Thursday 19 June 2008

A modern day quandary

In all the clearing out I've been doing, I unearthed this beautiful ocelot jacket that belonged to my mother back in the early 1950s. It dates from a time when no one thought much, if anything at all, about the ethics of wearing fur, and this jacket was much admired. As children, we were occasionally allowed to wear it for a few minutes, and as a treat it ranked up there with the little fur tippets, the kind of collar where the tail was clipped into the mouth, worn by my grandma on high days and holidays. When we lived in Germany, and the dramatic thunderstorms caused electricity cuts, I can remember sitting in it in the candlelit darkness while my mother told us stories. Now, when I look at it, the nostalgia and vivid memories of childhood are overlaid with sadness and remorse that beautiful wild creatures were hunted for their skins.

And later in the 60s/70s, many people wore their inherited or charity shop fur coats without a tremor of conscience, until times and attitudes changed, awareness of the rights of animals
increased, and, for a long time, wearing fur was to invite the most severe criticism, and sometimes direct action of the paint-throwing kind. I am horrified to read that fur is being promoted again in the fashion industry.

But I am left with a nagging question: what do you actually do with a fur coat that you would never, ever wear, and that you (now) deeply regret was ever made? What do I do with an incredibly lovely ocelot jacket, that holds so many memories, is so closely associated with my mother, and feels impossible to dispose of in all the ways I might consider. So far, I have aired it, hung it up properly, and considered a range of options, rejecting them as disrespectful, wasteful, or crassly sentimental, and the jacket remains with me, too difficult to part with, but also difficult to think about. Perhaps I should stop agonising, resign myself to the fact that the past cannot be undone, and keep it for candlelit reassurance during thunderstorms and blackouts. What would you do?
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