Theorizing My Sweater

My flecked green sweater is two sizes too big. I believe the proper term for it’s flecked-ness is heathered. It was on sale after Christmas in 1996 and despite (or perhaps because of) its odd size and color, it spoke to me.

This was a time of frequent sweater-purchasing at such purveyors of East Coast coziness aesthetic as Abercrombie & Fitch and J. Crew. These stores catered to the desires of Jewish suburban teens to simulate the experience of Christmas in Maine by wearing woolly sweaters. At a certain point in the late-nineties, when I was disposing the income of my parents on sweaters and college, I had more sweaters than Bill Cosby. My dutiful purchase of these sweaters can be read as an attempt to do my third-generation duty of Jewish immigrant assimilation and buy into a kind of bland American suburban adolesence readily available for purchase on such distinctly non-quaint arteries of commerce as Northern Boulevard, Long Island. My dutiful attendance of college can also be read as such an attempt. I attended a diverse university where immigrants from all over the world (and their descendants) frolicked with varying degrees of ease in large stone buildings, reading, with varying degrees of ease, a canon not quite as diverse as the students of the university themselves.

It is a delicious and not insignificant irony that this sweater, like all wool sweaters, is particularly adept at trapping strands of my hair with it’s tiny, Velcro-like hooks of wool fuzz. And so the sweater (symbol of WASPiness, symbol of wealth, symbol of sweatershop labor in nations too hot to need sweaters parlayed into corporate wealth by conglomerates that own the trademarked combinations of words that themselves evoke the idea of WASPiness if they fall short of conferring its reality) quite literally becomes a receptacle and gathering device for the incriminating evidence—the telltale, twisted strands of my Semitic hair—of the truth the sweater itself seeks to conceal.

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