On petticoats and minimalism

The purpose of things

During our two week vacation, my scalawags and I spent an inordinate amount of time, very very very early in the morning at skateboarding parks. At four and five years old, their favorite activity is riding their bikes on ramps.

I know how Evil Knievel’s mother felt

Not too long ago, the eldest scalawag was given new gloves because he “lost” his. His indulgent father took him to the store and let him picked out a pair of new gloves. He picked out a pair of 10€ gloves that looked pretty legit. They had the Thinsulate label on them. They looked sort of like skiing gloves, with extra pleather reinforcement patches on the palms.

To be honest, I have never spent 10€ on gloves for me, (I buy the 3€ for two pairs kind…) but seeing how much these made him happy, they made me happy, too. However. After wearing them one day, I was already secretly fixing a seam.

I mended them three times before he started noticing.

And then he wore them at the skate park three days in a row and shredded them to pieces.

The indulgent husband, who was privy to my mending, got righteously angry. “These boys can’t have anything nice! They destroy everything!” he said.

To which I replied “Maybe these gloves aren’t made to be abused on skate board ramps made of plywood, either?” I mean, at the sporting goods stores, they sell technical gloves and shoes and gear at exorbitant prices. Maybe there is a reason.

Fun and function

We found a new skate park towards the end of the vacation that featured ramps made of a non-wood, non-grip surface (featured in above Still-Life with Scalawag). They were super slippery, which made it frustrating, especially for little scalawag who loves to ride down a ramp, but can’t always ride up one so has to push his bike up.

What was most frustrating was that he was wearing shoes with super lightweight foam non-marking soles. Fantastic for not marking the floors at schools. Not great for grip.

Instantly, in a flash, I understood why God made Vans. I happened to be wearing my pale pink Vans that day:

Fun and Functional

I wished I could shrink them down to size for the little scalawag. I understood that they weren’t designed for fashion, although I wore them for my own non-fashion reason (sometimes a slip-on shoe, when you are wrangling two little boys is more practical than tying one’s shoes). It’s the soles! They are made of some kind of gummy rubber, yet are super flat so you feel in control, the way someone doing stunts on a skateboard or a BMX might like to feel.

The right tool for the job

My parenting mantra has always been “if it’s too high for you to climb up on your own, I ain’t gonna help.” However, seeing my poor little guy struggling with his shoes on the ramp, and knowing that I happened to be wearing the right shoes for the job, I broke my own rule. I carried his bike I-don’t-know-how-many times up the ramp.

This got me thinking about how much of all my clutter, all my extra stuff, all the “extras just in case” and by extension, all the money I have wasted on these things, might be because I didn’t understand that things have a purpose. Having five pairs of gloves is not useful if I don’t have extra thick gloves I can get muddy in the woods pulling branches around with scalawags while we build forts. I may not need “technical gloves” for this activity, but I do need a pair of designated mud-appropriate gloves.

Wearing my white Adidas in the mud is not the best plan. Thus, I always keep an old pair of running shoes in the car, just in case we get distracted by the call of the wild.

The extremely bad gift

Once, a million years ago, my father gave me a Christmas gift I will never forget.

I must have been maybe eleven. Now, you know me by now. I am a girly girl, trapped in a universe of little boys. Prior to having little boys, aside from an inexplicable fanaticism for the Tour de France which has slightly more to do with my love of France and of extremely attractive men’s legs than it has to do with biking, I had ZERO interest in athletic endeavors.

However, my father decided to give me ski clothes. And not just ski clothes, but purple ski clothes. FYI: I have always hated purple. I do not doubt that he dropped a lot of money on that ski outfit. But a.) I had never been nor had I the intention of skiing b.) There was nothing girly about them c.) It reinforced my belief that my father knew nothing about me d.) They were purple.

I am forty-three years old. I recognize how ungrateful those reasons sound. I was ungrateful, but also lucid. When I did not show the appropriate gratitude for the ugly purple useless-to-me ski clothes, my father got angry.

Who is in the wrong here? Me, because I didn’t want an expensive gift I would never use or my father because he bought it for me and then got angry because I didn’t like it? Both of us, I suppose. But here is what I know: having amazing, expensive, super-technical gear is also ridiculous if you are never going to use it.

What does this have to do with petticoats or minimalism?

As you know, I came into a petticoat inheritance last summer. A petticoat in every dang color of the rainbow. They are exquisite. My friend, who has financial resources far beyond anything I ever will, went through a “phase” about fifteen years ago. She bought her petticoats from a distributor in Paris who sells to dance and theater costumers. Each petticoat is worth a small fortune. But you know what? If you make your living doing the cancan, you better darn well have the right petticoat in the right color. It better have the right heft and the right translucence.

I always dreamed of being a ballerina. Although I sing with my feet quite well, this career would never be in the cards for me. However, my fashion sensibilities have always veered towards the ballerina costume look: wrap sweaters and full skirts that looked like tutus… These petticoats make me happy just because they exist in my closet.

I am no cancan dancer, not any more than I am a skateboarder. But I am learning to appreciate having just the right thing at the right time.

If I ever start shopping again, I can be sure that I will be much more intentional about it. I am already starting to formulate a pre-purchase question list, like “How long do I need these to last?”, “How dirty am I willing to let these get?” , “What am I going to get rid of to make room for this?”, “How easy is this going to be to repair?”, “Where am I going to store this?” and “Do I have anything else I can repurpose to get the job done?”. “Do I love this?” is the last question, but not the least important one.

As always, I come back to this: I am a minimalist who loves petticoats. The two are not mutually exclusive. The singularity is that I must use everything I own. I can own a dozen rainbow colored petticoats, as long as I wear them. I am a petticoat minimalist.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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