I was young and more than slightly naive, when a woman bought me this coat. A full length black leather duster, a Ladies’ coat, in fact, which fit me so admirably that I forgave the buttons being on the wrong side. It was the first leather garment I ever owned, and it made me understand the enduring appeal of leather. I wore it constantly, and within a year, it was me-shaped. Or I was it-shaped. Maybe both. It came to be a second skin, effortless, weightless, impossibly comfortable.
I was wearing it when the woman who gave it to me left me for her car mechanic. I was wearing it when I moved to the city. I wore it on the fire escape and watched the city sleep while I struggled with insomnia and depression. I’ve slept in it, on it, and under it. I was wearing it when I met my wife. A good friend once said it was grafted onto my personality. Autumn, already my favorite time of year, was always the sweeter for becoming cool enough to start wearing it again. I’ve lost count of how many autumns that’s been. 13? 14?
When I became a career craftsman, I gained a lot of muscle mass in my upper body. After a lifetime of being skeletal, suddenly I was man-shaped. Now the coat that I’ve literally climbed mountains in is restrictive, like a poorly fitted suit. It pulls across the shoulders, it digs into my armpits. It doesn’t fit. I pointed this out to my wife, and she smiled, shook her head, clearly amused and said “The end of an era.”
She called my bluff. I am old, or at least older. I have outgrown my coat.
In retrospect, I really outgrew my coat at least a year ago. Probably two. I’ve worn it anyway. Because it’s not just a coat, it’s also a security blanket. Perhaps I’ll cut it up and sew it into something new. Perhaps I’ll grow a spine and let it go entirely. I haven’t decided yet. I don’t like thinking about it. Since this is ostensibly a minimalist blog, I guess I should go on to point out how silly this is: it’s just a coat. It’s a thing you put on your body when it’s cold, so you don’t freeze. If it doesn’t fit then it’s time for a new coat. This is the point where I’m supposed to bring out the well worn chestnut about how the things you own end up owning you.
There’s only one problem with that: It’s bullshit.
I wish everybody could have a coat they feel this way about, hell, any object they feel this way about. My life was better for having this coat, and not just in practical ways. When we tell ourselves that sentimentality over objects is somehow foolish, we invalidate huge portions of our own internal life at a stroke. It’s no less distorted than eschewing love, or poetry, or any other unquantifiable parts of human experience. Human beings are sensual animals, our internal life is rich with recalled smells and textures. Becoming attached to a possession has an inherent cost, but so does becoming attached to a person. Sometimes it’s worth it. I hope it happens to me again, and again and again.
Still; I have outgrown my coat. I should donate it to Goodwill and get a new coat.