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We used to have something called "buyer's remorse," which was essentially the shoddy practice of shelling out too much money or money you didn't have, getting your hands on an item, popping the tags and immediately deciding that you'd made a terrible mistake. It's why God created friends and family and, after that, eBay. But buyer's remorse is also rooted in an old world whose ways are dead. We need no longer sit with our choices and let them weigh us down. We now have hate-wearing to set us free.
These days, we are all haters. Hate-reading, hate-watching, hate-listening, all of these activities have replaced good old-fashioned HATING with something far more insidious and compromising. Hate is no longer dismissive or obsessive. It doesn't happen in bolts. It's now just a part of our everyday patterns of consumption.
We don't hate from afar or with a passion, we make a point of it at least a few times a day. We don't resent the experience, we actively seek it out. And we can also do it to ourselves. As we learn to hate the world in new ways, the way it looks when we can't get over something about ourselves has changed. Self-hate no longer loom over us, static, like it once did. Every second is an opportunity to revisit, and hopefully reverse, the pain. I blame social media for giving us a constant sense of opportunity for change (or reinforcement).
The other day, I bought some pants. As I always do on here—and probably to the eternal chagrin of my editor and readers alike—I'm not going to bother with what they are, where I got them or what I paid since that makes the whole experience seem like it's about them when, really, it's all about me. Okay, maybe about us. As is almost always the case with this kind of situation, I bought them because I was smitten, which is almost always a case of novelty or poor judgment trying to paper itself over with an added, maybe even faulty, layer of enthusiasm.
When I left the shop that day, I may have even worn them out. That day, I was riding high. There's nothing like a purchase that makes it feel like you've turned over a new leaf or maybe expanded your clothing horizons a little. It's comforting to stay in your lane and silly to stray too far out of it, but if you can find that sweet spot in between these two extremes, congratulations, you've conquered one of life's great challenges.
We hate-wear because we all kind of hate ourselves or at least get a kick out of self-deprecation.
The trouble came a day or two later, when I went to put them on again. Suddenly, the material seemed alien and forbidding. The cut was a little too quasi-athletic for me. And the color was fucking impossible to work with. I was still firm in my belief these trousers were quality. What they weren't, though, was the right trousers for me. But I didn't let that stop me. Instead of admitting defeat or looking to sell them right away, or patiently stashing them away until my mood and thus my entire perspective shifted, I threw them on and attempted to go about my day wearing something that made me feel self-conscious, if not lousy, every single time I looked down or glanced at myself in a reflective surface.
After a point, it was all I could think about and suffice it to say, my day sucked. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment because I wore them the next day as well. This was hate-wearing in the strictest sense: I put these pants on over and over again because I wanted the experience of resenting them, and myself, to repeat itself ad infinitum. But there was a deeper level to it. Certainly, it was fulfilling to spend all day contemplating what a bad look they were (on me, at least). But what mattered was that, at the same time, I was trying to make them work.
I was content to make myself look silly in part because I wanted something to gawk at all day, but also because I was not so secretly hoping that one of those times everything would miraculously click and the course of history would be changed forever. By that I mean, the pants-shirt-shoes combo that I'd agonized over and failed at anyway would magically redeem itself, and me, and I could go along with my life knowing that I hadn't screwed up and that, on top of it, I'd made things richer for myself.
Hate-wearing is the mirror image of something like hate-reading. We hate-wear because we all kind of hate ourselves or at least get a kick out of self-deprecation. But first and foremost, we want to salvage something that seems lost and hate-wearing gives us repeated chances to do so in real-time. Hate-reading, on the other hand, is on the surface a totally malicious practice. You suck, therefore I consume.
Since we're the ones choosing to indulge ourselves rather than look away, it's as much about us as whatever we've turned into the object of ridicule. Maybe we see some of ourselves there or what we're worried we might become. I don't know for sure quite yet. But hate-wearing those pants taught me something: Our very modern form of hate isn't an opportunity. Go back over and over again and you just might learn something or at least learn to admit something about yourself.
Bethlehem Shoals is a writer living in Portland. You can follow him on Twitter here.