the sweater

It was my first year of university, either 1999 or 2000, when I acquired this sweater. It came from Stitches, in Jackson Square. I think on this particular occasion, my roommate, Vidya, and I went to there perhaps with the express purpose of shopping (this is amusing to think about now, given the state of Jackson Square when I last saw it three years ago). I couldn’t tell you if we bought anything else, but we both bought this sweater — hers was a navy blue and mine was grey.

At this point, I can tell you that I was a complete newbie when it came to buying my own clothes. I was the kind of kid whose mom bought her all her clothes until I moved out for university. As such, I didn’t know what constituted a reasonable price for various items of clothing, nor did I really know what size I wore. Hello, sheltered kid. I paid more than I would now for this sweater — maybe $20 or so, and that was very likely its regular price (while this was a trend that followed me for the next four years, I now very rarely buy clothes on regular price any more). And it’s a size medium. I’d like to point out that I generally fit into extra-small or small clothes (extra-large or extra-extra-large, if I’m wearing kids’ clothes though). However, perhaps in the style of the late 90s/early 2000s, a slightly baggy sweater might’ve been in. It’s the kind of hoodie that’d have gone well board shorts (the label reads “board stiff,” if that might be any indication), and I’m willing to venture that I probably wore it with my red or blue or pink board shorts during the next four years. It was never a go-to sweater, just an item of clothing I’d once been excited to purchase, in the throes of my newfound independence.

As my wardrobe ballooned and I amassed more sweaters than I actually regularly wore, the grey sweater became an afterthought, buried in the bottom of my closet. I’m not sure why I didn’t donate it to the clothing swap, like I did with tons of my other clothes during my mass decluttering. It’s not like I ever liked it that much.

It ended up coming with me to the UK because my usual sweater than I slept in and bummed around the house in was too bulky for our luggage. I was a little sad to have to leave behind the cozy hoodie, courtesy of my time serving on the Student Representative Assembly, that was still too big for me despite being a size small, but I needed to cram other, more crucial clothes into the suitcase, dammit!

And so, this sweater, which I’d never really cared all that much for, became my sleeping sweater. All that daily wear made the zipper tab fall off first, but the zipper itself was still functional, despite quietly and gradually slipping ever downward through the night. This proved useful when night-nursing Ares, but I always worried that the unnecessarily sharp teeth of the zipper would mar his delicate newborn face (by the way, that didn’t happen, to my knowledge… whew!).

And then, the holes emerged in the sleeves. I was highly amused when they amounted to five holes, as I could stick my digits through them and voila, I had fingerless mitts built into my sleeves. Lucas could only shake his head at me. When the hole in the body got large enough, I was able to stick my boob through it to nurse without the frigid repercussions of having to lift my entire shirt and sweater.

The sweater, already too big to begin with, lost whatever shape it did have and hung limply from my body. Ditto with the sleeves, which were so droopy that if I attempted to push up my sleeves, they’d still drip down from my upper arm. Once, I was so frustrated with the saggy sleeves while I was doing the dishes, I actually held them in place with my teeth. There was probably a better solution, but in my moment of wet, drippy annoyance, this seemed like the best thing.

The material has worn so thin that you can see through it, without even having to hold it up to the light. One night last week, because I liked how it looked, I attempted to read an article on the New York Times website through the holes in my sleeve and the cobwebby cotton. It made for an interesting, layered view.

Two weeks ago, I finally decided I probably ought to replace the sweater, because it was clearly worn out and honestly, I have and had no love for it. Its replacement, discovered on the £5 rail of Resurrection, is apparently vintage. It’s red and emblazoned with the word “lifeguard” in large white capitals, it seems to follow the same pseudo-surfer style that was so popular in the early 2000s (I suppose that’s why they consider it [ahem] vintage now?). It’s much cozier and warmer than Ugly Grey Sweater ever was, to my recollection. The first night I wore it, Lucas said I looked like a different person every time he looked over at me. Obviously, wearing red makes me stand out more than grey ever did.

The old sweater now sits in a pile beside the couch because I’m not exactly sure what to do with it. No charity shop would want it, and the thinness of the material renders it utterly useless as rags. I feel bad adding it to the landfill but alas, I think that might be where it’ll end up. Because it was so crappy and I never cared for it, I’m not sad to see it go and I’ll easily toss it with a shrug. See you never again, Ugly Grey Sweater.

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