Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Writing on Shirts

For as long as I can remember, I've had access to a washing machine and dryer. Even on my mission, our apartments always had washers. (We had drying racks instead of dryers, since pretty much nobody has dryers in Italy. Most stores that sell washers don't even sell dryers.) It's something I've taken for granted, much like CheezIts or linens or anything else.

Now, my house has no washer or dryer, and I get to make trips to a local laundromat. Lucky me. Lavish goes to a fantastic place that boasts wifi and new machines. Since I usually don't do my laundry at the same time and I have to walk, I go to a really ghetto (really nearby) joint that boasts cheaper dryers than Lavish's, and a shady crowd.
The last time I was doing laundry, another woman was drying hers near mine. She was hispanic, probably about 50-55 years old, wearing athletic pants and shoes, and a t-shirt with an unbuttoned plaid shirt on top. What fascinated me about her was her t-shirt.
The t-shirt had an African American young man on it, shirtless, and wearing lots of bling. (Perhaps a rapper?) He had a tough expression on his face. The shirt read "Don't judge me if you don't know me."

I began to wonder why the woman would have chosen to wear that shirt. Was it her son's shirt? Did she find it for really cheap at a thrift store? Did she somehow identify with the shirt? It was a mystery to me. I certainly couldn't imagine my parents or grandparents wearing a shirt like that.
(It reminds me of one time on the buses in Italy...a guy had his music on at a pretty high volume. The person directly behind him on the bus was a little old lady with long white hair. I started to feel sorry for her having to listen to his loud, worldly music until--I saw her from another angle and realized that my little old lady was sporting a mullet!)
I started thinking about writing on shirts.

I make a conscious effort to avoid wearing clothing with writing on it.
It started when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, when I chose a Peter Pan outfit as one of my new school outfits. It was a red shirt that had Peter Pan on it, and pants with Tink on the knee. Other kids would stop me on the playground and start reading my shirt aloud "Escape from Neverland........" and it made me uncomfortable. What do I care about Neverland!? It certainly had nothing to do with me. I really didn't wear it much after that.

I really don't like having to explain or defend things that are written on my clothing. I start feeling self-conscious.
Recently I've had a similar problem with one of my shirts that I ordered from Threadless.com. (I love their shirts.)

One of the shirts has writing on it, though. And almost every time I wear the shirt, people will come up and stare at my chest and read what the dialogue on the shirt says. Or they'll ask me what it says. And then after I tell them, they'll ask me why it says what it does, or why I chose that shirt. "I don't know," I'll say. "I just liked it." But I feel like it's never a good enough answer. In fact, I realized that there was more to my shirt than I knew of when I bought it, and it makes me enjoy the shirt a bit less.

(It's kind of like people's cellphone ringtones. You'll get these very uneducated guys that sometimes have classical music as their ringtones. I saw it more often before downloading ringtones was so popular; they'd just chosen a pre-programmed ringtone. And of course they didn't realize it was a symphony that they'd set. They didn't know that the composer was 11 and unable to speak, or that it was written in honor of some queen, or anything about it. Not your typical classical music crowd; they just thought it sounded cool. That amuses me to no end.)
I've had a couple of other issues with writing on shirts lately.
One of my little sisters gifted me some of her trendy clothes that she chooses not to wear (in favor of more comfy clothes.) It included a very comfortable brushed cotton shirt that became my favorite. There was also another one just like it that read "Your boyfriend says hi." that I wasn't really sure what to do about. On the one hand, I wanted to wear it because it was so soft and comfortable. On the other hand, I didn't want anybody to think that their boyfriend would be saying hello to them through me.
I decided that an excellent compromise would be to wear it only for painting. That way I could enjoy junk clothes that were soft and comfortable! I thought it was fantastic. Except...people came over to help Lavish and I paint our apartment, and they would sometimes give me funny looks. I felt awkward about it, too, because I liked and was spending time with a guy who was already in a relationship. My conscious effort to respect his relationship mad me very uncomfortable to be wearing that shirt.
Also, I have a Cecil sweatshirt which has writing on it. I almost always enjoy it anyhow. In California, though, nobody knew who Cecil was. They'd stare at my sweatshirt and say "Sissel is your home boy?" "Mhmm." "Who's Sissel?"

So there you have it, folks. Don't judge me if you don't know me. (Especially not by writing on my t-shirts.)


Uffish Thought said...

Which Threadless shirt is this, again?

I'm usually against clothes-writing, too, but my Threadless shirts have been an exception. Still, I only choose specific kinds of writing--where the joke should be evident after they finish reading. And if they want to discuss it, they generally look at my face to do so.

I hate clothes that advertise a vice. "Brat" or "spoiled" or "school? what's that?" or anything like that. And most other shirts with text, actually. I don't like most patterns, either. Plain shirts are generally my favorites. And Threadless. Which is why I think it's so cool.

Olympus said...