Everyone who knows me knows that I steal. Not Winona Ryder style – straight-from-a-store-for-the-love-of-the-game stealing, but the kind of stealing that could questionably be considered “extended borrowing.” It’s almost stealing that could be perceived as an item we both forgot I had. Basically, at the very moment you loan me a sweatshirt or a pair of shorts, they belong to me.
Over the years, I’ve drawn quite a collection of items, each one serving as a reminder of love lost, lust realized, or an old friendship.
Keeping clothes that do not “rightfully” belong to me is not about owning more stuff. In fact, that’s my least favorite part of the whole thing. There’s just something comforting and nostalgic about throwing on a shirt or pair of shorts and fondly thinking of someone I once knew. Or, even better, still know. It’s an unsanctioned gift to me, from me.
Over the many years I have been slowly collecting other people’s personal items, only one has gotten away. The shorts were a gift from the boy’s grandpa and meant a lot to him. The question, “Well, why did you let me wear those?” fell on deaf ears. I empathized, however, I could not bear the thought of returning a memory that I felt now belonged to me. I left them in my apartment and had him retrieve them from my roommate at the time. He’s engaged now. I hope his fiancé enjoys those shorts.
My wearable mementos have traveled with me from city to city, apartment to apartment. They have been a constant among a whirlwind of changes, for which I am always ill-prepared. They creepily serve as a consolation when I am feeling lonely or as a fond moment of pause when I systematically retrieve a pair in a rush. They provide a topic of conversation/argument to an array of guys (romantic or platonic) who stay over and refuse to contain their junk in shorts that once contained someone else’s junk. (The whole hang up makes no sense to me…but then again, I still wear a pair of underwear I took from a friend in high school, so my concept of boundaries is, admittedly, subpar.)
You would think the sheer volume of clothing I have stolen from others would be a clear indication of my sexual aptitude or, at the very least, magnitude. However, it marks the exact opposite, as I only ever needed to borrow clothing because of my refusal to be naked. There are the shorts and shirt I borrowed for a late-night Jacuzzi because I have so little game, I completely missed the point of the late-night Jacuzzi. There are the shorts I took from a boy I had a massive crush on, thinking that this connected us in some psychotic way. There are the shorts I borrowed from a hot friend as proof that we used to make out. He’s gay now.
I once was purposely left an article of clothing as a token of a friendship that was becoming long-distance by clearly the only person who gets me. It was his work sweatshirt that I incessantly mocked him for wearing no matter the occasion, including a Christmas party he came to with me. I found it in my car days after dropping him off at the airport for his big move. It is the cutest thing that’s ever happened to me. We’ll marry one day.
Two months ago, I moved. In packing up my old apartment, I spent hours wondering how one human woman and one lady cat could collect so much stuff. I pored through every piece of paper, every knickknack, every junk drawer, and every article of clothing. When I reached the drawer of basketball shorts, I was surprised at an overwhelming sense of needing to let (them) go.
I hesitantly packed up the 14 pairs of basketball shorts (I wasn't quite ready to clean house of the sandals, socks, boxers, shirts, sweatshirts, and sunglasses), and my heart swelled the tiniest bit for the dresser space I was gaining, broke a little for the boys I was officially saying goodbye to, and broke a lot for the fact that I couldn't even remember to whom most of the shorts originally belonged.
After four-and-a-half years living with my cat in a one-bedroom apartment, I moved to a new neighborhood and now officially take transit to work – a bigger deal than I would like to admit. I have a new job, am at the beginning of a new decade in age, and have a new, determined life goal.
It's time for a new set of stolen shorts.