Bad clothes do not, as bad words may, slip quickly into the past. They haunt us in the sight of everyone until we can get out of them. The mistake we made in choosing them is not itself a garment that we can take off; it has revealed a flaw in us.

John Harvey in Clothes

Do you have a “bad clothes” memory? Surely you do. We all do, right?

Mine, one of mine, goes down in the middle school cafeteria. I’m wearing green, high waisted stovepipe pants with a 3 and half inch black patent leather belt. I look ridiculous. But I feel amazing. Amazing until Nate Hanson, a boy on whom I have a major crush, stops me on my walk to my table.

I’m thinking: He stopped me! Nate Hanson’s talking to me! He must be in love with me! This is the best day of my life! I love these pants! 

Mid-daydream I’m roused to attention by the laughs of a table full of pubescent boys, all listening as Nate launches into a full scale assault on my awesome pants. He does not, to put it lightly, think they’re awesome. His jokes inspire other jokes until it seems every boy in the seventh grade is laughing at my pants. No, not my pants. Me. They’re laughing at me.

That was a “bad clothes” moment and it has not slipped quickly into my past. For three torturous hours after lunch I wore those pants, until finally I got off the bus, ran to the house, slammed the door to my room, and hid my pants in the back of my closet. They are still there (we’re speaking metaphorically now), in a dusty corner, mocking me, the ridiculous me who made the ridiculous choice to wear those ridiculous pants. 

Sometimes bad clothes really do change the way we feel about ourselves, they reach down inside and rip out our hearts.

Of course, it’s not the clothes themselves that assault us; it’s the evil clothing snob people who have the guts to say out loud what everyone else is thinking (What is she wearing?).

Still, we picked the clothes. We picked them because we liked them and to some extent, we’re responsible for our humiliation as those clothes reflect something in us we ventured, maybe hesitantly, maybe with bravado, to make public.

Looking back, I’m a little embarrassed at my embarrassment. I loved those pants and I let a stupid kid determine whether or not I felt good in them. I picked them out, said “these pants are me,” and then recanted when the pants weren’t cool. It doesn’t work that way. 

Today I am pulling those pants out of the back corner of the closet and wearing them (metaphorically) with pride. I liked them. I chose them. And I don’t think they revealed any actual flaw in me, just some perceived one that I didn’t have the courage to defend.