I’ve worn a lot of truly ugly clothing in my life. It started very early on with neon plaid handed down from my 80s punk rock sister, but I alone blazed the downward path from there. What stands out most from the early years was my “jewelry”; a thick plastic red heart, hollow on the inside and about the size of a big man’s fist attached to a long black piece of yarn, which I knotted around my neck. The heart was soon joined by a tin rabbit head that was not only a necklace pendant (It wasn’t really this at all, but nobody told me that), but also a bell. The two hung at the same length so they made a thunk and a ding with every other step until I taught myself to walk like a hunter, low and creepy.
Later years saw fuzzy itchy sweaters, unfortunate polyester pants during a brief denim rebellion, then my father’s sweaters.The sweaters became my jam. I stopped borrowing uncomfortable girly stuff from my sisters, and plunged head first into thick ski sweaters, multi-colored cable knits and Vs on ultra feminine days. Finally, I thought I’d found my style, or at least a style I could call my own. No other girls in my entire school wore large man sweaters.
Unlike my earlier, crazy necklace years, the dad sweater phase was not very well documented in photos. This was before digital cameras, and if a visitor from the future had shown up with a camera phone we would have ran for our lives and posed for pictures later.
Pretty sure those sweaters did nothing for my stick figure, but it didn’t matter. Dad liked my newly found fashion sense, too. Every night before bed he’d ask if I’d picked out a sweater for the next day before he chose one himself. After a few weeks, he even dug out his older sweaters to give me more variety. These I had to decline. Boxed sweaters from the 60s don’t hold up so well in an uninsulated attic
Eventually, my sister started infringing on my territory and making my new borrowed wardrobe smell like fruity flowers. When I reminded her she had her own sweaters, she pointed me to my own towering stack of assorted uncomfortables. She’d clearly missed the point of my fashion statement because there’s a major difference between men’s and teen girl clothing. Dad’s sweaters were worn and cared for just enough to be soft. Slightly faded, but not discolored because men’s clothes are made to last not be thrown away after every season. Most of all, his sweaters were his, not mine.
My dad eventually bought himself new sweaters and packed up the ones I used to love. He knows me well enough not to give them to me. With a dad like that, I should be a master of Father’s Day, but my annual attempts have caused him to question my affection.
Last year I mailed him sweets. Not the kind that gets professionally boxed and shipped. Oh, no. I stuffed as many German chocolate bars as I could fit into a manilla envelope, stuck a stamp on it a dropped it in the mail on a hot June day. Later he called to thank me for the envelope of melted chocolate. He likes chocolate.
This year I thought I’d knit him an awesome sweater. Only problem is that it would take me years to knit a sweater and I only knit rectangles. So I modernized and sent him a gift card, which was a wise choice because he’s already used it to buy the brightest pairs of Hawaiian shorts I’ve ever seen in my life. They double as a bathing suit! When he needs to go in public he throws on the sleeveless Mickey Mouse shirt that we gave him from Disney World 20 years ago, but mostly he wears them shirtless with socks pulled up to his knees.
At this moment, he’s kicking back on a mini sailboat that he bought for pennies off of Craigslist. All the holes are patched and no one seems to mind the repeated plays of Janice Joplin’s ‘Summertime’. He’s happy, and still dressed better than me so I refrain from telling him it’s not technically summertime till Wednesday.