Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Off Topic: My Red Scarf

It is that time of year again, when Adelaide is finally shaking off the cool weather. Spring in Adelaide is different from spring in other places. The weather flirts and skips from cold to hot at a moments notice without ever really settling on a happy medium. Consequently it's well into November before I finally put away certain articles of winter clothing. And one of those items was a red knitted scarf, which has sat underneath various jumpers and jackets on various hooks and anywhere that it can be accessed at a moments notice without actually being seen.

I still remember when I bought this scarf. It is probably about the most expensive scarf that I have ever owned. I found it in Myer in the city in the winter of 2012 and bought it thinking that the red would look nice against my (then) navy blue Australia Post uniform, fair skin and dark hair. And to give the red scarf credit, I think it does look quite nice. And it is a well made scarf that certainly suffered more than its fair share of abuse this current winter.

The problem is that I never bought the scarf for the right reasons. Yes, I bought it so that I could keep warm. Yes, I bought it so that I would look nice as I walked through the city to and from work.

Unfortunately, my primary motivation for buying the scarf was so that I would look nice if I just happened to see some guy that I had a crush on at the time. Which, in retrospect was a pretty dumb and shallow thing to do. And when I look back at it now, don't even remember if the said crush even saw me wearing that red scarf. Or if it even made one iota of difference. Anyway, as it all turned out, my crush wasn't interested and I decided the most sensible thing to do was quit bugging him and to just move on with my life.

This, as it turned out, was far easier said than done. What followed was one of the shittiest, loneliest times of my life. It was shitty, because the whole broken heart was self-inflicted. It was shitty, because I had no one to talk to about it. It was shitty, because I was trying way too hard to appear cheerful and happy to the outside world when on the inside, I felt terrible. I think the worst bit about a crush or unrequited love isn't the rejection from the other person. The worst part was the rotten, gnawing sense of guilt that lay at the back of my mind. I don't know that I actually did anything wrong, apart from admire the other person from afar and wanting to know them better, and trying to talk to him a couple of times, but I felt bad about it anyway. It was as though I had tried to interfere and meddle with something that should not have been disturbed. Or maybe it was that I had wanted something that was not mine to take.

Then again, the other side of the coin is that everyone feels infatuation for another person at one time or another. My feelings aren't exactly rare or special. And it took me a while to understand that.

Anyway, in the meantime, I found myself trudging to and from work, in that red scarf and hoped that I was fooling everyone into thinking that I was okay and my usual happy, upbeat self. Some days, I think that I tried a little too hard and the fake cheerfulness got a little out of hand.

Eventually a day came where things started to improve. The weather grew warmer, the hurt grew well, easier to live with, and I found reasons to smile genuine smiles once again. The red scarf was packed away, until one day in about May 2013, when it came out of the wardrobe again and was wrapped around my neck once again. And then I came to a strange conclusion.

I hated my red scarf.

This beautiful scarf that kept me warm and safe while I went through so much hurt and confusion had now suddenly found itself as the object of hatred and hurt feelings. As I looked at my red scarf, a lot of memories came flooding back. I remember sitting on the bus on my way into work silently resenting the scarf and all of the memories and feelings that it was stirring within me. The next day, the red scarf sat on a hook at home, while a different and older scarf accompanied me to work. It mattered not that this particular scarf was purple and looked a bit odd against the new grey Australia Post uniform. It wasn't the red scarf and therefore it couldn't taunt me with unpleasant memories. This past winter, the red scarf got poked and shoved and pushed away and worn only when the purple one was in the wash. At one point, I contemplated donating the scarf to charity, but I found myself unable and unwilling to do that. Because at that point, I realised something deeper and far more important.

I did not hate my scarf at all.

It may remind me of some harsh life lessons, but it also the thing that kept me safe and warm while I learned them. Every day, that scarf was my companion during troubled times. I know that my troubles aren't nearly as terrible or as bad as what other people face or have faced. So some guy didn't like me back. That's not nearly as bad as going through a divorce, discovering that you or a loved one has cancer or the death of a child. What about people who lose family members to suicide, or those who don't have enough to eat or access to proper medical care? These are things that ordinary people go through every day. On the other hand, the whole unrequited love thing was my trouble and my pain and something that caused me to look quite deeply within. And the scarf was there through it all. Keeping me warm. Keeping me safe.

I think next winter I will wear my red scarf proudly every day.


  1. Maybe you need to write a story from the point of view of the scarf.

    1. Now there is an idea ... Thanks Andrew!