Hanging My Hat

By: Makena Owens  |  May 15, 2016


Anybody who knows me well knows that Aritzia is one of my favorite places to shop. Everything about the clothes, the storefront, the bags and even the weird gift cards (featuring gaping mouthfuls of braces—why?) stimulates within me a general joie de vivre. But the best part is the return policy.

When you receive a box from Aritzia in the mail and cut through the tough packing tape to reveal your highly anticipated purchase, the item of clothing is not what’s on top. Instead, a card with the return policy lays flat against the tissue-wrapped garment, with gold lettering that reads, “It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.”

We can all attest to how true this mantra is when it comes to fashion. Clothing stores can have a way of tricking us into buying downright tragedies that somehow look good against the bright backdrop of the dressing room, but shows its true colors when modeled against the less-than-perfect lighting in our bedroom. We may have felt like a princess the day we purchased an embellished midi skirt made of silk taffeta, but two days later we’re back to our usual bohemian selves, and the skirt is rendered useless. We change our minds.

There’s no doubt that I have made my fair share of exchanges and returns. But once the what-was-I-even-thinking garment is out of my hands, I forget about why I ever wanted it. It vanishes back into the consumer closet and I don’t look back.

“It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.” For as true as this rings about clothes, it is all the more true about ideas.

I have been writing for The Observer since my first year at Stern. When I type my name into the search box on our website, several pages of archived articles materialize before me. I stare at certain titles and recall the late nights, or the early mornings; I see the piece that pushed me from writer to editor, or the one that inspired hours of research about something that I never thought I could cover. I can pinpoint when I finally conquered the fear of the opinion article, and then watch as I developed a voice that I was sure was my own.

When I read the articles that I have written during my time here, I shuffle through clothes that I have tried on and hung in my intellectual closet. I see the ideological purchases that I made and flaunted at school, happy with my new acquisition. They hang in chronological order and I see the evolution of my personal style manifest on the pages of our newspaper.

Reading the editorials that I wrote this year, there is a part of me that is proud. Proud that I wrote about things that were on my mind; proud that I tackled issues that mattered not only to me, but to the people in our community; and proud that I put pen to paper and articulated one of the many thoughts swirling around in my head before I go to sleep.

But when I read the majority of these articles, I completely disagree with myself. I have drastically changed my mind.

I could write critical (albeit schizophrenic) letters to the editor about all of those editorials. I think that some of them are positively misinformed. They are but the first seeds of an idea which I later discussed with friends, teachers and mentors, only to form them into more well-thought out responses—but all after the paper had gone to print.

I can no longer wax poetic about the wonders of our English department’s thesis requirements. I will not argue confidently that women rabbis should be a legally accepted feature of Orthodox Judaism. I would like to completely overhaul the piece on women’s Torah learning. I’m not even so sure I agree with myself regarding anonymous articles anymore, even though I was so confident about that piece when I wrote it.

If I had waited until the moment that I thought an idea was perfect before I published it, typing my name into The Observer website would yield zero results. Not only were deadlines real and an editorial position my goal, but sometimes seeds need to planted in the form of black and white words in order for further conversations and realizations to grow and take place.

“It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.” Some of the articles that appear under my name don’t fit me anymore. Now that I’m graduating, the deadline to return these ideas for store credit has passed. Unlike the ill-fitting dress I may be wont to bring home and then hurry to kiss goodbye without a backward glance, the ideas I have shared in The Observer are like the t-shirt that’s now just a little too short for my taste, but that I’m not quite ready to get rid of. It’s a reminder of a person I once was. It has seen movies, gone out to dinners, run through parks, squeezed into subways; observed, conversed, realized.

Storage units in New York are expensive, so sometimes those tees have a better home in a donation box than they do in my dresser. Luckily, my intellectual closet on The Observer website is virtually infinite, so I can keep my used-to-be-favorites hanging there until they’re cool enough to be called vintage, and can resurface once again.