A couple of days ago, while on the train on my way back home to visit my parents for the weekend, I came across an article in i-D magazine discussing the photo homage to restless adolescence. i-D asked Chus Antón, the photographer, about the best part of growing up to which he responded the following:
“Getting your independence, living the way you want to and being surrounded by people you choose to be part of your life.”
Inevitably, they also asked him about the hardest part of growing up, and his honest response was this:
“Never being young again, we want to be forever young.”
To my surprise, I could relate to what he said in more ways that I would want to admit to myself, and I couldn’t help but wonder when independence stopped being enough? When making your own decisions about the people who deserve to be a part of your life and the clothes who deserve to be a part of our closet means ‘growing-up’, could the thing we’re really afraid of be ‘growing-out’?
Growing-out of clothes that once fit, growing-out of friendships that fit even better or even worse – both?
The more I thought about the dread and remorse of leaving behind parts of you that were supposed to fit forever, I also realized that, in many ways, friends can be just like clothes – finding the perfect fit is a life-long process, which is why we often hold on too long (literally) and squeeze ourselves into things that have grown too tight (figuratively). This is a story of fashion and friendships, and the fashion of friendships, a tale of toss and take, and the real reason why sweatpants are the keepers in our lives!
We all live our life in phases, and if you ask me, both growing-up and growing-out of things go hand in hand with the process of going through these stages as kids, teenagers and even adults. Something that always accompanies us, even through the most awkward moments of our being, are the three F’s: Family, Friends and Fashion (you might want to add Food to the list, but that’s beside the point – at least for today). I’m sure we’ve all looked back at outfits we wore or hairstyles we rocked and thought “what was I even thinking?” (In my case I admittedly thought I was Avril Lavigne for a while there). I’m also quite sure that we’ve all looked back at friendships with the same dreadful gut feeling, and if it wasn’t you yourself per se, I’m sure it was your mum (cue “my mama don’t like you and she likes everyone”…). For a long time I spent and wasted energy on regret, but you know what? I truly believe that every phase, every person, every punk-rock shirt and every patch-jeans deserved to be a part of your story, because there was a time and place in your life when it fit – either because you needed it to fit, or maybe because you thought that it would fit forever. That’s the thing about phases – to you there’s no end and there’s no beginning, simply because to you it’s not a phase. I was thoroughly convinced that I was punk for life, and my parents are thoroughly happy that I was wrong!
There are enough photos to demonstrate my teenage fashion finds, and an equal amount to document teenage friendships lost. Every year I go through my closet and try to get rid of clothes to make room for new ones. I’m not saying that the same should go for friendships, but I am saying that the similarities in doing both might surprise you.
You know what they say, “if you haven’t worn it for a year, let it go!” As much as I can be an avid follower of rules, this one I tend to ignore with a passion. During my closet clean-out session, I always, always, always find something that I haven’t worn in years – yet I keep it, somewhere in the deep ends of my closet. So why is it that we hold on to things that we’ve so obviously outgrown? Is it nonsense, or is it nostalgia? See clothes – and people – aren’t just that: they’re a surface, like a canvas, and our emotions and memories are the paint that we project onto it. So by throwing out an old pair of jeans, or showing an old pair of friends the exit, we fear saying goodbye to their luggage, the histories, inside-jokes and our biggest hopes that they’re carrying. Or why do you think I’ll never toss my graduation sweater?
The rare times I actually make room for more in the sacred depths of my closet, I sometimes leave the comfort zone of my (sweat-)pants and broaden my horizon, to come home with new pieces just to realize that they’re possibly the best thing I’ve ever owned, and to question what I wore every day of my life before. Funny enough, doesn’t the same exact thing happen to us with people sometimes? That we meet someone, friend, lover or both, and ask ourselves how we possible ever lived without them? Like finding the perfect pants can be a game-changer for your style, finding the perfect person can be a life-changer for sure – no matter when or where they enter your life, it’s up to you to make sure they don’t exit.
Which brings me to the essence of it all: just like outgrowing clothes is normal, outgrowing friends is no less natural. As we grow up, some pieces (and some people) don’t grow with us. They become too tight, take away our ability to breathe, or stop making us feel good about ourselves. And that is the time to say our goodbyes and raise the TOSS sign, because – in fashion and friendships – there’s so much more out there to TAKE. As Chus Antón said, the best thing about growing up is being surrounded by people you choose to be a part of your life. This is the gift of independence, and an asset of living your life the way you want to. While that could mean spending the majority of your weekend in sweatpants and binge-watch your latest tv addiction on Netflix, it also means that you get to spend the ups and downs of it all with the people equivalent – those people that are a perfect fit, highlight all your ass(ets) and bring out the best in you, literally embracing (and sometimes hiding) your flaws, making you feel like your confident badass self! Those are the real keepers, and to go full-circle here, the sweatpants of our lives!
Sweatpants are the ones that have seen us at our best and our worst. They’re friendships of both mutual support and mutual chaos. Not only are they the ones we gravitate to after a happy, sad, long, short, emotional day – they’re also always there. They’ve seen it all, and they’ve been there, non-judgy, while you where sobbing into an ice-cream pint or crying with laughter over last night’s shenanigans, fell asleep next to a pizza carton or lost sleep over the latest episode of pretty little liars, enjoying someone else’s or your own damn company. Sweatpants are awesome. Karl Lagerfeld once said, whoever wears sweatpants has given up on his life. While I usually practice everything that KL preaches, in this case I beg to differ: I say sweatpants are both for when you give up, and when you get up again to kick some ass! They’re comfortable, supportive, and make you feel at ease. Sweatpants leave you room to breathe and always, always leave room for another slice of Pizza. They know the messy parts, stripping away the layers we choose to let show that are covering up our core.
Because the truth is, while many friends might know our history, only the best ones know our heart.