Undress Me

My Symphony: Hello, I’m In Delaware by Dallas Green

Clothes

“When I had nothing to lose, I had everything. When I stopped being who I am, I found myself.”
― Paulo CoelhoEleven Minutes

Nine months ago, I donated 106 clothing items to the less fortunate (my first clothing donation during my stay here in Canada). After two years of breathing Vancouver’s air, I finally decided it was time I made some space for new things to come.

I’ve always had so many clothes. As a child, each birthday celebration, each Christmas Eve, each New Year’s Eve and each graduation and awards ceremony meant a new set of t-shirts, pants, briefs, tank tops, socks, shoes and what not. Even on those days when someone who loved me just felt like giving me a little something, it would almost always be something I could put on. So I guess, growing up, I’ve gotten so used to having other people give me the things I wear and I consequently haven’t really been doing the shopping for myself as much. I may own many clothes, but I’ve never been a shopper let alone a fashionista. Everytime someone asks where I buy my stuff, I often do not know the answer and it’s simply because my situation in relation to the question is always N/A (not applicable).

Quantity had also been a very deceiving part of my childhood. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been such a keeper in the most literal sense of the word. I guess the reason why I was so fond of keeping every little thing everyone gave me was because I, apart from being excessively sentimental, was somehow tricked by numbers. I always thought more was more. Everytime I looked into my “memory boxes”, my “high school scrapbooks” and my “gifts locker”, the sight of how much I had never failed to satisfy my emotional hunger for confirmation and validation. I always got a strange elation whenever I saw a dog tag given by an ex-lover or an apology letter written by a friend hiding somewhere in my desk clutter. All those wrist bands, all those pocket pictures, those magic pens, those Science projects, perfume bottles and friendship handkerchiefs – all of it – are a proof that I do delight in my own life’s history. I admit that this is simply the way I am, and that I do not have to change how I treat the material things people give me. But only I know the real meaning behind the difficulty I feel towards letting go of these…these… things. Because to me they have always meant more than just that.

Today, I am once again donating my clothes. This time, the gesture is aimed at those who have been affected by the super typhoon that hit my home country, the Philippines, about a week ago. And right now, I am sitting here and going, “Wait a minute… I didn’t count my clothes today like I did nine months ago.”

Exactly. Why did I even count those 106 clothing items on the first place?

Simple, really. I have detachment issues. Just like most people do, particularly when it comes to the things they wear.

Let’s all be honest about this: donating our clothes, no matter how we genuinely want to give them to those who are in need, is something that leaves us aching in one way or another during the process. Unless you donate clothes that are evidently old and worn out or clothes that don’t fit you anymore, this is not an entirely easy gesture, and  it often speaks about the typical human mentality and its fondness of materialism.

It is everywhere in social media – my friends and family, and some of the other people whom I know to a certain degree, have all donated their clothes to the victims of the typhoon Haiyan. It’s all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even YouTube – pictures (and videos) of clothes folded together inside boxes and plastic bags, all captioned with something along the lines of “Donating my clothes to those hardly hit by typhoon Haiyan. Let’s all help in any way that we can”.

Initially, my reaction to this would be something like “Uggh is it really necessary for you to take a picture when you donate something?” or “Wow, that’s very genuine of you. *sarcasm implied*”. But this is just my surface-level personality talking. Because when I really think about it and really consider all the other things, I see that the taking of pictures and the posting of tweets and statuses and videos about donating isn’t a question of how genuine people are in their donations, but a question of how attached they are to the things they’ve donated.

Clothes are a very personal commodity to us humans in the modern world. Everyday, we hear things like “I really like that shirt of yours”, or “You always look good in that blue dress”, or “OMG can I borrow that leather jacket you wore at our high school after-prom party?” What we wear, over a given amount of time, become a big part of who we are. Sometimes, it’s how people recognize us. Other times, it’s how they perceive us to be. There are even circumstances where our clothes speak of our personality or mood at a given moment. I mean, right? These are things we literally live inside of. Not everyone will admit this, but each of us has at least one clothing item which we hold very close to our heart. These things are very intimate to us because they are things that somehow contribute to our characteristics, distinctive qualities and, ultimately, our uniqueness. This is why I do not blame those people who take a picture (or pictures) of their clothing donations, or even those who count their donations. It is human nature. It doesn’t necessarily make a person less sincere; it’s often really just that un-communicated value for really significant things that you are about to say goodbye to. It’s not something that’s conscious to us. You can never see a clothing donation caption that says “Holy shit, I’m gonna miss my Ralph Lauren shirt so much, but I just have to do this because this is the right thing to do. And I am a grown-ass man, so I will not cry, but I still feel very attached. But yeah. It doesn’t really matter. All I’m saying is, I love you, Ralph Lauren shirt, but I’m letting you go.” Like, no. You just never see that. But in some ways, this kind of inner monologue will always be there, even when you don’t acknowledge it. How do I know? Because humans, in general, are materialistic beings.

I feel like I’m about to go into another topic here, but yeah. This much is true. It is something that cannot be denied. We have been conditioned to the rules and the ways of the modern world, and unfortunately for our souls, this also means that we have subconsciously grown very (very) attached to things. 

When I was looking inside my cabinet this afternoon, I did not bother sorting out my clothes anymore. I did not bother to think about which ones I’m comfortable giving away, which ones are old enough to give away, which ones are too new to give away and which ones are never gonna be given away. I didn’t have the heart to do that anymore. I honestly just pulled out everything until my entire wardrobe was almost empty. Some of these clothes, I haven’t even worn yet. With tags and all. And I like to think that I’m now completely confident to say that I am no longer a materialistic being, but that would mean I’m lying.

But I’m on my way. I am on my way to shedding off my materialistic ways, and this is the first step. It’s not gonna be an overnight process, oh hell no. But it’s do-able. And it’s definitely preferable, especially for someone like me who has been overly materialistic and sentimental for a good 18 years of his life.  This time is the right time for change.

When I think about all those people who are caught in the middle of disaster right now, not just in the Philippines but all over the world, I can’t help but realize that what matters in times when the very core of humanity is shaken isn’t how much money we have in the bank, or how many properties we own, or how many clothes we have in our closet. Because when natural catastrophe strikes, it strikes like a double bitch raised to the seventh power. This is why I love nature so much. Not only is it beautiful, it is also a constant reminder that we do not own this place. And this epiphany has to come with the great recognition that we humans have been too obsessed with things. And that has to change. We should grow attached to people, to relationships, to nature, to ideas, to adventures, to life, to love, and not just things. 

I rest my case (for now).

Twelve Things I Need From You

My Symphonies: Heartbeats by José González | The Rock and the Tide by Joshua Radin

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1. I need you to have a traveler’s heart. I need you to have an affinity towards places you’ve never been to and characters you’ve only met for the first time. I need you to be a wondering wanderer like I am, so that we’re always asking, always searching and always finding. I need you to be my tour guide on this life escapade, and I need you to take me to a secret corner and tell me that we are lost, because I need to feel lost with you. You are my home away from home, and I need you to light that bonfire so that together we can stare into it and smile.

2. I need you to greatly appreciate ephemeral episodes of nature like the sunset, or the sound of thunder that breaks the nice silence we share just before saying goodnight, or the sight of a cumulus cloud moving ever so slightly to create a form of what looks to us like a giraffe with a neck that’s a little shorter than normal. I need you to be ecstatic about the idea of sneaking out of your house at 1AM to meet with me, and resting our heads on the windshield of my bestfriend’s car (you also need to know that I don’t drive, and I need you to know the many reasons why). And there, lying down, we will be gazing at the stars. No, we’re not going to be just staring at them; we will be watching them as if they were the venerable Greek gods, simply majestic, simply astounding. We will soon realize, for the millionth time, that the universe is this large, large place; we will be reminded that this oblate spheroid we call Earth dwells amidst many other planets, all suspended as lonely specks in a vast cosmic arena of an enveloping darkness. All of our problems will once again vanish just like that, because we both know that we are nothing but pawns in our galaxy’s game. We will come to see that this moment is all we have, and that this, too, is ephemeral. Just like the ray of sun that kisses my cheeks on a gloomy Autumn day. Just like that shooting star I saw in December of 2008. Just like the stretching of the skin just beside your lips when I crack my lousy jokes. But I need you to be okay with that. I need you to be okay with that. 

3. I need you to be an artist. Even the messiest, most chaotic thoughts and drawings shouldn’t bother you at all. I need you to be creatively passionate about a life without direction, a life of endless mistakes, sadness and anger. I need you to embrace the overall emotionality of our existence, the reality of the human condition and the yin and yang of being alive. I need you to be positive, yes. But I also need your pessimism. When happiness yawns at us, I need you to trust me enough to cry on my shoulder, or maybe even my chest. I need you to not be ashamed or guilty of your own pain and weaknesses. We will both be burned, wounded and trashed. But I need you to cooperate with me; I need us to laugh and cry at everything at the same time.

4. I need you to know that I am a cat person. I will probably insist on buying a British Shorthair and adopting two more kittens from the animal shelter. On days when you are drowning in your job workload, family crisis and financial stress, I will most likely bombard you with Youtube videos of tiger cubs, snuggling jaguars and sleeping lynxes. And I need you to patiently watch them until it hits you that the feline creatures are undeniably admirable. I don’t need you to be a cat person if you’re not, but I need you to look at me in the eyes and, without saying a word, admit that those videos have taken your mind off of your worries even just for a few minutes.

5. I need you to know when to lie and when to tell the truth. I need it to be clear to you that I know the cliche “We’re in a relationship; we tell each other everything”.  Well, it doesn’t work in real life and with real people. Honesty doesn’t always guarantee a healthy partnership. I need you to be warned that I might not react in a usual way when I find out you cheated on me. I need you to understand my familiarity with the complexity of human relationships. I personally think it’s never just black and white. Every lip-lock with a stranger, every decision to not text back, every shot of tequila, every shattered marriage in this world, has a very convoluted story behind it. So when the time comes that you tell me you kissed someone else and my initial reaction is “Oh, how was it?”, I need you to know that that’s the way you can tell I really like you.

6. I need you to understand that underneath this lively exterior, I am an introvert. Most of the time, I will rather drink cheap wine and eat really unhealthy microwavable ramen with you on a Friday night than go drunk-dancing in the club with semi-friends and acquaintances. I might blurt out some passive-aggressive sentiments regarding any subject here and there, and I might talk to you endlessly about a single little incident that bothers me. So I need you to be an extroverted soul. I need you to keep on showing me the world outside of my precious bubble and tell me that it’s going to be okay; that it’s perfectly fine to try and trust other people because even if it turns out badly, you will still be there for me.

7. I need you to be as obsessed with music as I am, if not more. I need you to love seeing live bands, even the ones that play on the streets asking for ‘donations’. We will be walking in the rain one monotonous Sunday night and begin hearing a gentle yet husky singing voice getting louder with every strum on his acoustic guitar as we slowly recognize the lyrics. “Back beat, the word was on the street/ That the fire in your heart is out/ I’m sure you’ve heard it all before/ But you never really had a doubt/ I don’t believe that anybody/ Feels the way I do about you now”. We will then head back to your apartment and immediately listen to the same song on your iPod, and I’ll need you to sit still on your bare mattress as I carefully plug the left earphone onto your left ear. And in that moment, when your left ear and my right ear are introspectively listening to that song, I need your heart to beat faster. Because mine will. It always will.

8. I need you to get used to hugs that are at least 70 seconds long each. And when I say 70 seconds, I really mean 70 seconds. I need for you to understand the power of a long, sincere embrace. Within those 70 seconds, I need you to tell me the things you never can using words, and show me the images you never can using photographs. I need for you to be completely open, like a fisherman’s view of the wide sea from his almost-stationary vessel. I need you to be a blank page right in the middle of a thick mystery book so I can scribble my love for you the way a kindergartner scribbles – liberally and colorfully.

9. I need you to read books, watch films, visit art galleries and slow dance to Radiohead songs because that’s what I am about. I need you to feel how much these things matter to me, and I need for them to eventually matter to you, too. I need you to be influenced  by me, and I need for me to be influenced by you.

10. I need you to be able to freely communicate with my unadulterated physicality. I need you to lay me down ever so delicately and feel the rush of air from my mouth on your neck as I whisper distorted sounds of devotion and satisfaction. I need you to have a fairly long hair so I can brush through it with my fingers when our lips meet. I need your breath to smell like a combination of cigarette smoke and diet Pepsi. And when I finally break from the kiss, I will only be about an inch away from you because I’ll still need you to recognize the heat coming from my lips. It is the same heat that brought me to where you were, and to where we are right now. And I need you to fill in that inch of distance with another kiss. But I need you to stop halfway an inch because I’ll meet you there.

11. I need you to be aware of my self-destructiveness and my existential crisis. I am one of those unlucky ones who were born to ask infinite questions about themselves and the world that they live in. You will find that I sometimes burst out crying mid-way down my coffee mug, but I need you to understand that it has nothing to do with you, me or us, but the simple fact of my morning coffee reminding me of life’s bitterness and atrocities. And I’m not saying that I’m blaming my coffee for my momentary melancholia. It’s in the sight of that mug with my peripheral view of the city skyscrapers; it’s in the sound of the dogs barking outside somehow blending with the sound of my heavy breathing; it’s in the texture of the dining table which reminds me of the sturdy desks when I was in college; it’s in the way that your actual presence and the mere idea of you collide. It is in those little occurrences that a breakfast sends me to tears. And I need you to pay close attention to that.

12. Most importantly, I need you to realize that I have waited a very long time for this; for you. And I need you to know that no, you don’t meet all of my needs. No, you’re not the one who hits eleven out of eleven from my list. And no, you’re not perfect. You probably don’t give a single shit about books, or sunsets, or cats, or my self-diagnosed mental illness, and maybe your life plan doesn’t really include going on long walks in the rain because you catch cold and fever very quickly, so maybe it’s safe to say that you are underqualified for a place in my heart. But come closer. I have something to tell you. Lean in. Yes, and a little bit more. Now let me tell you a secret: when I fall for you, I fall for you. And there’s nothing that you, me, or this stupid list can do about that. I love you, just because.

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