Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Couples Wearing Each Other's Clothes
My best friend just made me aware of the following photographs by sincerelyhana.com showcasing gender performance in the sartorial confines of quotidianity. The photographs proved distracting as I navigate fatigue. As I was perusing the site, I got to thinking of a sort-of-similar exercise in my own life.
The exercise was most curious as it went beyond fabric choice, situational layering, and gender performance. The semiotics of fashion is something I've long concerned myself with as I've always deemed presentation to be much more than just unsubstantiated form. The first time I was asked to give up an item of clothing for the purpose of swapping was in my first long-term relationship. Apparently, it was some sort of a rite of passage. I was asked for a t-shirt so that the other party could wear it when being away for a week.
I found the request strange.
As much as I'm keen on tropes, my brain is a tad too enamored with literalness. I'm attached to the words' literal meaning. This propensity is what made me excel in academic pursuits. It's mostly a challenge when dealing with people who don't view words as a melange of primary, secondary, and tertiary meanings, but I'm getting off topic.
I suppose, it's hard to shake linguistic conditioning and having grown up with lexical diversity, getting attached to primary meanings meant clearer communication and easier living.
The question was: "Can I take one of your shirts with me?"
My answer was something akin to, "Oh, do you need to get a new one for the trip? We can go and buy you one." Instantaneously, I went through my inventory of shirts and I started thinking which shirt the other party had in mind. "Which one was goes went well with your travel pants and shoes?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, which color?"
"Why does that matter?"
"Well, you want it to go with your other stuff, ja?"
"The color doesn't matter. Just any shirt will do."
I remember finding the request most bizarre at that point. And, just like I tend to do with topics I'm not fully satisfied with and/or finished with, I got to work.
I missed the point of the request. The request came from a place of intimacy and olfactory closeness. I saw it as one of travelling need. I was fretting about it. "Well, I can give you this, or that, or the other one. I mean, I like green. You don't care for green. I like form-fitting, you'll have a hard time with that. Unless you wear it as an undergarment type thing and then you wear a shirt of your own that fits on top of it. Should we go shopping? Let's go shopping and we'll find something like the one I have but in your size. Then we can be twins."
"Just pick one, really. The one you have on will do, actually."
At that point I distinctly remember thinking, "but I wear this Tuesdays. It's my comfort Tuesday shirt. I write in this. Why would you want this one?! What would I be wearing on Tuesday then?"
I actually, left my office in the middle of the day, went to a department store, and actually bought the exact same favorite shirt of mine but in another size. I was proud of myself for having found it. Eureka! But then when I got home, my beaming vanished when my shirt was met with: "you got me a new one?! [Grunt] It's fine really. I meant one of your own. You know, a used one."
I was still dense.
I still didn't get it. "Should I have gone to a vintage store, you know, I don't like the smell in places like that but we can go and see if we can find a second-hand shirt that looks like mine." As soon as I said it, we both started laughing as I became aware of my having completely missed the point of the exercise. In an effort to appear more of a caring person, I said, "how about this? How about you pick one of mine and I'll pick one of yours. You don't have anything green, do you?"
My literal self still found it bizarre that we had to swap shirts. My figurative self found the exercise interesting, however. And there we went. We swapped shirts and lied to each other. We did what was expected of a shirt-swapping couple. We lied about what a good fit the other's shirt was and how it went well with our respective complexions. And yada, yada, yada.
You can see the rest of the couples' switcheroo project here.