What have you gotten secondhand?
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Letter from the Editor-in-chief
This Iris theme is one that is close to all of our hearts & hands—it is a theme that took our e-board a little while to develop, but one that I believe we are all very happy with all the same. Second-hand was the most effective intersection that we could find between many concepts that we liked, but didn’t feel were perhaps specific or effective as themes themselves: themes of hearth, home, tradition, community, & more, that may not have been perfectly right for what we were looking for in this edition. We wanted to find a compromise between the stereotypical happy holiday season & feelings of warmth & giving, without falling into any one trope that a lit mag might emulate in entering these wintry months, & I believe that second-hand accomplishes that quite well.
The first thing I thought of with this theme was, as any gay person would, thrifting. I thought of things that had another life before me—almost all of my clothes, most of my books, my tchotchkes, my dishes, even the ornaments & Christmas tree that my roommates & I decorated a few weeks ago. I was inspired by this revival, this ability for something material to become something shiny & new; for something to be so full of possibility for someone, even if it had a life full of meaning for someone else before. As I continued to ruminate on this theme, however, I started to think of the darker meanings of second-hand. I submitted a piece called “Aren’t They Just” for this edition, which is about a recent situationship that ended because I felt objectified; I felt like a second-hand object myself, rather than a living creature that holds meaning rather than seeking it out from others. This is a hard lesson that I have had to learn again & again these past several months, which made second-hand a particularly interesting theme for me, both personally & creatively.
Still, despite these more pessimistic ponderings, I find myself sticking with the more positive associations of this theme even now. Second-hand feels like patchwork to me—it feels like the collage work that we do so often in Iris meetings or the rebuilding & sculpting of something as simple as air-dry clay. It feels homey—the worn fabric of the sweaters my friends & I share, the crafts & trinkets that line the townhouse I occupy with my roommates. It feels warm, from the crackle of firewood in a firepit found on the side of the road to the overlapping of fingers for the first time in a refurnished movie theater. Second-hand is so endearing to me, & it was wonderful to see how this rang true for our members, too.
In sorting through this edition’s submissions, we found that second-hand meant anything from cherished to overlooked, found to remade, torn & worn to cultivated & warm. One of our managing editors, Mia, had the idea to take photo submissions of second-hand items that Iris members felt were important to them, which changed the e-board’s understanding of second-hand entirely. Second-hand became the topics that we had first wanted to platform—it became overlaying the love & lessons each member brought to the table & allowed them to become something even more beautiful & cherishable than before.
We hope that you enjoy this short little end-of-semester edition, & that it brings you some of the warmth & joy that it gave to us this holiday season.
- Frances Sharples