I threw away my ex-husband’s pajama bottoms.
I know…why did I have them in the first place?
The night before I left Seattle, I asked if I might take them with me. The thin cotton ones, navy, with a drawstring. Somewhere there is a matching top. Somewhere.
I turned my ex on to men’s pajamas years ago, as I had been turned on by the man I dated before him. Mornings I would pad around his house in Berkeley, wearing his pjs while he made us French-press coffee. I liked to wear his overalls too.
He often remarked that I should get my own – of both. That year for Hanukkah, I bought him a pair of silk pajamas. Inside the card I wrote, “A room of one’s own. Pajamas of one’s own. I promise I won’t touch these.” Then I opened his gift to me – my own pair of overalls.
We laughed. A sort-of modern twist on O. Henry’s Christmas tale, The Gift of the Magi. Except neither of us had to give something away something we loved, to give something to someone we loved.
I stopped wearing men’s pj bottoms some time ago and had taken to wearing short, boy-short underwear and a wife beater – which was fine when it was just the two of us. But I was about to go on the road, traveling with my divorce buddy – a man – and staying with friends along the way. And when I arrived in Chicago, I would be living with a male friend of mine, temporarily.
Modesty, not something I usually subscribe to, grabbed hold of me, and I asked my ex if I could take his bottoms.
He looked at me sorts of sideways and said yes.
I have slept in them every night since. Loosely tied and rolled down twice at the waist so I don’t trip on them. They remind me of the pants my friend Tim’s roommate wore when he returned from Thailand, when he cranked the heat to 80 degrees and blasted the soundtrack to The King and I nonstop.
My mom attempted to buy me a new pair when I visited her in Tennessee in the spring. We picked some up at Target, just bottoms, but I didn’t like how they fit. Too much bunchy elastic at the waist. So she returned them for me. But we agreed I had to stop sleeping in my ex’s. My best girlfriend Julie and I had the same conversation when I stayed with her this summer.
I’m sure I would have had this conversation many times over if I had shared this with anyone else. But I didn’t. I was too ashamed. I knew it was kind of odd. Palpably and painfully so, pulling them on after sleeping with someone else.
Ten days ago, I threw them out. Crumpled them into the kitchen garbage bin, covering them with food scraps so I couldn’t pull them back out – fearful of a George Castanza-éclair-at-the-top-of-the-trash lapse.
A few days later I began sleeping for the first time in more than a year and a half. Really sleeping. Through the night, uninterrupted, for more than six hours. Waking up with the alarm, and longing for more.
Not long after I found myself crush-less, and for the first time in my life, not looking to conjure up a love interest.
I told a friend of mine I didn’t want to talk about the boy I slept with – the one with whom I pulled on the pajamas in question. The one who isn’t the one, but still takes up some residency in my head and in my heart from time to time. I told her that talking about him wasn’t helpful. In fact, it was painful. So I’d rather not do it.
And then I said no to being fixed up with a man who was recently divorced. I believe my exact words were, “Are you out of your mind?” I know the desperate crazy that is his life right now and I don’t want to be a part of it.
My words surprised me. But they felt like ridiculously good, albeit not-so-sexy, self-care too. Like sleeping. Like throwing away pajamas that belonged to my ex-husband.
I’ve returned to sleeping in the short, boy-shorts, but am on the lookout for a new pair of loose, drawstring bottoms. The kind that feel lived in, or have the potential to, and that are not flannel. Pajamas devoid of history. Pajamas of one’s own.