Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New to me...

A stunning development on our farm today.  No - not the Crop Report I have officially lost my mind.

Or at least my memory. I was working on a humor article when I wondered if I had already used a particularly lame gag.  So I went to my FJ archives...

While scrolling through the list, I stumbled across one literary effort of which I had no - as in zero - recall:

© 2003 John Phipps

                    Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

Wadded into our drawers or lurking under our dress shirts, t-shirts threaten
to overtake modern man’s casual attire. Not a moment too soon, I say. The
concept of using a garment that is essentially underwear for outerwear is a
breakthrough that should no longer be just Victoria’s Secret.

My vast t-shirt collection is more than an enormous source of laundry for
Jan or shop-rags-in-waiting. It is a combination of photo album, travel diary,
cultural achievement summary, and family history. Long after I have
forgotten where Churchill is buried (somewhere overseas, I think) I will
recall with perfect clarity the underground shop where I first saw the “Mind
the Gap” London Tube t-shirt. T-shirts have become life’s mnemonic
devices – jogging tired memory cells to semi-awareness. 

Almost every event, no matter how trivial can merit a t-shirt. Had your
wisdom teeth pulled? How ‘bout a t-shirt emblazoned with a catchy slogan
like “Novocain is for sissies”. I’ve seen shirts saying “Ask me about my
grandpuppies” and “My child is an honor student at IL State Juvenile

Like modern headwear, T-shirts allow modest and soft-spoken people to
shout comments sartorially. When our spouse starts wearing an “I’m with
stupid” shirt, we reach for our “– for the time being” shirt. In fact, when we
notice a white T-shirt unblemished by ad or admonition, we are often taken
aback by the avoidance of public discourse. I mean everybody has one
opinion, surely.

Our first emblems of belonging are often T-ball t-shirts that hang like
nightgowns on miniature ballplayers. Later in life our companies, customers
and vendors will try to “T-brand” us with perverse offers of free underwear
from strangers. (And we worry about candy?)

Many of my t-shirts are remembrances of museum visits in exotic locations
– Amsterdam, London, Cleveland. These proofs-of-culture are proudly worn
to display my tractability as a husband, evidence that when vacations are
planned, nobody consults me. Still they differentiate me in farmer groups
from those who wear mostly what arrives free in the mail.

In fact, my rule for “Great Art” has become: If it doesn’t look good on the
paunch of an unshaven middle-aged farmer, it isn’t Great Art.  I have t-shirt
versions of Monet’s “Water Lilies”, Van Gogh’s “Wheatfield”, and Miss
Piggy as Mona Lisa.

Recently the Hanes Company, in an unexpected fit of customer empathy
announced that it would no longer attach scratchy tags to the back of the
collar of their t-shirts. It amazed me that several decades of t-shirts had to be
manufactured before someone in the company actually wore one for a day.
At any rate, this development has altered my marriage.

Jan once – no, make that has repeatedly – pointed out that our marriage
vows contained no reference to tediously picking out the stitching on t-shirt
tags. I countered with the salient argument: “Awww, jeeez!”  Having
suffered without silence for most of my adolescent years from scratchy-tag
syndrome (yes, we’re talking the heartbreak of STS) the prospect of relief
without the gash that removal with tin snips produces was a key factor in my
decision to wed. If only I had waited 32 years.

Recently I have become fascinated with the problem of t-shirt aging. Where
do the little holes come from? And why do they seem to invite fingers to be
stuck through them, sometimes while in the choir loft. While it can make
amusing horseplay for tenors and other children, these small holes seem to
appear at random and frequently after I have used an air hose to blow the
crud and corrosion off a tractor battery. I sense a pattern here…

T-shirts also shrink disproportionately. Mine seem intent on strangling my
armpits while the neck sags to catch chaff and dust from above. Still, their
remarkable tensile strength comes in handy when shirt buttons fail and
unrestrained abdomens threaten to escape to freedom.

T-shirts are marvelous in their versatility. Caught without a handkerchief
during allergy season? That’s what shirttails are for. In fact, as a high school
basketball apprentice whose nose ran when his feet did (and yes, they both
smell – har, har!), I discovered that blowing your nose on your T-shirttails
not only was handy, it kept defenders from hand-checking or pushing off.

Few things can comfort like an old t-shirt fresh from the dryer on a cold day.
Moreover, nothing says love like identically folded t-shirts stacked neatly in
a drawer. And of course one mustn’t discount the benefits of wet t-shirts,
such as livening up a lackluster seed corn meeting.

Perhaps Plato put it best: “Underestimating underwear undermines
understanding”. Or was that Bluto?

Did I write this?  I have no idea.  (Oddly, one reason may be its outstanding hilarity, according to real science.)

Depending on whether you enjoy it, consider that I may have.


Anonymous said...

John , for humor I thought you were going too say that if some dairy farmer needed a winter break in Phoenix you will milk his cows for him -regards-kevin (keep up the good work)

Anonymous said...

Funny thing is I DO remember this column. Good thing this stuff is on the internet for ever and ever. You will have something for Jan to read to you in your old senile years. And it will seem new every time.


John Phipps said...


ow - that stung a bit. But as I always say "senility is as senility does".