACCUMULATION OF JUNK


I just read in the London Times that there’s a new book out on spring-cleaning. Of course every year there’s a new book on de-cluttering or minimizing. And every year, I am filling with determination:

I open my closet and see… Oh Lord, how many dresses? Even ones that are sleeveless. Exactly how many years have I not been able to wear sleeveless dresses?

I try on clothes each year, resolved that I’m going to throw away all the things I didn’t wear last year. It just never works out that way. I put them on. Squint. Okay, I’m holding in my stomach…just a bit. You know, maybe I can get some use out of it.

And back it goes into the closet for another year of neglect… until I take it out again. It’s just kind of holding a place for the next article of clothing that I’m never going to wear. It’s getting to be like a Tokyo bullet train squeezing in the next passenger.

There’s shame lurking in the back of my closet. Some of my friends still have the price tags on unworn clothes. Quick, don’t look; put them back, let them become lost in the Sargasso Sea of the wardrobe.

But it isn’t only clothes. There is a drawer…well all right, two of them. In one I still have my Sweet Sixteen party photo album. Even putting a good gloss on it, I looked like a troll in those pictures. My dress was calf-length awful. A nauseous blue. I won’t even talk about my hair.

Okay, I will. It was, I believe the color is called dishwater blonde. It fell dead straight almost to my shoulders, then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, it was tortured into a tight flip at the end that looked like a dyed blonde Tootsie Roll.

And speaking of rolls…or as my mother would have it…puppy fat, courtesy of waffles and maple syrup. I had those rolls too. In fact I don’t even remember having had a good time at the party. Why have I kept that reminder of…well gruesome pimply adolescent discomfort?

And under the album, the drawers are stuffed full of old half-finished projects. That quilt that was never ever going to be completed. Useless relics and objects that relatives have stuck me with. Stopped watches, worthless statues, a slightly broken clothes brush my aunt swore was bone. My grandmother’s French lace underwear… come to think of it that might be worth something. She was rich in the 20’s. Money all gone by the time it filtered through her four husbands to me. But 1920’s clothes? I look on eBay. Hey, that may have been a good save.

Anyway there they are, remaining as a reproach. Why do I keep all that accumulation of not even nice memories? I’m not a hoarder. I mean, we’re not talking here about that nutsy woman with the piles of old newspapers and cats and half-eaten pizzas (original boxes included). Am I?

To compound things, my husband is as bad as I am. He still has almost all the issues of Private Eye, an English satirical magazine, dating back decades. Though he won’t admit it, I bet I could find lurking in the back of his closet an old school tie. And he didn’t even like his school. Torn up jeans, shirts with frayed collars, single socks. I won’t even talk about his crotch-squeezing underwear pants.

And it’s not just clothes. For God’s sake he keeps the boxes of devices that were long ago superseded by the fifth generation of the product.

I’m no better. Old cell phones, sure. Remember 2G? Interested in one? It won’t work, of course. And don’t even get me started on chargers. Remember the old clunky 10-pound Blackberry chargers? If they ever come back, I’m going to make a mint on them.

And it’s not just physical things that are still hanging around at the back of my closet. There’s the many identities picked up though just living. How about the old used up friends who always disappoint you? Or who bore you? Or exasperate you? How about old personality disorders? Old responses. Think I’m alone? Go back to your last family Passover or Christmas dinner table. I’ll take a serving of Passive-Aggressive sleights with the potatoes, thanks.

You have to give up so many things as you get older. Low cut tops. Bikinis. Some of your dreams and hopes and ambitions. And yet they refuse to go away.

I’m thinking that maybe it’s a good thing.

To be honest, part of me is still wondering what I want to be when I grow up. Crazy? Sure. Certainly I no longer believe that I am going to a ballet dancer. I can tell myself all I want that it’s a good thing I gave it up because going “on-point” ruined my feet - oh sure it must have been that, not the years of walking on them. I now know that I’m never going to be a rock and roll singer – which is a shame really, because I still crave the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle.

But you know I really do think, deep down, that in the future, I can have another job or personality or dream. I’m still searching, restless. I have a great life when I look at it. But I still want more.

One more career. One last round of having long hair. One last dance.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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