If Clothes Make The Man Then I’m Crumpled Up Under The Bed And Haven’t Washed Since February


Me taking a break from trying on pants; May 31, 2008 – Photo by Me.

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My new shirts have “anti-microbial technology” built into them. They’ve been “treated to inhibit bacterial growth and protect from odor (sic).” I feel like someone who has been kicked forward in time five years. The last shirts I bought had no tags and I thought that was an incredible leap in shirt technology.

I just checked and the pants and underwear I also bought lack this technology advance. You’d think it’d be easier to license the anti-microbial innovations. One of the shirts I bought has buttons… like, all the way down the front buttons. I haven’t worn a shirt with buttons in years.

I know I have some very nice dress shirts somewhere, but other than once for the funeral of a friend of mine, I haven’t seen them since I moved back here in 2002. Previous to my moving to the Big City for work it was rare that I could find a button-up shirt that fit. It was also pretty rare that I needed one.

The problem I’ve always had with clothes is my size. I’m too big for normal stores, I’m not nearly big enough for the Big and Tall stores. I was in a hurry and bought what was marked as a “small” in one of those stores once and the shirt could have been a dress.

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It’s only recently that society has caught up with me and now XL and XXL are standard sizes. So back when I was living in Ottawa I could almost never find a button-shirt that fit my 18″ neck. There was also the cost issue. Welfare cheques don’t have a clothing allowance for single dudes. Although, the first time I signed up my case worker tacked on an extra $20 because I smoked.

Because of my size there was also no way I could find clothes in thrift stores. I did consider myself lucky to find this one place in a downtown mall that for a little while sold polyester dress shirts made in Lebanon and/or Syria. They were multi-coloured with big prints on them… and they were something like 2 for $8. So I wore those for a while, but after one time in the wash you’ve got $4 handkerchiefs.

The first time I bought them I remember walking through the mall for almost an entire afternoon trying to justify the cost. It’s something I do even now. Just last week I was holding a pair of eight-year old jeans with both leg-cuffs torn and frayed trying to justify spending money on replacing them.

It was even one of the reasons my mom and I would fight when I first moved back here. Keeping in mind that at the time I had no income, my brain was fried and my ‘wardrobe’ was stuffed into two garbage bags, she offered a couple of times to pay for a wardrobe upgrade… but I’d get pissed off because she wasn’t using the money to pay off her own bills.

The first couple of years I was back here, while I was on welfare again, mom would kick in $200 for clothes once a year. Of course I fought it, resented it and was embarrassed like crazy when we’d be at the counter and mom would pull out her credit card. But she’d ask one week, I’d say “fuck that”, then three weeks later I’d tell her it was okay.

For the past couple of years, thanks to being on disability, I’ve had enough coin to spring for my own clothes. But it still takes three weeks between the time I figure I need a pair of shorts to when I’ll actually go out and buy them. And during those three weeks I’m thinking “$30 for shorts… or I can have orange juice until the end of the month.” Or that there’s some kind of beast I’ll encounter later on and it’ll cost $30 to get past him…

When you’re shit-poor, and you’re eating food-bank bread and you feel lucky to have a chopped up hot dog in your brown beans you spend your entire month justifying costs. You also spend a lot of time not buying clothes. And the ones you have, you hold onto them. Until very recently I’ve never thrown out or donated a piece of clothing.

The only clothes I’ve ever thrown out have been socks, but only after they’d become sleeves. Last year I finally broke down and tossed out over twenty pairs of socks, every single one of which had no heel left. Some of them I had been carrying around since the mid to early-nineties. Now I walk around wondering why I have no socks.

While I was living in Ottawa, towards the last part of the nineties, and then when I moved to Toronto I left bags of clothes in my parents attic. After I moved to Toronto my mom donated most of it to a local charity. After I found out I actually felt lost. Like there was something missing. Some of those things I had worn back in high school. Thankfully she didn’t toss my Pink Floyd Tour shirt.

When we were kids mom did what she could to keep us clothed. At the time I was pissed off that I didn’t have what the other kids had, but looking back she did a remarkable job. After the divorce mom received no help from my father. The judge told him to give mom about $25 a week in support, but he never paid and the laws which would have forced him to didn’t come into being until twenty years later. So there was never a whole lot of “new” in our home.

There’s a weird comfort in having a roomful of clothes. When I was nineteen and in Ottawa it was a safety issue… a backup, even if it doesn’t entirely fit, is still a backup.

Even now I have T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, khakis, jogging pants, sweatshirts, underwear, socks, shoes, towels and sheets in piles all over my bedroom. Most of them are over two years old, and a lot of them have some kind of stretch, pull or tear in them. Although, thanks to my buying clothes for myself and kind of feeling comfortable doing it, there are more whole-clothes than partial-clothes.

But taking care of them is still something I’m working on… I still have a brain block when it comes to regularly doing a wash.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, crazy people with no pants, Health, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to If Clothes Make The Man Then I’m Crumpled Up Under The Bed And Haven’t Washed Since February

  1. bine says:

    wow, antimicrobial shirts … maybe that means you only need to wash them every couple of months? that would be great. the bf got a pair of pants once that seemed to be completely dirt-repellent until i ripped them off him after a few weeks and washed them. after that they got dirty just like any regular pair of pants.

    i hate this size issue, i have a similar problem – since losing weight all the stuff from the “big is beautiful” departments is way to large and baggy for me, but the regular sizes stretch over my wide butt so i look like a knackwurst. ugh. i’ve put off buying new stuff for another month or two, maybe that will solve the issue.

    i’m not the perfect housewife when it comes to washing either … usually it happens if i can’t see any more of our bedroom floor, either that or i run out of underwear. oh well … someone recently gave me a sticker that says “a clean house is a sign of a wasted life”. sounds sensible to me.

  2. thordora says:

    I have socks from 1993…and a bag of clothes from highschool in my closet. That’s as close as I’ve gotten to throwing them out.

    I hate trying on pants. It literally makes me cry, and always has regardless of size. HATE HATE HATE it.

    Too bad you don’t have Frenchies out there. Kicks Goodwill ass….

  3. bromac says:

    I have always been big on donating clothes and other no longer being used items.

    My grandmother is a hoard and her house is full of useless trinkets, clothes, and nonsense. As a result, my Mother is the exact opposite and instilled it in me. i can not stand to hold on to anything no longer being used.

    Recently a not-for-profit began putting flyers in our mailbox announcing curbside pick-up of items for donation. Love it! Now I just wait for that bright yellow flyer and only have to go to the end of my driveway. Previously, though, I was always dropping off at Salvation Army.

    Buying clothes. Eh. My SIL dresses me. I don’t spend money on myself, haven’t since becoming a mother. My SIL is one of those constant shoppers and is always showing up at my house with name brand outfits she bought me for some ridiculous price, like $1.99 for a pair of trendy shorts. Ridiculous.

  4. exactscience says:

    I have a metric assload of next to new clothes and I am blaming that on the bipolar.
    Had a rather manic spending spree but a ton of pants and shirts, then I was put on lithium and became a lard-arse. So when I eventually get around to losing the weight I have a wardrobe waiting.

    As for washing my clothes – I am getting better at it. Used to go weeks but now I do at least one load at week.

    I donate old clothes too, there was a bunch of stuff that was still pretty good but there was no way I was going to wear again.

  5. leblank says:

    yeah the bipolar binge and bulge has left me with a whole range of clothes ranging from 6 to 12. and of course when i finally stabilize i realized i had zero taste when i was manic. they should have a ‘weight fluctuation’ clothing allowance tacked on to disability cheques for those with bipolar.

    oh, by the way – nice comment you left. it made me chuckle this morning (!) i’ll post how it went later on today. that is, i’m still alive (ugh, how morbid of me)

  6. Gabriel... says:

    Ah, the bipolar binge. When I was working in Toronto I spent around $300 on clothes, not for me but for a friend of mine… I went in with the intention of buying him a shirt, but 45 minutes later I had changed his wardrobe… it left me with barely enough money for bus fare home.

    I’ve written about that before. When I was on social assistance I would only receive $120 above my rent, and sometimes even before the month was a day old I’d have no money and no idea where the cash went.

    Size and varying weight is one of the reasons I stopped wearing dress-shirts. When I was twenty I was wearing shirts from three and four years previous. The problem was I was also fifteen to twenty pounds heavier. And people with some size look dumb wearing a button-shirt that’s too small. It’s a lot easier to cover a gut with T-shirts and sweaters…

  7. zoom says:

    **When you’re shit-poor, and you’re eating food-bank bread and you feel lucky to have a chopped up hot dog in your brown beans you spend your entire month justifying costs. You also spend a lot of time not buying clothes. And the ones you have, you hold onto them.**

    Excellent point Gabriel, and poignantly written.

  8. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks Zoom. Once I published this I started looking around at my apartment and noticed a couple of things:
    1. I spend more on food in a week now than I did in a month then;
    2. Despite hating them I still keep a shelf full of canned brown beans and boxes of macaroni & cheese. Just in case.

  9. alruiceis says:

    I depend on thrift shop blazers. Think I have about 14 in my closet. When I wake up looking like shit, I just throw on a blazer. Everyone then thinks you look put together and completely on top of things. They’re great security blankets. Sucks getting dressed when you have the build of a hobbit.

    I get SO frustrated with my brother when he updates his wardrobe bi-annually. He always spends about $300 each trip. Our family is doing slightly better financially nowadays, but it’s still a colossal waste, especially since 1/2 the things he buys end up becoming moth food anyway.

    Sorry for babbling. I’m on a NOS buzz. Damn my energy drink addiction.

  10. spakkeh says:

    Thanks for taking your time to talk to me… I haven’t really had much time to write in the last year or so, though I’m really resenting giving it up, and as a result, planning to start again.

    With my procrastination skills, that could be a while.

    As for your question about the weather? We’re still dying for rain, bloody drought, but I suppose you have to live through these things, driest state/country on earth type thing. Besides Antarctica, but for most intents and purposes this is a moot point.

    It’s been a lot colder though, which I suppose might be a sign of good things to come. And not to mention we actually hit the Average Rainfall for Q1 this year, which also helps.

    If you’re looking for exact temps, it’s been around 65-75 fahrenheit around here, if my calculations are correct anyway (we calculate using celsius over here).

    As for the blog, your writing is interesting as always, possibly even better than when I started reading your material.

    I really have to get back to work on this assignment, so I might start writing later, do you have MSN? It’d be interesting to talk to you personally.

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