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The Shame of Hand-Me-Downs (from the Momplex Blog archives)

My son has almost no clothes of his own. By that, I mean he wears almost exclusively hand-me-downs. I can’t even begin to fathom how much cash this has saved me. Land’s End snowsuits, firetruck galoshes, and warm cable-knit sweaters are nothing to scoff at. I’m grateful.


This year my son started preschool, and among his classmates is the younger sibling to the kid who used to own my kiddo’s threads. And several times a week we are greeted in the preschool cloakroom with one of these lines:

“Hey, I know that shirt! That’s one of Sam’s!”
“Oh! Our favorite pants! Sam loved those!”
“Hey! There’s another one of Sam’s sweater!”

And so on.

For some reason, it’s starting to get embarassing to me. Like none of his clothes are ours. Like we never buy him anything new. Like we’re riding someone else’s wave. I find myself wanting to shush her, to say, “Do you have to announce that every day?” Which makes me feel like a real jerk. Because it is just that: real jerky. Maybe it’s just the repetitiveness? Like Ned from Groundhog Day who greets Phil every deja vu morning with the same thrilled Hey! Phil!? Phil!? Hey, Phil Connors! I thought that was you! Hey, hey, now don’t you tell me you don’t remember me, because I sure as heckfire remember you!” Look where THAT got him:

Sweet relief, look how good Phil feels after that release!

Oh, my god. Am I seriously suggesting that I punch a dear friend in the face because she’s happy to see her kid’s old clothes again? Do you know what this is all about? Well, I might. You see, I’m a little sister, the one who got all the hand-me-downs in my family. Even if I loved them, weren’t they somehow always not quite mine? Weren’t they always a little worn and pilled already? Didn’t my sister used to get to dictate which ones could be released to me? Like, did I EVER get that #$!@ng awesome Tweety Bird t-shirt she had in the first grade? No. I got her stupid jeans.

This is starting to look to me like a classic case of PTHMDS, Post-Tramautic Hand-Me-Down Syndrome. You know what? I had better get the heckfire over it, because Land’s End snowsuits, firetruck galoshes, and warm cable-knit sweaters are nothing to scoff at. And like I tell my 4-year-old son, we don’t punch our friends.

8 thoughts on “The Shame of Hand-Me-Downs (from the Momplex Blog archives)

  1. I completely understand how you feel. Although I never have punched anyone over it, you’d think the giving parents would accept the initial generous thank you and not have to try to relive it day after day. But I digress… Great post! 🙂


    1. Thanks! I was thinking I’d bring him to preschool in a potato sack one of these days, and I’d sadly explain to everyone, “It’s just that all of the clothes we inherited frmo Sam are in the laundry, and this was all we had.”


  2. Well, slap me silly and call me Sally. I read the beginning of this, and I thought you were saying it was the kid making those comments. But it’s an adult?! With a kid, it sounded tedious. With an adult, it sounds ridiculous. I would be so, so sick of it.


  3. Hearing it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. à la Groundhog Day (quite possibly the funniest movie EVER) would drive me batshit crazy. Like, I might even jump into the bath with a plugged-in toaster. Deductive reasoning at work here: her other kid is a girl? Go buy some sparkly, Barbie/HelloKitty/Bratz t-shirt for her. Don’t tell the mom. It will be her favorite thing and she will want to wear it EVERY. SINGLE, DAY. and it will drive her mom batshit crazy. I guarantee, there will be some small satisfaction in this.


    1. I am so dense. The answer has been staring me right in the face all this time. You’re right: She does have a daughter! And so do I, a few years older than her daughter and growing like a weed. We always take her old clothes to Goodwill. Not anymore. 🙂


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