It is time to end one of my longest term relationships and this is leaving me feeling sad and nervous. I am unsure how I will be able to present myself in public. It feels like a safety net has slipped from under me. I worry. I constantly worry, do I look alright? Do I fit in?
What, you may ask, has caused this seismic alteration? Wherefore are you allowing such radical change into your life? Well, gentle reader, it is purely by necessity. My favourite top has ceased to function and must be cast away for ever. It is my favourite black top and I can’t even wear it in mourning. This week I washed it, blithely assuming that it would be fine for at least another year but when I sniffed the armpits, laundry fresh and unworn, the stench was so bad it triggered a 10 minute sneezing fit. Honestly, my eyes streamed and my sinuses were cleansed, though the top clearly wasn't. This top is clearly not what it once was. It is bobbled where once it was smooth, it is almost translucent and gossamer thin where once it was thick and warming. This top is dead. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-top.
It was a Christmas present from my parents-in-law in the giddy glow of my first pregnancy. To this day, if I receive any compliments on clothes I am wearing it is usually because they bought them for me. (I will leave you to sort out your own feelings towards a woman who can cherish a top for over nine years and still requires a grown-up to buy her clothes for her.) This top has seen me through belly-bursting pregnancies, hidden the shame of my post-pregnancy layers of comfort fat and stayed with me as I came out the other side and learned to love, or at least like, the new baggier, bumpier me who arrived along with the children. The thing is though, it has never felt like a maternity top; when I was wearing it I never got that sympathetic head tilt I got from some women because I was lingering for a little too long in maternity clothes, as my definitely ambulant child snatched toys from their precious angels. It was fine, they were so skinny I could have sat on them and squashed them into submission. Skinny but not necessarily happy, looking back.
It is, of course, a forgiving top. It is designed well enough to follow the shape of my breasts without showing acres of cleavage. It is cut kindly - there are side flaps that offer enough cover for a bulging belly without even a hint of mumu-ness. It’s not just a maternity top though, it has style. I wouldn’t have been ashamed to be seen in this top moshing around the Old Trout circa 1993 listening to Eugenius. 1993 was probably the year where I gave most of a shit about how I looked so this is high praise indeed. It is grey and black and has fake short t-shirt arms over long sleeves - which was most definitely de rigeur in 1993. This top was a way of bringing my youth and my present self together. It reminded me of who I was, whilst still allowing me to be just who I am right now.
This top has been dressed up, down and sideways. It has been worn to meetings and nights out. It is equally at home in a pub or a playground. It can work with fancy jewellery and a builder’s hod full of make-up and it can take scraped back hair and bags under the eyes. I am never not comfortable in this top. It is honestly the second longest relationship of my adult life. The loss of it has left me genuinely bereft. Until I wrote this, my pride has forbidden me from trawling the maternity shops for anything similar but now, as I realise just how brilliant this top has been, I am going to swallow that pride with a nice slice of cake and start hitting up Jo Jo Maman Bebe, Petit Bateau and their ilk until my eyes meet fabric across a crowded room and I know I have found the one, once more... or maybe I will ask my mother-in law to do it for me.