Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Story of a T-shirt

As a human belonging to the XX category, I'm entitled to have loads of clothes and shoes. And to want more of them, as Imelda Marcos clearly exemplifies. And to develop a silly sentimental attachment to some of these items, as equally proved by my stubborn refusal to throw some stuff away.

It happened with the "carrot family" T-Shirt: a white t-shirt I had as a child, with 3 carrots, mum-carrot, dad-carrot, kid-carrot.
Somewhere, stored in some box, I still got the Goofy tennis player that I found in a kinder egg: I was 10, the year of the Olympics in Seoul, I was home with measles and my granny got me that kinder egg, and because it was she who got it to me, I felt I couldn't part from it.

The same goes with countless of movie, theathre, concerts tickets, bus tickets, small notes and post-its, empty vodka bottle...
True, sometimes life and lack of storage forced me to some tough choices, like when I had to throw away my collection of pages (and pages and pages) of Chinese characters exercise. OK, pointless to keep, but it took me about four months to gather enough courage to throw them in the recycle bin.About six months ago I had to come to terms with the notion that my "Loup Chante" t-shirt was not something I could wear: I wore it so much, for so many year, that the writings have come off, the blue colour faded and it started to sport a not so nice look-through across the sleeves.
Right, time to throw it away. Fact is I couldn't! 
Loup Chante is a small bar close to Tsinghua Uni I used to go when I was studying there.
They had a movie night, a jazz night and a barman with a penchant to add huge amount of strawberry syrup to any cocktails he prepared.

It may look like a normal and old shirt to you, but it come with a big emotional baggage for me: it always brings me back the memory, both the good and the bad ones, of those months, of the people, the facts that changed me so much and so deeply.

Yet, I knew I couldn't wear it any longer and it had to go.

I was getting ready to this big step on Sunday by trying to waste as much time as possible and surfing the net (and the 2 activities quite often coincide), when I spotted a post in the reader and by jumping from one link to another I ended up on a page, in Martha Stewart website, explaining how to transform a T-shirt into a shopping bag.
Mmmh... throw the shirt away or make a bag out of it?


Funny thing, the character on the t-shirt "拆", means "to demolish", "to take apart". All the small houses in the hutong around the university had a big encircled 拆 on the wall. It meant they were going to be bulldozer'ed in order to build some new compounds and Olympics structure. I would cycle by one day, see the red paint still fresh, only to pass by the following day and see only a pile of debris and rubble.
The word 拆 started to embody in my mind this notion of things being lost forever. Every time I pronounced it, or saw the character somewhere I'd get a nostalgic feeling for the past; but years later I did the same: I demolished the shirt,  just to make sure some part of it could still be with me.

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