Second hand

“But I do think that when you own something that once belonged to someone else, it’s like some secret contact with them, with their past. A way to touch people without having things get all messy and emotional. That is what second hand is. But then there are always people who worry about whether those hands were properly washed.”

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–Michael Zadoorian, “Second Hand”

I’m ironing a new pair of pants. New-to-me pants. In between puffs of steam I wonder the reason they were cast away: weight gain? weight loss? they were *gasp* so last season? an impulse buy?

I’m happy to have them. I only paid a few bucks at one of the local resale boutiques. There was a time in life when I’d cross the street and hold my nose if I saw a resale shop ahead. And the thought of using or wearing something that touched someone else’s skin? Well, that was one step above the bottom.

Not now. I’m reformed. Financial hardship and the local ethos have influenced my thinking. If I have to buy new I hang my head in shame. It’s like a reverse failure. I like the treasure hunt aspect of second hand. I like the shops. The people working in them seem to genuinely like their jobs. They play good music.

Just last month I landed a pair of gently worn Durango cowgirl boots for $10. Another reason I love resale is the endless possibilities. If I want a red sweater, I just go to the racks with all the red garments grouped together. So easy.

Recently I suffered through a trip to the mall in search of a red garment and left in utter frustration. There was no logic to any of it. The offerings seemed as contrived as the piped-in music and the corporate-ordered decor and employees. And not a stitch of red. Apparently red is the color of losers this season.

Do I care anymore? The answer is mostly no.

It’s part of being 47, I think. It’s a place in life you earn. I no longer care all that much about high fashion. Not that I was ever a style maven.

Speaking of pants, which I was not wearing at the gym last night, and thereby exposing my legs to the unforgiving overhead lights. I once had very shapely legs. Next to my eyes, my legs were my second-best feature. No more. They’re thicker and a bit saggy around the knees. Worst of all are the scabs and scars. Some are old scars from hiking and biking injuries. Some are the result of chronic hives. The itching makes you reckless about what you use to answer its call. The aftermath of blood, pain and burning is a relief compared to the itching. When the welts recede, you’re left with a crime scene of scabs and bruises.

I’ve caught side glances at the gym, mostly from young men but sometimes women, too, as my legs are an attention-getter. I’m sure they shudder once I’m out of range. Why don’t I wear yoga pants or capris would be the obvious question. On my worst days, I do. But sometimes I just don’t care.

Head to toe I am a collection of second-hand parts.

I’m inspired by a 70-something woman I see around town. She proudly wears her hair in a fuchsia mohawk. Sure it looks crazy, but wow, to be that free.

That’s what I want. Not careless, but carefree. Not looking like I let myself go, but like I can let go when necessary. Like I have great stories tucked away in secret pockets.