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April 1, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
Embracing My Polyester Side
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Recently my friend Rachel came over to visit, and she was bearing gifts. She had purchased two blanket “throws” and wanted to affix them to the front of my wheelchair to keep me warm no matter what room I was in. One of them was stylish black. The other was a festive purple. Both of them were so soft and fuzzy that I couldn’t stop petting them. In fact, I could fill a day that way — petting the blankets and drooling.

Both of those blankets were made in today’s fabric du jour — stylish polyester. In fact, when I held the black blanket to my nose, I inhaled the heady aroma of petroleum. It’s nice to know where your textiles come from, and when it’s polyester in question, you can often tell by the smell.

When I was growing up, polyester was the fabric of choice for large-bottomed ladies. There was a reason for this. In those days, polyester was usually presented in a double-knit. This meant it stretched over ample rear ends. There were no zippers or buttons. If you wore polyester double-knit pants, they were held up with stretchy elastic.

The polyester double-knit came in every color of the rainbow. Thus you were likely to see a large-bottomed lady bending over in front of you whose rear end was a screaming mango hue. Or luscious lime. Lime was a big color back in those days — second only to a sickening olive green.

Polyester was advertised as being indestructible. It probably was, if indestructible means “non-bio-degradable.” I’m sure there are numerous orange polyester double-knit pants that are even now polluting the landfills of America. But it certainly wasn’t indestructible as far as clothing was concerned. It attracted stains. Grease-based stains were particularly hard to get out, so that polyester clothing soon looked dirty and old.

The other problem was that the knit was susceptible to snags. If you looked at a polyester double-knit garment, your eyelashes would snag in it. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But you could almost tell how often an item of clothing had been worn by how many snags were there. It certainly wasn’t a good advertisement for polyester double-knit.

Because of these problems and others, there was a time when people turned up their noses at the manmade fabric, loudly proclaiming their allegiance to cotton or linen. I used to be one of those people, but I have repented.

You see, the scientists who work for the textile industry have not been sitting idle all these years. They saw the indestructability of polyester and decided to refine it. They knew there was a market for clothing that did not wrinkle or fade, and they ran with the concept.

Fluffy and I went to Australia in the year 2000, and the blouse I was wearing was ripped to shreds by a piece of metal on a department store escalator in Melbourne. The employees of the department store sent me to a blouse emporium where I was allowed to pick any blouse in stock. There was one caveat — every blouse in the store was made of a material called “polyester crepe.”

I picked out a pattern I liked, and I took the blouse off the rack. To my surprise, the fabric wasn’t spongy the way I expected polyester to feel. It was rugged, somewhat like a softer version of military canvas. I knew immediately that if this blouse tackled a piece of metal in an escalator, the escalator would lose the confrontation.

Here it is thirteen years later, and that blouse looks like I just took it off the rack. Not a piece of thread has come unraveled. The buttons are still firmly in place. There are no snags or stains. The blouse looks as though it has never been worn.

I spent years looking in vain for more polyester crepe blouses for people my size, and finally hit the jackpot when I discovered The Blouse House in late November. I ordered five blouses from the company, and they arrived two or three days before I ended up in the hospital for a surprise three-month stay.

I did not come out of the hospital at the same size as I went in. Blouses that fit me when I received them in the mail now had ten or twelve inches of spare fabric in the front or in the back (depending on where I grabbed). No matter. These things are designed to withstand Armageddon, and I’m going to wear them no matter how big they are.

That’s the thing about polyester. It used to be a cheap, crummy fabric. But that wasn’t good enough, so it evolved. Today there are polyesters that would fool even a fashion designer into believing they were linen or crepe or silk.

People are that way, too. If there are things about you that you don’t like, you don’t have to live with them. You can change. You can shave off the rough edges and become the person you want to be, rather than the person you are today.

Some of those changes are hard. They may even involve repentance. But you can do hard things. You can do almost anything, if you enlist God’s help.

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