Cost Per Wear
Many of you know that friendship is an important topic for me. I care deeply about the relationships in my life. As a single woman, I recognize that I am not able to do life alone (no matter how capable I am in many areas). I need to connect with other people, to share life in community. To start off the Single Minded Mondays for the year, I will be taking the Mondays in January to focus on friendship, culminating in a synchroblog on January 26 (if you want to write about friendship on your blog and link-up, I’d love to have you). I hope that you will enjoy this series within a series, and I look forward to your thoughts.
There was a time that I would pick out any book on fashion I could find on my trips to the library. I would flip through to learn about my “colors” or what looked good with my body type. I enjoyed fashion, but it also caused me a fair amount of stress. I wanted to do it right, to send the messages I intended, to attract the right people into my life. Books were where I went when I was at a loss.
Most of the books I found were outdated, or otherwise unhelpful, but there was one that I came to love. It’s called The Pocket Stylist, and I now own it, and refer to it still. The difference between this book and all the others I’d read was that instead of lots of specifics, this book spoke in generalities. The focus was on development of the why behind fashion, a sort of how-to on forming a philosophy of self presentation.
It was in The Pocket Stylist that I first came across the term “cost per wear.” Even with my not-so-mathematical personality, I jumped on this concept immediately. If I bought something expensive (but wore it every day) it was a better deal on cost per wear than something I paid less for, but wore rarely. This concept has provided a framework for me to buy swimsuits, coats, dresses, shoes, and yoga pants (among other things).
I was delighted when I came across Nora Ephron’s word “amortization” to talk about justifying something she really couldn’t afford (an apartment, in one case). Using a similar logic to my own, she would talk about how long she had to live in the apartment before her key money would be less than a latte a day.
I read several books about clothing philosophy in December (a flurry of new releases piqued the interest of my middle and high school days). As I read through, I noticed that “cost per wear” kept coming up. It had been a while since I’d truly thought about the idea, and it started me thinking in an unexpected direction.
While I was reading those books and trying to choose the right clothing as a teenager, I was also attempting to develop other areas of my personality. I was learning about interpersonal relationships with my peers, guys and girls. I wanted to fit in, and also to be liked for who I was (without seeing the irony in that statement). Mostly, I wanted to be seen. But that rarely happened in my high school youth group.
I started experimenting with my look. I wore a cream colored beret almost everywhere for a long stretch of time. At one point, I got really into polos. I figured out which jeans were “in” and saved up my babysitting money to buy them. I left behind the wool skirts, knee socks, and mary janes of my younger days.
But as I put on these garments, I put on some other things, too. I paid attention to the girls I wanted to be friends with. I made myself helpful, quieter, louder, or “more fun.” I tried on a personality designed to make friends and influence people, like a power suit, or a little black dress.
If those girls had boyfriends, I noted the way they talked, moved, and acted. I tried to be more “laid back,” “confident,” and “available.”
These things did not work.
Though I put in all the work, made calls, initiated coffee or other “cool” forms of hanging out, wrote emails and bought presents, I couldn’t quite befriend some of the girls. It was a very long time before I stopped trying so hard (and it’s an impulse that still flares up now and then).
I didn’t date in high school.
In college, and beyond, I tried this same strategy for romantic relationships. If they were interested in coffee, sports, yoga, or certain authors or music, I was, too. This is how I ended up with a high end coffee grinder, season tickets to a local hockey team, the complete works of Sigur Ros, an inordinate amount of collegiate gear (from a university I didn’t attend), and all of the Harry Potter books. It wasn’t that I didn’t come to love some of those things (I just got back from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), it was that I thought that I needed to try them on in order for these guys to give me a chance.
I spent a lot of money on clothes in high school, chasing that elusive look that would give me what I want. But there is more to life than money, and as I look back, I’m realizing that I spent a lot more in the pursuit of relationships that just didn’t fit. I wonder now, about the personalities I’ve put on and discarded along the way, what was the cost per wear? How much did it cost me to be someone that I wasn’t to please someone else, instead of leaning into the person I was, without effort or cost?
As I move forward in the world, making friends who seem to like me (though not quite dating people who do), I’m learning that those purchased personalities are too expensive, even if I wear them every day.
Be sure to come back next Monday for more thoughts on friendship (and start crafting your own for the synchroblog at the end of the month).