How A Salmon Sweater Taught Me Everything About Life
The year was 2002.
Britney and Justin had publicly parted ways effectively making me question the hard stuff; is love real? If Britney can’t find happiness, how will I? Was it the denim that did them in? I was skimming through a Seventeen Magazine (pause for realization I am hard copy magazine years old) looking for answers when I saw her. She was a beautiful model made of stardust and fashion crafted perfectly by wizards who majored in photoshop. She had blonde hair and blue eyes just like me. The only thing separating us from being identical twins was her off-the-shoulder J. Crew sweater. The sweater was $89.00. I live in south Florida and have approximately 9 days out of the year where sweaters are appropriate. Spending that kind of money on something I could only wear a handful of times seemed ridiculous. I wanted to be that model so I saved all my birthday and Christmas money until it was time.
My Mall Mission
Going into the store I imagined it would be hanging right there in that chic off white color and in precisely my size. When I entered and spotted the rack I was devastated to find a parade of extra small salmon colored replicas. I had not prepared for this and when I asked the manager if they had more she offered to have one shipped in for me. “Usually it takes about 14-21 days,” okay. That’s wasn’t happening. I had planned on leaving the mall and feeling complete and impossibly cool with my new sweater why was she was crushing my dreams? I searched every store like I had lost my wallet, skimming racks and mannequins. There were things that fit me, sweaters and shirts and dresses that looked incredible, but I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. I needed that J. Crew sweater. I abandoned the V neck shirt that made my eyes pop and emphasized my boobs. The sundress that was both versatile and flattering would have to wait. Returning to the store I begrudgingly handed my cash over in exchange for this ill-fitted salmon colored knit disaster.
Why am I like this?
This story is important because I think it shows an early pattern of settling based on false ideas of what it should or could be. My relationships were always like this. I never felt love or sparks or even tensions. But the idea of having a relationship sounded great. I pictured what I would look like in our engagements photos, the way they’d protectively take my hand in a dark alley, or offer me a jacket when it was cold. Sometimes I would picture every girl who was mean to me secretly pining away for my lover. These fantasies never fulfilled themselves, most were just the opposite but like the sweater I committed to the lie.
I Can Change!
I was beholden to that stupid salmon sweater. It was too small for me and the color made me look washed out. My mother told me it was a bad fit. That should have solidified it. Mothers are rarely wrong and young hearts rarely listen to reason. My mother’s advice was only confirmed in hindsight scenarios. Instead I thought maybe If I could lose 10 pounds or alter the shape of my hips I would make myself fit that ugly thing.
I envied my friends who tossed aside clothing that no longer fit or went out of style. I never had enough gumption to return something or make an exchange. This would require admitting my mistake and owning my fallibility. Honestly, I would wear this sweater on my wedding day if it meant I could avoid that admission.
What I Learned
We commit to these unhealthy relationships that don’t fit because we have fallen in love with the idea of what it could look like and what it could do for us. In retrospect the sweater did not make me feel good and certainly did not make me look better. I believed it could do those things and I was willing to build my life around it if it meant there was a chance this external thing could make me whole, or at least accepted.
For 2 years that sweater was my go to when I was feeling down or trying to impress. I was always uncomfortable in it. I dealt with the pain truly believing others would be looking on in envy. The day the dryer ripped a hole right in the armpit of my now faded fashion staple I almost cried with relief. I had only washed it because I knew I’d be wearing it to a Christmas party that night. I frantically shuffled through my old sweaters to find something suitable. Now free from my salmon-colored prison I felt uninhibited and wild. I gave almost zero fucks about my wardrobe looking cool and decided instead on a blue gap hoodie. It felt like butter, it brought out my eyes and had this incredible slimming effect that somehow took 10 pounds off my frame. I got so many compliments that night. I was drunk on freedom, empowered by my decision to release the salmon sweater into the garbage where it belonged.
Letting go of a stubborn commitment may well be the best decision for both your wardrobe and your soul. We need to release the things we believe will bring happiness to clear space for the things that already do. Stop hanging onto the look of the sweater and embrace how the hoodie feels.