Tag Archives: youth

Better, not great…

I still can’t hear the term “president-elect tr…” without my bowels loosening and my chest tightening.

All of the past hostile and toxic environments I’ve been in, stalkings I’ve gone through, rictus grins through mansplaing and talkingovers, and yes, even getting my pussy grabbed in broad daylight on the way to work and when filing a police report about it being told that I could be charged since I punched the man and thus likely left a mark and he didn’t….

is all coming up GERD-like and simmering at the back of my tongue.

So fiber really isn’t on my mind.

And the wind is howling like January.

And my computer is possibly in its death throes, so I’m busy backing it all up.

sewing-4-b-flag

Here’s a less stressful time – I’m sewing 4-B flags for our sister 4-H group in Botswana – complete with tomato pin holder, yarn bows on pigtails, and my mom’s early-mid 1960s Singer sewing machine in the background, and of course, a perfect example of the absolute worst decade for eyeglasses (not to mention the mole I had surgically removed after I was sick of being called “moleface” but then became “scarface” but that was more badass and not as bad, but I regret removing it now unless it ended up taking over the whole side of my face like the kids said it was doing…). Our 4-H club was called “A Better America” and I think of it every time I hear “Make America Great Again.” And both bother me because most “Americans” aren’t actually including the whole of the Americas north and south, continent-wise, when they say it, but tr… means us, just us, just our jaggedy wide midsection of North America and only those citizens who worship him, but our 4-H club included the whole shebang and beyond, and meant that we as Americans needed to do our part to make it a little bit better for everyone. We welcomed new immigrants and citizens, helped out our poor townspeople, mentored youth, played entirely too many games of Uno with our elderly and mentally handicapped (somewhat warehoused in hindsight) neighbors in group homes, and connected with others in the world (along with the typical 4-H litany of farm animals, bake-offs, forestry projects, and camp).

 I (think, hope) I still have the letters that my 4-B penpal from Botswana, Bertha, wrote over 30 years ago, but I’ll never forget her first which she opened with: “My country is not as beautiful as you may think.”

I’m feeling that about mine too.

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My old cardigan friend, (damn you golf again), and bullying because of thrifting…

I’ve had this c. 1950s/60s men’s alpaca cardigan sweater since the late 1980s.

cardigan full

It was among my first “thrift scores” and I have loved it ever since.  It warmed me through the amalgamated post-hippie/punk/ folk/college-rock years dubbed “alternative” (or “art-fag” if you were stupid and from my neck of the woods), a dabbling of grunge, a decades long love of emo-ish hardcore, and even got away with looking like a hip “boyfriend” sweater the last few years.  It’s been paired with Sex Pistols t-shirts and vintage hippie skirts, over-sized R.E.M. t-shirts and leggings, strategically torn jeans, boot cut jeans, and then leggings again.  I’ve mended it many times, but my elbow finally poked through one of the sleeves the other day.

cardigan hole

So at the moment, it’s not doing very well – I don’t think I want to sew on the classic professorial suede elbow patches, so I may go with some wool tweed.  And I can’t get Weezer’s Undone out of my head to save my life (even though this isn’t what the song is about).

Highly uncharacteristically of me, I never noticed or looked up label before until now…

cardigan label

And oh holy hell, what have I got here, something to do with golf again!?!?

Yep,  Gene Littler was a golf champ and probably got his own line of sportswear in the 1950s or ’60s.  At least he had good taste in fibers and got behind a smart timeless design…

But back on the subject of thrifting – I’m not quite sure when and how I got started.  Like most families in our rural area, we had a single modest income and were extremely conservative* with money.  Our food budget was supplemented by a lush garden and the slaughtering of our chickens and rabbits.  Horse camp?  Nope, I couldn’t go, or any other childhood activity that required fees.  Clothing was homemade, handed-down (yes I wore my brothers’) and never purchased at full price.  However, as a small child, my mother liked dressing me in Polly Flinders hand-smocked dresses from a previous decade.  I believe she found them in consignment shops or garage sales and recognized some of the quality handiwork that went into them (possibly from sweatshops in the ’60s maybe?).  And thankfully she stopped acquiring them when my tomboy-hood banned all things smocked, gathered, and frilled, but I believe this is what set the precedent for obtaining used clothing.

I also have a clear memory of the second grade and being on the outer ring of a group of girls surrounding a lone victim wearing a dress I had secretly liked but was clearly from an earlier generation – a blue pinafore or jumper** with colorful embroidery (I think it was a pattern of small fish).  The ringleader of the mean girls, whose name I recall was actually Ashley, taunted the girl (I’ll call Pam) without her realization of what was happening along the lines of:

Ashley:  [Sneeringly] I like your dress Pam.

Pam: [Shyly blushing and looking downward] Oh, thank you!

Ashley:  Where did you get, it?

Pam: [Brightening] Oh, I actually found it at Goodwill!

Ashley: [Sneering even more] What is that?  Is that a fancy new shop downtown?

[Ashley’s friends break out in cruel giggles]

Though this taunting was pretty tame, I am ashamed now that I didn’t punch Ashley, but I pretty much knew from then on I wouldn’t be friends with her or the others for the next ten years at school.  I remember going to a small birthday party for Pam at the local trailer park once, but shortly thereafter something started to go terribly wrong with her or her life and she often just cried by herself on the playground.  Though the school was tiny, I lost track of her.  She was one of the first to die from our class after graduation – I don’t know what happened.

Knowing I too was on the fringe and would never be a cheerleader, jock-cock sucker, star athlete, or sweet hometown homecoming queen, and I’d always have a long strange ethnic name in a sea of Smiths and Jones, was not the same religion as most of my peers, came from a liberal outspoken family, got good grades, was a band freak, was tall for my age and flat-chested to boot (then), and even the stupid fact of being the only one with a summer birthday and never having the class recognize it, and therefore me, gave me a solid f*ck-all-ya’ll attitude that the “alternative” culture embraced.  So even though I was shoved and locked in lockers, voted off the lunch table, and hid in the bathroom whenever dodge-ball was assigned, I knew life was better outside of that shithole school and town.  Thrifting was an escape, a way to time-travel, and it felt good to occupy the fabric skins of others who had passed through their shitty youths and were on to something better.

Though once in a while I did think about how the former owners of my duds could have died long lonely deaths, or still be around and be even more miserable than me…

*Conservative only in personal finance, certainly not in politics – many in the area were crazy right-wingers and their children are probably teabagging preppers these days… hopefully they don’t believe in voting.

**Brits call sweaters and pullovers “jumpers” but what do they call the sleeveless dress that you have to wear a shirt underneath?

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Filed under recycling, thrifting