Eighty Percent of Nothing is Nothing

I mailed a box of shoes, boots mostly, to Linda’s Stuff. My sister recommended the service platform for rehoming any neglected articles in my closet for a return. Linda’s business is to sort it, market it, and sell it, sending the owner up to eighty-percent of the proceeds. They make it easy from the very beginning, providing a free shipping label to mail your box.

I am somewhat consistent culling my wardrobe, but my shoes fall outside of that purview. Rarely do I ever part with them. My reluctance was further fortified recently by the search for my Birks. Did I really part with those well-worn failsafes from college, after carting them around for the last twenty-five years untouched? It appears so. One hot second of miscalculation has left me jonesing for those gasping keepsakes once embedded in the corner of my closet, like crusts of toasted wheat pared from tea sandwiches, grown stale with decades in the dark. 

Despite the blunder, I press on. I have a lot of boots. Too many boots. It’s like looking at a handful of ponies in an otherwise useful string, that never grace the field, every time I walk past them. They had to go. I groomed them, polished their edges, and packed them carefully, bidding farewell. Seven pairs in all. 

Ten days later, I received an email listing my inventory with a sale price attached to each item. The numbers were almost eighty-percent lower than what I had configured in my head, which was already fifty-percent lower than the cost to purchase them new. (High inflation is apparently limited to used cars…not shoes). The coup de grace was the two pairs listed “Unsellable-Low Resale.

Note to self: Eighty-percent of nothing is nothing.

The reminder was a colossal swallow of feathery sediment, floating in the murk of cider vinegar.

Five years earlier, when I moved to DC, I stumbled upon a resale shop not too far away.  The sight of it sparked a pruning spree, which resulted in a heap far too heavy to deliver on foot. I ordered an Uber. After rolling out of the car and into the store, arms bent like a towel rack, the layers overflowing, I waited as the clerk sifted through the pile. She removed each item from under its plastic sheath, peeling it slowly from the hanger, before holding it up like a young woman gazing uncertainly at someone else’s toddler, placing each one on the counter wordlessly, one after the other. When she finished, she mewed like a kitten, her voice soft and smooth. 

She said, “Thank you, but we can’t use any of this.”

For am moment I didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly.

“I’m sorry…What?”

Well,” she said, “This all looks like work attire…Things you’d wear in an office.”

I did a quick mental inventory. Yes, there was some Brooks Brothers, and Ann Taylor, but there was also Joe’s jeans and cashmere sweaters. 

What I wanted to say was, “And??

What I did say was, “Really? … This is all work attire?” 

The surprise on my face quickly deflated into a flat crease. I surmised she must be twelve masquerading as twenty-five, a cheap salve for my smoldering ego. 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

Yeah, I’m afraid it doesn’t really go … Thanks anyway.”

The clerk moved from behind the counter, taking her exit, leaving me in the middle of the mangled wreckage spilled across the counter, strewn at my feet, and hanging from clothes racks like nooses patiently waiting for necks, amidst the gaggle of shoppers wandering at my back. Adding injury to insult was the unaccounted-for Uber back home, still laden like a modern urban sherpa.

I called my sister.

“Can you believe this shit?,” I screamed into the phone. “They wouldn’t accept anything! None of my stuff is C-O-O-L enough! It’s for the ‘office,’ like that’s a bad word! What the fuck do these people do? I live in Washington DC for fuck’s sake!” 

She laughed, though I doubt she was surprised. My sister has always been cool. I have not. 

The next day, I loaded the pile once more, straight into the car. Off to Goodwill I went. Here I am now, a handful of years later, and my “style” still isn’t cool, hold much value, sometimes even crossing into the realm of unacceptable. This truth is like ripping the scab off an old wound I didn’t even know I possessed. I thought I was average in most ways, but these experiences have illuminated the fact my fashion sense lies closer to my teenage niece’s most utilized buzzword, “irrelevant.”

I am already pooling items into another pile. Thinning the herd living in the big field once again. This time, I will load it straightaway into the car when there is enough to make the trip worthwhile. My ego is breathing a sigh of relief.

Denial is a useful strategy.

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