When I was in my late teens, early 20’s, I got a gray robe for Christmas. It was a gift from my mother and was instantly my new favorite item of clothing. It embodied comfort and safety.

It was at that same time that my parents moved out of state and I found myself alone and in possession of lots of freedom. While out partying with friends, I met L. He was older and came into my life like a fucking freight train.

Shortly after the start of our relationship, I disappeared from my close friendships and moved into a basement apartment with L. I unpacked my gray robe, so happy to be wanted. Justifying his possession of me. “Isn’t it nice to be so intensely needed?”

In a few months, there was disgust every time I would wear my robe. At that time, I worked two jobs. Coming home and being comfortable was something I looked forward to and needed. But I would put that robe on and hear, “Don’t you want me to want you?” “Every time I look at you, you are wearing that ugly robe. It’s not flattering.” I stopped wearing the robe because I just wanted to be pleasing to him.

I admit I was very much lost at that time in my life. A young adult on their own with low self esteem. Being wanted was akin to love for me.

I wore the uncomfortable lingerie under my work clothes like he demanded. Bone tired, I tried to be the person he said I needed to be. Every single criticism about my body, every single remark about how I needed to be available to him whenever he wanted, devastated me. Friends were telling me to get out. “But he just wants me to look my best.” was my reply. My emails were being monitored. I was questioned about my text conversations with friends. It took too long for me to realize that the relationship was toxic and could turn dangerous.

When I finally did get away, with the help of my support system, I had that gray robe with me. Years later, I was wearing that robe while scrolling through Facebook and learned about his death by an overdose from a mutual friend.

Almost two decades later, that robe is still my favorite. My husband hands me that gray robe and a glass of wine after my long day. When I wear it around the house, he comments about how seeing me in it makes him feel like he’s home.

It carries such bittersweet feelings with it. Sometimes when I put it on, I think of “You look so awful in that thing.” but then I think of my support system, then and now, and know that I’m secure, loved, and safe in whatever I choose to wear.

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