First-World Contemplations – Don’t Buy the T-shirt

This is purely an opinion piece, exactly like all my other posts, and I want you to feel free to agree with me. Let’s talk t-shirts and how buying t-shirts can’t change our lives. In fact, I think buying a t-shirt can be a grave mistake. For example, one sad purchase would be the dated t-shirt. Another one is the t-shirt for an obscure event, especially if that event never happens again. If that event is a once-in-a-lifetime deal that no one’s really heard of, then take a picture of yourself experiencing that moment. No t-shirt necessary. A dated t-shirt is a little different. There might be sentimental value involved, and in such a case, you might consider how you can reclaim the material at the end of the year—and it should be in a way you will truly use. Like, a t-shirt bag is great and all, but we have reusable bags being handed out for free at every function. Is it worth the time and effort to remake a t-shirt into a bag?

We have all fallen for the myth that we are going to wear those t-shirts again. This is only true for a select few that get the honor of being worn to shreds by our brothers, sons, and husbands. As both a thrift store shopper and a donation sorter, I can assure you most households toss stacks and stacks of those custom-made, event t-shirts every year. The thrift stores, in turn, redirect those t-shirts and find other uses for them because they are donated in droves, and they do not sell. Nobody wants to sport the baby blue shirt with the “Haversham’s All-Stars 2013” on the front, and “Go HAS!” on the back.

What happens to these lonely, unwanted t-shirts? Maybe the story should be told by a movie, “T-shirt Story,” where a t-shirt with a cowboy hat and lasso gets jealous of a spaceman t-shirt. Cowboy t-shirt gets spaceman t-shirt thrown out of the house when the owners aren’t looking. Then, in an exciting twist of events, cowboy t-shirt decides to rescue spaceman t-shirt from a horrible t-shirt torturer. Maybe there could be a couple of sequels. Nyah. This story’s going to end up making me cry; I can feel it.

Seriously, lonely t-shirts are sent to nursing homes, where they are used to cover nicer shirts or they are cut up into bibs. They are also made into fat quarters for the quilters who don’t mind working with knit. Some people cut t-shirts into strips and make rag rugs. Those people are not me; but if you have the skill, I think you should go for it. For those of you into “family cloth,” have you considered the potential of these one-day event t-shirts, languishing and forgotten in your child’s drawer? Please think about that. I won’t. It makes me gag, but that’s just me.

How do I reuse old t-shirts? I use them to clean wood and as paint cloths. I also annoy toddlers with them by telling them they can’t paint unless they put a huge, man-size one over their clothes, and they hate me for it. Just so you know I’ve tried, I’ve made the t-shirt bags, too. My daughter made one that came out halfway decent. It was very small, so I stole it to hold my hairdryer. Her hairdryer is now naked and self-conscious. No worries; my daughter is still talking to me.

It isn’t that one-day-event t-shirts aren’t great, it’s that we are buying and donating an abundance of them. I’ve contemplated tallying up how much is spent on t-shirts by the average four-person family. How many sports team, club, work, church, and camp t-shirts do we consume in a year… and can t-shirts be cooked in a way that will make them nutritional? After thinking about the expense of t-shirts, I think it would be fun for budget-savvy families to start a “no-buy t-shirt” savings account. For every t-shirt they probably would have bought, they should put that money in savings. If every member of the family usually bought two t-shirts a year per person at an average price of $12.99 each, a four-person family would save… Wait. I’m not good at math. They would save money. And if families decided to use that money to help someone, they could tell people who were pressuring them to buy the t-shirt that they had committed the money they usually use to pay for t-shirts to a cause that is personally important to them.

What about the free t-shirts at events? Well, someone is paying for them, even if you get them for free. And I can’t help but wonder what would happen if event organizers considered that money as a donation for a cause instead of buying t-shirts with it. Like, instead of including a t-shirt in the registration fee, why not charge the same registration fee, figure out how much it would have cost to print those t-shirts, and advertise that “in lieu of t-shirts this year, a portion of your registration goes to such-and-such charity”? It’s trendy for birthdays, right? Basically, you get to not bring home another t-shirt for the same price that you get to help both a charity and help the overrun-with-t-shirts thrift store.

Together, I think we just might save the world… one less t-shirt at a time.

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Camp and Boys

I was fifteen years old the last time I was at summer camp… and a teensy-weensy bit suspended from going back the next year. When I was told I couldn’t go back to sleeping on a thin mattress in a cabin with no A/C and lots of creeping surprises—like ticks, spiders, roaches, and snakes—in the middle of the sweltering Florida summer, I was okay with that. Now I have my own kids, and they wanted to go to camp. I wanted to know about the camp I was sending them to. So, I asked to be a counselor, and I got my wish: one week of sleep-deprived, wilderness survival. Oh boy.

It wasn’t that bad—and I say that because it’s been two weeks since I got back from camp, and I’ve tried to block most of it out. Plus, my kids loved it. They didn’t seem to notice the filthy bathrooms and the chigger bites up their legs. There was a 75% off sale on candy bars on the last day, and what is there to complain about after that?

My daughter, Dawn, did have one complaint, though: her date for the bonfire.

Every camp session has an end-of-the-week couple event that sends the younger campers into a frenzy worrying about having to go with a boy or girl. The crisis is real; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Those kids are sweating it, and the fear smells really, really bad.

Dawn had no idea there was any such thing as going to a bonfire with a boy. Dawn is aware of boys; that’s about it. Dawn did not want to go with a boy anywhere. Dawn wanted nothing to do with a boy, and if a boy even brought up the bonfire subject she was going to scream and run.

“I am not going to the bonfire with a boy, Mom!” she averred on the first day.

“You don’t have to,” I told her.

“Are you sure? They made it sound like I have to!”

“They’re just doing that for fun.”

She calmed down. “Okay, because I don’t want to go with a boy.”

Then one of her cabin mates decided a little matchmaking was in order. It consisted of asking the boy sitting across from Dawn at lunch in the mess hall, “Do you have a date for the bonfire?” And telling him, “Then you and Dawn should go together.”

Dawn is not a violent child. Normally. In that instance she turned on her matchmaking friend, gave her the evil eye, and said between clinched teeth, “Stop it.”

Her cabin mate, a new friend, was unaware that this was Dawn’s violent side and all manner of plans were going through Dawn’s head for disposing of this new friend pronto.

The friend pressed the subject.

Dawn drew close, and in quiet, blood-curdling tones, repeated through her teeth, “Stop it!”

The friend didn’t get the hint, and Dawn left the table mid-meal.

Heated words were spoken in the cabin during rest hour. Dawn was incensed. Her ex-friend was offended. I felt very sorry for Dawn, but, well… C’est la camp! I won’t say I never tried to match my friends up. I won’t say they never hated me for it.

Then something really tragic happened. Dawn was asked to the bonfire by a boy! She said, “No.” And she felt bad.

“Mom, I feel awful for telling him I wouldn’t go with him. I didn’t even tell him why. I just said, ‘no,’ and walked away.”

“Then go back and tell him it’s because you just don’t want to go to the bonfire with a boy.”

“I just feel so bad,” she said. “He’s very unattractive, Mom.”

So, Dawn in all her gentleness went back to the ugly boy and told him she was sorry for having to tell him no. It wasn’t him; it was her.

He responded, “That’s okay. I was just asking random girls.”

When Dawn relayed this to me, I laughed. “See? You don’t need to feel bad!”

“But, Mom! Now I feel worse! All those girls have told him ‘no.’” She shook her head. “He’s so unattractive, but… he seems nice.”

I should’ve seen where this was going and warned the tender-hearted child, but I didn’t. The next conversation we had, she looked at me intently and told me, “I’m going with that boy to the bonfire.”

“You are?”

“Yes. I told him, ‘If you still want me to go with you, I will.’”

I didn’t try to persuade her out of it. I could see she was determined it was the right thing to do. After all, I knew she didn’t really like him, unlike her twin sister, Pearl, who had found a way to threaten the boy she liked into going with her to the bonfire. I had my hands full keeping my eye on Pearl.

So, the day of the bonfire arrived. The young campers’ moods were tense up to the hour of the bonfire. The momentous occasion came… and went. On the way back from the bonfire, Dawn found me. She was fuming.

“Mom! That boy was soooo dumb!”

I grinned. “What did he do?”

“Oh! He—everything! First of all, he made me sit on the end of the bench, and I only had half a seat. And second of all, he started to fall asleep on me.”

I laughed.

“Mom, he kept trying to shine his flashlight in my eyes. He wanted me to see how long I could stare at the light. Mom, he was so dumb he blinded himself with the flashlight.”

I died laughing.

She stopped walking and said, “It’s not funny.”

“I’m not laughing at you,” I said, trying to contain my laughter. “It may not be funny to you now, but it will be.”

She wasn’t convinced. “He was so dumb! I shouldn’t have gone with him.”

“I think you’ve learned a lesson here,” I told her. “A boy who is unattractive may not have any redeeming qualities. Don’t sacrifice yourself just because you feel sorry for someone.”

“He blinded himself with his own flashlight, Mom! Who does that?”

“Dumb boys?”

She groaned.

That night, the girls in the cabin recounted what happened around the bonfire, and Dawn told her story with all of the indignation and none of the disappointment. It was followed up with stories on stupid things boys do.

“Is it funny now?” I asked her amidst the laughter.

“Yeah.” She studied the underside of the top bunk and mused, “I just can’t believe anybody can be that dumb!”

Yes, there are dumb boys out there, Dawn. I hate to tell you, but there are lots of dumb boys. Some of them are unattractive. You can feel sorry for them, but don’t let pity or misplaced guilt influence you. Some of them are attractive. Don’t let their looks fool you; they are still dumb. It’s perfectly fine to say ‘no’ and walk away.

Bug Plug

This morning, I read two blog posts about bugs and toilets. Here is the first from Tilly Bud’s The Laughing Housewife. Here is the second from Joe Kurtenbach’s blog. Is it bug and toilet week on WordPress? Here’s my bug contribution (sorry, no toilets mentioned):

Bug Plug

While to slumber I was switching;
To my great surprise, an itching;
Started tingling there upon my outstretched hand.

Well, I quickly went to scratch it;
Felt a bug and tried to catch it;
Oh, that
is the type of waking I can’t stand.

Now I feel the little critters;
Up and down, gives me the jitters;
Ack! How dare that bug presume on me to land!

Here I am in my own cubby;
Snuggled down warm with my hubby;
‘Get you home, unwelcome creature!’ I demand.

But a bug’s a bug, I know it;
Lands on prince and pope and poet;
Doesn’t matter if I’m little known or grand.

Yet, if I could give him one thought:
‘Do not land on those you ought not.’
Then would bugs rate ‘most intelligent’ in the land.

Have an in’critter’ble week!