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Women across the world are posting the following on their Facebook statuses:

"Me too.

If everyone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

#metoo #stopthesilence

please copy/paste."

I read it.  I copied, I pasted.  I didn’t post.

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Slight hesitation, hovering over my clickpad.  Which shocked me.  Appalled me a bit.  Fascinated me, prompting me to open up a Word doc and figure out why this pause, however brief.  What was I scared of?  Why on Earth was I second-guessing my (very ‘slacktivist,’ I give myself no real activist credit here, especially considering this inability to post with confidence) expression of solidarity, if not shared experience?  Just yesterday I had expressed to a friend how I couldn’t believe it took so long for the disgusting Harvey Weinstein accusations to surface.

I realized a variety of things.

I realized I had written off whatever sexual misdemeanors that have happened to me over the years as unimportant, the results of the stupidity and grossness of men, the existence of which I accepted as a fact of life—an idea perpetuated by my friend’s comment about the status: ‘literally my reaction to this campaign was "but isn't this just all women?"’

It may be all women who suffer this issue—so many amazing females close to me have suffered—but we’re not always vocal about it.  It’s easy to get complacent.  I don’t often revisit the sexual harassment experiences, a fact that I felt lucky for.  This is not okay.  I shouldn’t feel lucky that I haven’t been bruised forever by horny people with no sense of boundary.

But I adopted a state of denial so as not to feel sad or let these men dull my shine.  

I also realized, before I posted, that I felt stigma.  I felt like people—Facebook friends, friends, ex boyfriends, new crushes, family—would see me differently, see me like damaged goods.

Which is a problem.

We have to—we all have to—speak up.  No matter what your experience with sexual harassment or assault.  Not a single experience should be kept in silence.  I’m including supermodel Cara Delevingne's words on a recent Instagram post, in which she broke her silence about her experience with Weinstein, and which I found powerful and urgent:

‘I want women and girls to know that being harassed or abused or raped is NEVER their fault and not talking about it will always cause more damage than speaking the truth.  I am relieved to be able to share this…I actually feel better and I’m proud of women who are brave enough to speak…this isn’t easy but there is strength in numbers.  As I said, this is only the beginning[…]The more we talk about it, the less power we give [men].  I urge you all to talk…’

Fear and silence is why Mr. Weinstein (who hardly deserves a formal title, who ideally should now be referred to as Harvey the Scumbag) got away with his behavior for so long.

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I had written off whatever sexual misdemeanors that have happened to me over the years as unimportant.

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Girls, speak out about being groped in a crowded subway.  Kissed by a stranger without warning, or even after you said no.  Told that your pants are too tight by random men at the bar.  Abused by boys who then told you were a lesser woman for engaging in sexual activity in the first place.

In a silent Facebook post, in a quiet conversation, in a column written and shared online.  Eventually we’ll develop the voice to yell, to speak out without fear.

Nothing should be written off.

I posted.  Will you?

 

Anne Whiting is a fashion designer and writer in New York. She is the creative director of sustainable womenswear brand Anne James New York and the author of the blog An Inconvenient Wardrobe.

 

  1.   October 20, 2017
  2.   Career

Carrie Bradshaw said she came to New York City in search of ‘two L’s’: labels and love.

I, a woman equally as entrenched in New York fashion, have found that the searches are similar, except that shopping these days is a lot more digital.  Dating in the City is like shoe shopping till you drop…online.  Truly, on rare evenings when I remember I have a dating app and feel like checking out a new collection of eligible bachelors, I refer to the activity of swiping left and right as ‘going shopping.’  For as promoted ads infiltrate our web browsers at a rapid, capitalistic pace, so there are also daily new matches on Happn.  Each presents a swamp of options so numerous and expendable that investment in a single man or a single pair of shoes seems next to impossible, even if my credit card and my capacity for love and/or heartbreak are all but completely maxed out.

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It is perhaps in this way that dating apps have trivialized and dehumanized the journey of finding love.  It’s not me.  It’s Tinder: Tap.  Swipe.  Add To Cart.  Return Order.  Same Difference.

Consider this metaphor:

You’re shoe shopping, and you come across a pair and absolutely love them.  They’re comfortable, well-designed, embellished, original, complement your existing wardrobe.

Swipe right.

But maybe you want to order and try on a few more options before you settle and cash in on your savings.  Check out reviews.  Wait for a promo code.  Maybe there’s something else even more perfect out there.  If you don’t explore a bit, how will you know?  And so, you visit some more brands and try on some other pairs.  A bit of debate is essential to smart and well-considered choices, right?

Swipe right or left on a couple more options.

Of course, you risked deciding on the first pair after all.  But by the time you return to them they’ve been snatched up by someone else in your absence, while you were off being indecisive and unappreciative and trying on all the other shoes which were fun but which you knew in your heart you were probably not going to buy.

And now you have to live with a different pair—not lesser, just different—which I suppose you will learn to love.

No regrets.

I don’t (or do I?) mean to reduce men to footwear, though it turns out I’m not the first to do so.  The other day (and I swear it was the first time) a song came on my radio, in which I heard Shania Twain effectively encapsulate my thoughts for this essay in a few concise lyrics:

‘Men are like shoes

Made to confuse

Yeah, there's so many of 'em

I don't know which ones to choose

There's the kind made for runnin'

The sneakers and the low down heels

The kind that will keep you on your toes

And every girl knows how that feels…’

Indeed, our relationships with the men we have dated are not unlike our relationships with shoes (ignoring the fact that male humans can talk and—apparently—feel).

Think of that worn-in pair of Birkenstocks that you come back to when other shoes hurt too much.  Always comfortable and relaxed, never pretentious.  Kind and high-quality.  Probably married by now.

Or those Louboutin pumps you were so proud of: gorgeous, brand name, the supposed ultimate shoe, but they hurt so bad to stand in.  Too high maintenance.

And then, of course, that one infallible pair of M.Gemi loafers—so perfect for a few seasons.  Sometimes you wonder why you let those go.

Accidental Swipe Left.

Or, what about that one outrageous pair of shoes you loved in college: too expensive, totally impractical and painful—but then again, young love can be nonsensical.  They promised a life of excitement and originality, even though you absolutely could not walk in them.

For me, that was my college boyfriend.  He was not worth the pain.  So desperately enamored with that ‘pair of shoes,’ I was able to break them in a bit, but in doing so almost permanently damaged my feet.  (I guess I damaged the shoes, too, by continuing to walk poorly in them and trip everywhere.)  They proved themselves to be low-quality and—or perhaps I just grew up—in quite bad taste.  And there were too many other shoes out there to settle for unceasing podiatric pain.

Block User.  

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Our relationships with the men we have dated are not unlike our relationships with shoes (ignoring the fact that male humans can talk and—apparently—feel).

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Sometimes you make a fashion faux pas, and need the intervention of the fashion police, A.K.A. some good and honest friends.

Of course, a little toe pinch here and there is bearable if, for the most part, they’re a good pair because you always feel amazing when you put them on.  Nothing’s perfect.  Sometimes, your favorite shoes will need shining, maybe some cobbler work.  You’ll slip up, and have some damage to repair.  Other times it’s unfixable, and you have to go shopping again.  Some shoes just wear through.

I wonder what footwear I’ll try out next.  Havaianas flip flops?  Vans sneakers?  Stubbs & Wootton slippers?  I think of Cher from Clueless and her famous defense of her virginity:

‘You see how picky I am about my shoes, and those only go on my feet.’

As I attempt to hone and define my personal style, I’m looking out for the shoe I don't know exists but which I won’t be able to leave the store without.  

Love at first click.  ‘Congratulations, it’s a match!’

Anyway, I just moved coasts, swapping New York boots for L.A. sandals.  Recently when I took off my shoes to walk on a California boardwalk with my mother, she remarked concernedly how ‘horrible’ and ‘sad’ my poor, bruised, blistered, and cracked-heeled feet look.  I guess I’ve been prancing around the sidewalks of NYC in a lot of bad shoes.

I need a foot rub.

So I’m out healing the blisters, and am beginning to understand the kind of arch support I need.  I’ve had a lot of glamorous fun in pointed-toe heels, and stilettos will always be at the bottom of my suitcase.  But my feet ache from the footwear mistakes—no, abuse—no, adventures—I’ve made over the past few years since leaving college and embarking on the journey of my early twenties.

Not sure what kind of shoes I want next.

For now, I’ve chosen sandy beaches over pavement.

Sometimes, you just need to be barefoot.

 

Anne Whiting is a bSmart contributing writer passionate about art, fashion, sustainability, and businesses that give back. She is the designer of the label Anne James New York and the author of the blog aninconvenientwardrobe.tumblr.com.

 

  1.   June 14, 2017
  2.   Relationships

The bSmart community loves to celebrate women who follow their passions and chart their own courses.  Recently, we learned about Claudia and Flavia Giardinella, the Miami-based sister duo behind contemporary womenswear label artTECA, a brand that combines contemporary art and fashion with the aim of embracing the individuality of today’s modern woman.

The name artTECA is a combination of two words: art and ‘teca’ which is a Latin term meaning gallery.  The label, which launched in 2013, is designed in collaboration with contemporary artists to offer limited edition and one-of-a-kind blouses, joggers, and scarves, all of which are made with 100% silk in the United States.

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The clothes are ‘inspired by femininity, strength and success’ and combine unique prints and styles that are both elegant and comfortable—designed to take a woman effortlessly from daytime to evening cocktail hour all while looking both trendy and sophisticated.  The sisters’ vision is ‘for your closet to look like a gallery of wardrobe pieces that inspire, personally resonate with you and offer you a sense of confidence and empowerment.’

And these clothes do more than just look good: they also do good.  The Giardinella sisters are dedicated to donating a portion of all proceeds to Wynwood-based nonprofit Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC), a visual arts and education institution which supports young artists in Miami-Dade, Florida public schools.

We thought this was a brilliant and big idea, and we're delighted to profile the two women behind the business.

Claudia and Flavia have always been involved in the art world—they grew up in a family of art collectors, so they consider the passion and the business ‘rooted in [their] culture.'  Together, they’ve lived across the cosmopolitan cities of Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Caracas, Venezuela, all of which boast art as an important part of their cultures.

Flavia attended college in Connecticut and holds a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts Administration from New York University.  She's worked in numerous art galleries and art museums.  Claudia graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami, and after working at a local TV station for a while, she went to work in the nonprofit world as a Fundraising Director for Education Programs in Latin America.

It seems knowledge of art and business, as well as a shared passion for fashion, is the perfect cocktail for a thriving independent fashion company.

Below, Flavia and Claudia offer some answers about their ideas, their advice, and the entrepreneurial challenges that surface when launching a business, even one born of passion and expertise.

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Shop artTECA tops, pants, and accessories here!

Can you share about your journey starting a fashion business?

artTECA came from the idea of mixing two creative fields: art and fashion. Besides being involved with art all our lives, fashion has always been a passion too. So for us, our idea was very organic. We wanted to fuse art and fashion in a different, creative and affordable way with the help of talented, creative artists.

Who are the artists and where do they come from?

We work in collaboration with artists from all over the world including the United States, Latin America, and Europe.  It’s a very diverse group, and so is their artwork.  We look for emerging or established artists who have a promising career, respected galleries represent them, they’ve participated in solo or group exhibitions, or their artwork is part of a museum or private collection.

How do you begin your collaboration with the artist?

We follow art fairs, read art magazines, and visit galleries and museum exhibitions in search of artists who produce good work. Once we spot an artist that we really like we start brainstorming how that artist’s work could be translated into fashion.

Once the artist is on board we begin the collaboration process. We first choose a selection of the artist’s works and decide what garment(s) we’re going to design. We work with the artists in terms of design and patterns until we reach a print design that we all love!

What prompted you to give back to the Bakehouse Art Complex?

Since Flavia came up with the idea of artTECA, and due to Claudia’s background working with non-profits, we knew we wanted to build a company that would make an impact in our community.  This is why part of our mission at artTECA is committed to assisting art education programs to expand the opportunity for art development in our local community.  In order to achieve this, artTECA has partnered with Miami-based nonprofit organization Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC) to support the organization’s art education programs for children by donating annually a percentage of sales.

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artTECA combines contemporary art and fashion, embracing the individuality of today’s modern woman.

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What has been your experience working with small-scale, Made In the USA fashion production?

Our line is all limited edition, which means we only produce a limited number of each piece.  This makes our production small-scale, and that way we can have successful quality control and work very closely with our manufacturers to guarantee the best and highest quality we can.  We oversee the production of every top, pant, or scarf we make.

Is it a tailored and customized approach to making garments when art and print are involved?

Absolutely, the integrity of the artwork is very important to us.  That said, we make as many samples as we need until we find the best quality printing of our prints.  This is the only way to work with art, because it's very important for the detail and color to match exactly the print design.

Has fabric development posed any challenges?

It sure does, not all fabric can be printed digitally.  Digital printing is still a very cutting-edge printing method for fabric.  Not all mills can print all fabrics, so we look extensively to find the best fabrics that can go through this process and achieve a high quality imaging.  This can take us a few months.

What other challenges have you encountered running a fashion company?

Our biggest roadblocks come in finding the best supply for our designs and creating the best look and fit for every style.  In order to achieve this, we go through a long process of samples and that takes time and many times it delays our production timelines.  We've learned to work many months in advance in order to have more time available for samples and production.  When it comes to fashion and manufacturing, challenges and roadblocks are a common issue, so problem solving is a key factor in being successful in this business.

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Shop artTECA tops, pants, and accessories here!

What advice do you have for women who want to start a company from their passions?

What are you waiting for?!  It will never be the right time… so just get to it!  Starting a business is always hard, but if you're lucky enough to have it be your passion, then go for it!  When you really commit and have dedication towards your business it will most likely result in a great experience.

How have you grown since first launching your line?

Starting a fashion brand is very competitive.  Defining our brand and our customer, looking into good manufacturing, finding high quality fabrics and the best printing methods, partnering with artists, designing the garments and the prints, building our online store and introducing our brand into boutiques, has all been part of our journey.

What advice do you have for women who want to turn their passion projects into a success?

We have a couple of pieces of advice:

First, PATIENCE!  This is probably the hardest, since you obviously wish to grow and be successful overnight.  Everything is a process and sometimes it takes longer than expected.  Also, taking your time will help you make better decisions.  Being impulsive most times results in mistakes…so again: have a little patience and take your time!

Second, TAKE OTHER PEOPLE’S ADVICE.  It's hard to find people to give you good advice.  Everyone is juggling with their own business, but try your best to surround yourself with people who have been there already.  Their experience will help you avoid many mistakes.  It doesn’t mean doing exactly what they say...just consider their experience before you make your own decisions.

Follow artTECA on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram!

 

Anne Whiting is a bSmart contributing writer passionate about art, fashion, sustainability, and businesses that gives back. She is the designer of the label Anne James New York and the author of the blog aninconvenientwardrobe.tumblr.com.

 

  1.   June 02, 2017
  2.   Fashion

Women-to-watch Allie Wilkinson and Jessica Martinaitis are using art for positive social change with exhibitions and conversations designed to educate, empower, and call to action.

On a slushy Saturday afternoon, tucked inside an intimate exhibition space in Chelsea’s Gallery District known as the Rush Arts Gallery, a group of art lovers joined in a circle and took a deep, collective breath before delving—with renewed presence and awareness—into the designated discussion, a panel titled ‘Gentrificonversation: Acknowledging Artwashing.’  On the walls were works by 12 New York-based contemporary artists, commissioned to reflect on their experience with the negative impacts of gentrification in New York City and Brooklyn.

Collage artwork by Fort Greene-based artist Nae Howard

The panel was hosted by IThou Art—an arts organization that supports social movement and progress through art, co-founded by Allie Wilkinson and Jessica Martinaitis, along with artist Liam Alexander—and was part of their Exchange event series, a collaborative communication platform that aims to bring together diverse community members in various neighborhoods to discuss negative social issues in a positive, solutions-oriented environment.

Allie and Jessica, the inspiring women behind the scene, took time before the group discussion to tell bSmart more about their mission, and the positive work of Exchange and IThouArt.

‘‘IThou’ comes from the philosopher Martin Buber,’ explained Jessica. ‘When you get rid of the idea of the other you create a space of us, of I & Thou, and that’s where you can grow and move forward, it’s kind of like this magical space of…’—

they both accidentally chimed in unison—‘relatedness.’

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Jessica, Allie, & co-founder Liam at The Exchange’s Opening, December 15th. Photo by Erin Sanger.

‘I love that,’ said Allie. ‘IThou breaks down the divide between people,’ she continued.  (IThou started when co-founder Liam showcased portraits of activist photographers, ‘the unsung heroes of activist photography,’ Jessica called them, which brought awareness to their various causes and how they used their art to make an impact and spark conversation.)  ‘The idea is to bring people together who wouldn’t normally all be in a room together; we’ve created this space for people to start talking to each other.’

They explained that gentrification was the first social movement they wanted to take on because it was an important topic in their own lives: as artists living in Brooklyn, they themselves had joined the waves of gentrification that are shifting cultural plates and (inadvertently) forcing long-time residents out of their homes.  Aware of this, they wanted to address their impact.

‘That became the basis for continuing the IThou principle,’ said Jessica, ‘and we were asked to help produce an exhibition and create this organization which endeavors to bring awareness and bring in new audiences that are seemingly unimpacted and really develop an awareness in new communities, and then enroll them into supporting the art, because art is a tool for communication.’

The ultimate goal, with the help of visual arts as a prompt, is to foster an exchange of ideas between artists and viewers, and transform the conversation around gentrification from one of negative tension and divide into one of community and inclusion.  

Some of Allie’s work was on display: a piece entitled ‘Fog (Meika)’, a graphite portrait of one of her neighbors in Crown Heights.  The portrait was covered with a sheet of vellum, so the viewer could only slightly see the drawn subject, but never totally clearly.  It was based on a conversation she’d had with Meika (her actual neighbor in her building), in which Meika had said:

“To be able to see somebody past their identity…you don’t get so angst about their behavior…because that’s not who they are, that’s just the level of consciousness that they’re at.  People are consistently demonstrating their fog; their fear…their guilt.  We were not created as that.  So to be able to see beyond the fog—That’s love.”

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Allie & her portrait subject and neighbor Meika. Photo by Duane Lyken.

It was a beautiful encapsulation of the mission of IThou Art and the Exchange series.

All of the artists—an equal ratio of women and men—in this current exhibition had participated in at least one prior Exchange conversation.  Much of their work stemmed from these discussions—a creative way of showcasing otherwise frustrated thoughts about the difficult topics at hand.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Harlem-based artist Duhirwe Rushemeza, whose work incorporated actual pieces of metal from the Dominican nail salon above her studio, which closed due to changing rent circumstances as a result of gentrification.  The rusty metal was mounted on concrete and overlaid with print motifs emblematic of various cultures she has encountered on her travels and studies of art.

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"Ancien Nouveau" by Duhirwe Rushemeza

The panel on Artwashing was hosted by Anthony Rosado, a Bushwick-based artist whose own works about gentrification were also showcased.  After having us breathe in and out in unison, he explained that the theme of the talk would be ‘Arts-Induced Mass Displacement’, a.k.a. the process by which artists seeking cheap rent are actually contributing to the problems that gentrification causes.  The group, a collective of individuals, friends, artists, writers, educators and researchers, both native and new to NYC and its varied neighborhood dynamics, began to discuss rising rents, the loss of central services, and the erasure of original culture as some of the negative byproducts of artists moving to Bushwick, Crown Heights, etc.

‘As artists we have a great responsibility to help the communities that we're in,’ exclaimed one of the panel's featured guests, an actress from Puerto Rico who had been invited to explain her relationship with her neighborhood.  One of the ways IThou Art does this, another guest noted, is by abolishing artists’ apathy, reminding them of the power of their work and choices.

Allie, Jessica, and IThou Art are fostering a cross-cultural, collaborative exchange of ideas, communication, and actions to help one another see through the fog and embrace a myriad of perspectives.  Of course, there is no better way to have these conversations than when surrounded by art, a medium which brings people together in visual curiosity to engage in discussion about its representation and meaning, and its differing connotations depending on its viewer.  Through art we both express ourselves and achieve a collaborative viewpoint in the act of absorbing the work of someone else's eyes and heart.

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"Un dia" by Anthony Rosado

Stay tuned for more Exchange events and positive social impact through art with IThou Art!

 

  1.   December 30, 2016
  2.   Culture

New weather almost always summons a new wardrobe, but there’s something about fall that’s particularly best for closet revival, and not just because sweaters and coats are celebratory rewards to a summer of failed dieting.  I’ve heard it said that September is the ‘January of Fashion’—that is, a sort of New Year when fresh looks hit the runways and windows, and the pages of our favorite magazines seem to chant in unison that as our Earth makes yet another rotation around the Sun and the climate adjusts itself accordingly, it’s time once again to revamp our closets and get ourselves some fresh, new attire.  

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For me, though, this changing season beckoned more than just a change of clothes.  As I finished reading a Harper’s Bazaar essay titled ‘The Best of What’s New' ('Welcome to a new season, one [of] a myriad of possibilities…,' it began) and browsed emails shouting subject lines such as ‘Introducing THIS’ or ‘3 NEW UPDATES You Need To Check Out…' it seemed that October’s chilling winds were nipping at me to evaluate the previous season’s mishaps that were not wardrobe-related, urging a restructuring of my emotional baggage, in addition to my handbag collection: 

For me, this fall meant a friend cleanout.

The ex-friend-in-question was one of the closest people in my life.  He was one of my cooler accessories, like a really trendy pair of worn-in Stan Smiths or a Céline bag that has everyone jealous the minute you walk into the room.  As a confidante, he warmed me for many years like a favorite wool sweater that’s so cozy but also just itchy enough to remind you that it's not synthetic but raw, real, honest, and very much there.  He knew everything about me from my deepest romantic regrets to my most embarrassing bowel movements.  He’d seen me through the questionable fashion choices of freshman year of college, horrible dating choices senior year, the woes of finding homes in New York, the emotional instability of finding (or not finding) employment.  

Yet all of a sudden he wasn’t fitting correctly anymore.  Something was too tight for comfort, too scratchy.  We were fighting all the time.  I couldn’t wear my pants properly.  Everything seemed discolored.  I decided I was moving on.

'Changes may have taken place on the home front, Aquarius, perhaps unexpected repairs or someone moving in or out…' my October horoscope stated matter-of-factly.  It was true: amongst other things, my September marked a move from my home of two years in quiet and arty Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the touristic and imposingly Manhattan neighborhood of FiDi—a move that forced me to finally contend with my collection of old, unworn, or ill-fitting garments stretching hinge to hinge across a closet that would not fit into my new closet also known as my new bedroom. Hashtag, New York.

Usually, no matter the weather, I hoard clothes.  I hoard them for the memories of when and where I bought them—say, this dress from Prom (…I do mean high school), this scarf because my grandmother made it, these old Converse that helped me navigate a semester abroad, from the Boulevard Saint-Germain to class on Rue de Passy, to trains from Milan to Bologna.  Clothes tell my story; they allow moments and memories to live on much longer than the temporality of events can allow.  Wardrobes are like wearable photo albums that allow us to revisit places, and people, or ourselves from times past just by digging through the backs of our closets.  Consequently I’ve always felt that throwing things away is a bit like throwing away a diary. 

This attachment is rather to my detriment, however.  My refusal to purge means I end up continuing to wear things I don’t actually look great in anymore, or which no longer have a place in my 'adult' life.  I’ll admit that I am one to keep vintage blouses with pit stains from too many parties, jeans purchased in 2008 that no longer fit my maturing, 25-year-old ass and/or have big holes in their crotches...which was like, maybe a cute look that one time at that beach party I attended during my dalliance with life as a slutty Sophomore.  Simply put, such garments could not reflect whatever centimeters of personal growth that I have clumsily inched towards as the sun rises and sets according to the Earth’s spinning. 

So it goes, they say that death must preempt life, or that only through the death of something can we ever truly find or experience renewal.  This is also what they’re getting at when they say, simplistically, over-cheerfully, out with the old, in with the new.

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Only through the death of something can we ever truly find or experience renewal.

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Thus, I cleared my closet to clear my thoughts.  To purge my past self.  To welcome new beginnings.  I reassessed my existence and worked to connect with my authentic, future, better self after years of exploration, mistakes and revelation.  I did what the magazines and emails said to do and I evaluated, mended, hemmed, donated, replaced. I hit refresh.  It was with bittersweet relinquishment that I got rid of much of the fabric of my life, making room for a new sweater (or five), in a new size, in a new place, for a new me.  Actually, I got rid of so much clothing that I had to beg my old college roommate to trek her car across the Manhattan Bridge, let me stuff it to the brim, and drive me to a Goodwill to unload two years worth of fashion baggage. 'My God, Anne,' she’d said, seeing the mountain I was giving up, despite knowing all too well (after three years of living with me) about my attachment to sentimental, wearable clutter.

'My God, Anne,' she’d said, when I told her my former BFF and I were no longer speaking. 

I had never been through a friend break-up before. A phase-out, maybe. A succumbing to the strains of long distance. But never an active choice to remove a person—as we remove a blouse—from my phone’s Favorites.  I prided myself on loyalty for at least sentimental reasons (re: the same reasons I hoard clothes): so many people dared shoulder me through my various stages of development, helping me through hard times, loving me despite my (albeit continued) youthful stupidity.

But while rummaging through my old things, the main question became just how long one should keep and/or put up with fabulous shoes that give you blisters, with clothes that don’t actually work for your body anymore, or are broken in or down to the point of no return.  And I wondered, as I threw my resulting discernment on the curb and wiped my hands of all that, why we don’t tend do the same thing with the people in our life.  We make friends and we expect them to fit us forever.

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We make friends and we expect them to fit us forever.

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But what happens when your companions, once trusted to bring you comfort and happiness, no longer measure up to what you need them to be?  The magazines offer lots of advice when it comes to cleaning out and enhancing our closets, but not much about how to sift through the Rolodex without killing your social circle, hurting people’s’ feelings, or getting lonely.  Loneliness—like nakedness—is a real threat, which causes us to hang on to our friends like an old shirt that’s pilling, stained, out-of-style, or slightly discolored but that’s just so comfortable and, you know, tells the story of an amazing night in Bushwick or Bastille or Boston—a keepsake that is very difficult to discard.

But if the blister-giving shoes, though fabulous, are always hurting you?  It’s one thing to buy a new shirt.  It’s not so easy to replace comrades.  We can’t just hang up our besties like we hang up an old shirt, or toss them aside to the Goodwill pile.  Our friends aren’t just old boots which we can place on a higher shelf when we get tired of looking at them.  

That, and an old shirt never offends so deeply as does a text that screams 'I NEVER want to speak to you again.'

And we all know that no retail therapy can fully heal a broken heart.  Anyone who has been through a breakup can tell you it is never an easy decision, especially after you’ve invested time, effort, money…blood, sweat and tears, probably, too…in the creating of a more perfect union.  But everything needs some dusting every now and then.  And so, as I stared into the starkness it occurred to me that this fall also marked a death of a very dear friendship in my life, which was perhaps the biggest, most jarring change of all.  The question was no longer 'What will I wear?' but 'Who will I call?'

Grey.Line.7

The question was no longer 'What will I wear?' but 'Who will I call?'

Grey.Line.7

It does seem a bit silly to compare a toxic relationship to an ill-fitting blouse.  Growing tired of a shirt is of course nowhere near as painful as falling out of love with a human—even if both clothed you, either physically or metaphysically, in love and confidence and joy, and the smells of shared cigarettes and perfumes. Each knows of your physical flaws, your bad drinking habits, your muffin tops and yet leaves the house with you anyway, helping you, empowering you, carrying you through stressful interviews or long nights out that ended with your face covered in either pizza grease or tears, or both.

Each helped you emulate you, even if by coming loose at the seams in a worn and likely inadvertent way of urging you to move on and go shopping for something else that fits you better.

And thusly, my friendship folded.

The silence that ensued in this 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,' as Keats called Autumn—the empty hum of cold, still air left behind when the geese have migrated south and the waters surrender to ice’s imminent reign—was a really a reverberating sense of, if not withdrawal, then a somber mix of reflection and apprehension.

My closet rack clacks with empty hangers, bare like trees that have dropped their foliage and await what I, too, now face, without my favorite sweater—as the season now gracefully transitions to winter, as my friendship which dangled like a crispy leaf withering in chilled November wind, which one soft blow proved too overpowering for any resistance to its falling fate—

Frost.

 

  1.   December 09, 2016
  2.   Relationships
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