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Chapter 5: culture: Leisure

A Favourite Old Jumper

It’s not one you can now really wear except at home – and maybe even only when you are on your own or have a good excuse: it’s suddenly very cold; you’re a bit poorly; you’ve just come back from a long trek in the country, it was raining, you have a shower and now you can get wonderfully cosy.  

It used to be pretty smart, elastically moulding itself to your torso; close fitting at the wrists. Now it’s expanded in weird ways, sagged, the cuffs curl outwards; there’s a hole in the left armpit.

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When it was new, you wore it on a lovely afternoon in Copenhagen; it was with you the night you learned that X had had an affair; it came with you when you changed cities; once you slipped it on over your bare skin after you went skinny dipping; it propped up your neck on a flight to Singapore; it helped you revise for an exam; once a lover bound your wrists with the sleeves. All these things live on in the jumper. When you bury your nose in it, and breath in, it takes you back to those times. It’s lovely to wear it, curled up on the sofa, watching television. Only the people you truly love now ever get to see you in it.

 

With the jumper we rehearse something key. It is a transitional object that helps us along the path not from childhood to adulthood but towards age.

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The jumper works in opposition to a tendency – otherwise quite evident in lives – to fall out of love with things as they lose their original merits. It reverses the cold trajectory of growing disappointment: instead, love quietly accumulates round it. Without quite stating it plainly to ourselves, we hope that we too will be appreciated as this jumper is; that someone will feel about us this way and not only forgive us our frayed, misshapen bodies and characters – but will come to love us precisely for these things. We hope that tenderness, which we catch sight of in connection with a frayed old jumper, can extend its empire to us.

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