Goldstein on Goldstein
By Heather O’Neill
Goldstein’s mother never bought him any article of clothing that he wanted. He begged her for about a year for a pair of rugby pants when he was thirteen. Goldstein’s mother got his cousin to give him her pair of rugby pants that she didn’t wear anymore. They were four sizes too small because his cousin was only eight-years-old. Goldstein had trouble walking in them. He couldn’t sit down in them so he had to lean all the time, explaining to other kids that he just wasn’t in the mood for sitting. In this way, Goldstein became a leaner.
At the age of fourteen when he asked his mother for a LaCrosse polo shirt, she got him a knockoff from a factory. It was bright purple with yellow piping and had really, really big lapels and puffy sleeves with elastics on the ends. His math teacher told him he looked like a girl he used to date. Goldstein later categorized this man as an antisemite.
A year later Goldstein came to consider Converse sneakers to be the most beautiful thing on earth. His mother went to Woolco’s $1.44 day which was held the first Monday of every month and bought him two pairs of Converse knockoffs. They were 72 cents each. Goldstein was taken in by the ruse and was deliriously happy when she brought them home. The soles of the shoes completely wore out after only two days though. For the rest of the summer Goldstein was known as the kid whose socks were always sticking out. He says that his shoes were really just a trompe d’oeil and thus began an interest in surrealist art that would continue throughout his life.
My dad stopped buying me clothes when I was about twelve and started being able to fit into the same size as him. He thought I could just wear his hand me downs from the nineteen fifties. I wore a pair of polyester pants with brown checks. In photographs, I look like a refugee from Haiti in a baby blue polyester suit and a straw fedora. I would tell myself, in between sobs, that I looked like Matt Dillon in Drugstore Cowboy.
My dad used to make me wear clothes I didn’t like as a punishment. On my way to school I would change out of them behind the neighbour’s big Coupe de Ville. I didn’t care who saw me.
I haven’t worn pajamas since I was a child. I liked to sleep fully dressed with my boots on under the covers. It made me feel a little bit like I was on a bench in a train and that when I woke up in the morning, I would be in another city. This never actually happened, but I still like sleeping in my clothes.
Goldstein is always looking through his things for a t-shirt with a lobster on it that he lost ten years ago.
“I just know you’ve been using it as a cleaning rag,” he says rooting around under the sink.
When he finds it, he will have found the fountain of youth.
For my birthday one year, my dad’s girlfriend bought me a magician’s trick top hat. You could smash it flat and then punch it back into shape. I wore it one Halloween and some skinheads stopped me in the park and forced me to give it to them. They thought it looked like something Alex in Clockwork Orange would wear and so they felt it to be rightfully there’s. As they walked away, I looked back at it one last time, hoping it’s magic would somehow destroy them.
My four-year-old nephew takes his shirt off whenever he can and that for him is a kind of magic. He saw a garbage man who wasn’t wearing a shirt, and thought that dispensing with shirts lead to greatness–riding on the back of trucks and such.
Once when Goldstein was fifteen, he saved up all his money from his shift at the pet store and bought himself a pair of shorts with paisleys on them. It was the first item of clothes he had ever bought for himself. He wore them for the first time when he went to Wildwood, New Jersey. A group of girls came up to him and asked him why he was wearing his underwear. Goldstein thought it was because they liked him and were looking for a way to start up a conversation; but he changed his mind when they walked away before he could answer. He later categorized them as antisemites.