Clearing The Closet: What We Keep And What We Leave Behind

by Alex Poppe

Lots of blues and greens. Mostly dresses, organized by color, then by designer, crowded onto a three-foot rod, jammed into a three-foot closet, inside an eight-foot bedroom, inside a tiny bedroom on the island of Manhattan. Spring cleaning. A ritual familiar to all those self-aggrandized lives shoved into small spaces. A hairball of dust along the floor molding distracted me. Retrieved a broom and dustpan and dumped it into the dustbin.

Entering the Catherine Maladrino dress section, which paralleled a period of relative prosperity and emotional security, I spotted one of my would-be wedding dresses. The attached silk scarf of the viridian halter gown felt cool against my cheek. I didn’t wear it to my own wedding, but I wore it to my friend Jenny’s more than ten years ago. I haven’t worn it since, nor have I seen much of Jenny.

I pulled at the skirt of an indigo MoMo FaLana gown. The MoMo brand peaked at the height of Sex and the City, as did I. It was also a halter dress, which I wore to my student Katya’s wedding, and I don’t see much of her, either.

carrie the look 10 1024Carrie Bradshaw in MoMo FaLana

Opened the fridge, looking for answers. It was empty. I distracted myself with an Oreo cookie lunch. I double-ate and returned to the closet. Its contents reproached me. “This is why you rent an eight-foot room in someone else’s apartment. This is why you don’t have a graduate degree.” But underneath the reprimand I heard something else. “You bought me when you were falling in love with Joe and wanted to be pretty for him. Don’t give me away.” My closet was not only a road map of financial decline but a hope chest of great loves lost. Silence rushed my ears. How do we decide whom to keep and whom to give away?

I kept my boyfriend Kostya. He wasn’t the most handsome or the funniest. He was that go-to dress you pull out of the closet, knowing it will fit, even on those fat-and-ugly-and-nobody-will-ever-love-you days. That kind of dress wears over time, needs to be replaced. Or you wake up one day and no longer like it. Who knows why? Why did I no longer like bacon when I had enjoyed it throughout my youth? Kostya was my partner until he wasn’t. Maybe I was his bacon.

Into the vintage section. Sucked in my breath at the remembrance of a lacy frock’s price. Why had I needed it six hundred dollars badly? Why had I fallen in love? If it still makes me swoon, I’ll know it was real, and I will keep it. Otherwise, into the discard bin with its recriminations.

I stood back to survey my effort. The rod was mostly full, a testimony to my fidelity. Some of the gowns in the discard bin still had their tags. I had known they were wrong choices as I made them. Whose wrong choice was I? Did he know as he made me? I want to climb out of the discard bin.

Images: Sex and the City

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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