I had planned to spend Friday night watching burned DVDs of shipwreck documentaries (long story) but right now I’m kind of hepped up on reading blog posts about conscious fashion and thrifting-as-refusal. In addition to this, I’m in the faded glow of last night’s presentation/conversation by zinester and cool dude Al Burian. It’s really put some fire in the bell of my brain… or whatever. You know what I mean.
I’m going to dump the links to what I’ve been reading at the end of this but, generally, I like to start my internet rabbit-holing by checking out à l’allure garçonnière, a blog that further convinces me that all folks from Montreal are awesome, amazing, and would make for great friends on the lonely plane of real reality.
So, the idea of thrifting-as-refusal came up and I couldn’t help but wonder how this topic plays out in my life. I’m not the most vocal of thrift advocates. God knows that retro/vintage/antique cool is the new, ah…. whatever was a cool buzzword/descriptor 10 years ago- so I feel that saying, “Hey guys! Thrift stores!” is just kind of like yelling into a crowded room in vain. But regardless of how I am fronting, you might notice that on the few outfit pictures that I have posted, many of my articles have had former lives. I’m not one who strives for this but, at a certain point in my life, it just became “what it is”. Everything I have once belonged to someone else. I’ve never concealed this fact. I’ve gone so far as to tastelessly joke about it (“Obviously if I wanted a child I would adopt one. I mean, everything else I own is second hand.” “Even my dog came from the trash!”) and, if you ask, I’ll gladly take you on a tour of the house and point out just how many of my domestic items have come from the proverbial/literal curb (almost the entire house.) The other night, while talking about my indecisive feelings towards graduate programs, my friend quipped that she wished someone would give me a grant so that I could open up my own storefront that sold “stuff you made and stuff you just pulled from the garbage.”
It’s a lifestyle, y’all.
So, yes. I’ve cultivated a decent sense of cultivation over the years. (Double use of “cultivation” highly intentional.) But why? And where from? Is it because I wasn’t really raised around new things. Not in the stuffy, old-money-white-person way nor in the dirt-poor-white-person way but I guess more in the prudent and frugal way. Why buy new clothes when I’ll just grow out of them by summer? Why throw away old clothes when the kid down the block will fit into them next summer? Granted, in a way, this drove me crazy. After a certain age, the pressure to keep up with the other shitty kids in your class becomes strong and even the promise that a childhood spent joining your grandmother at the Second Time Around Charity Shop will 100% guarantee that you will be the coolest kid in your state’s liberal arts college, well, that will not be enough to abate the sting of being insufficient in the eyes of your awful, terrible peers. In another way, it made me so guarded from the way of the world, I had no idea how normal people consumed until I was in high school. I still remember sitting in the living room of a high school boyfriend’s mother’s new condo. I asked something about the furniture to the effect of, “Oh. Did this come from members of your family?*” He looked at me like I was cracked and answered, “No. She went out and bought it to put in this room.” AND MY MIND WAS FOREVER BLOWN.
*because our family passes around a good deal of furniture… sometimes from as far as one coast to the other. Incestual furniture swapping= my baseline normal.
So I’m a garbage picker raised in some sort of torturous squalor (again, “and whatever”). And my life is a series of firm yet quiet “No”s.
No, I will not get married. No, I will not raise a family. No, I will not drive a car. No, I will not move to a suburb. No, I will not own a tv that is hooked up to a cable box (this one actually seems to bother people the most). No, I will not dress my age. No, I will not work a job I dislike because it pays me more money. No, I will not buy new clothes or useless things. No, when my iPod breaks, I don’t really want a new one. (I also refuse the ideas of the electronic reading device (soulless), deodorant from a plastic container (wasteful), chemical house cleaners (gross), the pervasiveness of technology thanks to the iPhone, et al (rude). and morality of fertility treatments (selfish). But these are fairly minor.)
I can’t act as if these feelings are borne from pure altruism. I’m not trying to better the world at large. I’m certainly not trying to stick it to “The Man”. But I am trying to exercise what control I can over my own world. I can only marginally control if my politicians view me as a person deserving of rights. I cannot control if other people see me as human on a day-to-day basis. But I can control the direct sphere around me. I can actively create the world where I want to dwell. And I can use my money to partially control a larger sphere around that. So, when I go to Saver’s and buy some black Gloria Vanderbilt medium rise mom jeans, I’m refusing the narrow field of options that garment manufacturers are currently laying out as abject fact. Instead, I am culling from the (mistakes of the) past. The past loosened from its context is a valuable resource. A resource that pays some of my bills. This is what we have to dig from: all of history. And to contextualize the past and its souvenirs? This is as close as we can come to time travel. I pick and chose, with great intention (although, nobody is perfect. Myself first and foremost depending on how I feel that day), what goes into my life, who goes into my life, and how I will navigate the endless variety of paths before me. It is fulfilling. Far more fulfilling than spending money. Far more fulfilling than fitting in.
We live in a stupid world where we have very little control or say in what happens or how things get done or made. It’s frustrating. Refusal is one way to grip a tiny thread of control. Find more ways to hack life and maybe you can weave a blanket to hide under.