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Forty-one Shirts

November 3rd, 2006 · Written by · No Comments

In a recent survey, conducted exclusively in my closet and laundry hamper, I discovered I am the “proud” owner of forty-one tee shirts. The breakdown of these forty-one tee-shirts is as follows: Ten blue, five black, five white, four gray, three red, two orange, two yellow, one green, one tan, one taupe, one brown, and seven ring-collared and sleeved shirts of various color combinations. Garnered through unforeseeable osmosis the last seven years, I now find myself at the mercy of these inanimate objects. How did this happen – this multi-colored cotton and polyester blend vortex spinning my head with horrific indecision? Have I become what I despise; a voracious and insatiable consumer of truly meaningless goods? A hipster-dandy wearing that slacker tee-shirt look all the way to a sad, lonely, and overwhelmed-with-fabric end? Do I really need two of the exact same shirts or two of the same shirt with slight color variations? Is it bad that I’ve never worn at least four of these wastes-of-closet-space in public? Why have I placed so much value on my fashion consciousness and what does it say about me that it involves tee-shirts?

I think my owning forty-one tee-shirts signifies something generally disturbing about myself to myself.

I think my owning forty-one tee-shirts signifies something generally disturbing about myself to myself. I – although quite aware of the ill modern habits of the everyday American – bought into it, literally and with my soul. I can’t part with my navy and yellow “I’d rather be in Grand Junction” shirt, even though I wear it once every two months, because I’ve placed substantial value on it. I will want other tee-shirts – better colored ones, better fitting ones, plainer, funnier, classier, all-in-all different species of tee-shirts – because I can’t stop consuming, nor can I rid myself of any one in my collection.

My forty-one tee shirts pulsate. They call to me from the darkened closet, giving me so many choices I am made indecisive, wasting hour upon hour in agonizing inconclusiveness. And even when I pick one to wear the other forty are there with it – questioning my decisions, pointing out better combinations to my pants, advertising themselves in my brain through selected memory, haunting my mind-space by sheer numbers, letting me believe other people will behave better towards me if I wear the correct shirt on the right day.

Even more perplexing than the idea that my daily life can be affected by putting on a specific item of clothing: I am beguiled by this incessant pull to keep purchasing shirts. Perhaps, like so many Americans, I choose to fill my personal voids with things that do not breathe because of the notion that these purchases will somehow breathe life into me. And maybe that’s at the heart of over-consumerism. Americans – increasingly isolated from one another and becoming more and more oblivious to each other’s everyday habits – are latching on to easy dependable “things.” Objects are better than dogs or cats and especially humans because they are easily replaced – right?

Here was a 40-year-old woman with an entire room devoted to Disney memorabilia to go along with her three Mickey Mouse tattoos.

As an example, my college roommate’s mom was fixated on Mickey Mouse. Here was a 40-year-old woman with an entire room devoted to Disney memorabilia to go along with her three Mickey Mouse tattoos. One could argue that hording these sappy collectibles was her hobby but I don’t think so. To me it was her way of distancing herself from everybody. An escape to a twisted alternate reality full of glossy “enchanted” ceramic figurines, dominated by a cherub-cheeked rat wearing strange pants and no shirt. It was her way of saying, “fuck you” to her husband while driving a “goofy” unexplainable wedge between herself and her children.

If you’ve ever read the children’s book series The Berenstain Bears, you might remember the book devoted to what the authors called “The Got Gimmies.” It was basically a book made in reaction to the “sudden” societal problem – in 1988 apparently – of children asking for small treats every time the family went out of the house. These little turds, watching too many commercials during Sesame Street and Saturday morning cartoons, said, “Gimmie! Gimmie!” whenever they saw an object of their desire.

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