No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Sunday, November 15, 2009

High Times with the Closet

Today I am cleaning out my closet. Going through clothes I never ended up wearing makes me think a few different things, at least--look how willing I am to distract myself with clothing. But the distraction is not specifically about the fabric and design of the piece in front of me. It's more about the person I can become from putting the material on, combining it with something unexpected, and then adjusting my mood to suit.

As a late teenager I was really interested in predictive philosophies, that is, psychic endeavors, such as learning the tarot, or numerology--anything that would reveal to me my personality. It turns out I've been an enigma to myself, not only others, for much of my life. As a so called adult, I suspect that hasn't changed very much. I am still something unknown to myself. But I've learned how to cope with it.

One of the ways I cope, I discover in finding the various ridiculous elements of accessory and attire in my closet, is through clothing. I make a point of having no hard rules for what I think I'm willing to wear. There are general guidelines that I take up though. Like, a dress that only just covers my ass without anything but underwear under it is inappropriate for me in my mid-30's. But, of course, if I unexpectedly became a burlesque dancer, I would need to wear that dress. See how there is always an exception? Clothing must be determined in context.

Context is just the point--in buying clothing I try to push myself to imagine past the boundaries of what I think I would usually wear. How would that piece work for me? What would I have to wear to make it work on me? Then, what mood of a person does that combination invoke? Who am I in these clothes?

Who we are is partially determined by the context we operate within. That is, no one of us can simply determine in advance what kind of person we intend to be and then call that up no matter where we go. Who we are interacting with, the setting we are in, help to determine what kind of person we get to be too. How we can behave is partially determined by our circumstances, how we feel too is partially determined by our social context. Clothing, then, operates as a kind of interface between the person we are choosing to try to be, and the context we are within. The clothing we wear communicates some sense of who that person we want to be is to the people we get to interact with. The communication is implied, rather than explicit, and we can't pre-determine how what we are wearing will be read by others. And yet still, other people do read us through what they see in how we present ourselves.

In buying clothing, then, and sorting out how I am going to wear it, I am also partially choosing how I want to and how I am willing to communicate with others. In this way, getting dressed in the morning is setting in advance some parameters for the kind of day I wish to have. So, now, going through my closet and getting rid of clothing that I never even wore, or choose no longer to wear, I put into the goodwill bag all the people I never quite got to be, or choose no longer to live as now.

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