Thursday, October 4, 2007

Don't Forget to Give Me Back My Black T-Shirt!

a personal essay:

Four years ago, I went to a Ben Folds concert and bought a t-shirt that would change my life. Or so I thought.

Folds was a piano man extraordinaire, a smirk-rock icon for gently goofy guys like me and cute hipster girls in tortoise-shell glasses. This t-shirt would empower my half-hearted wardrobe and equip me with a readymade conversation starter for said girls:

That a Ben Folds shirt?
Sure is.
I love Ben Folds!
Let's make out!

And so it went- in my head, at least, for reality was crueler. Those Ben Folds-loving girls disappeared from my life the moment I left the show. My t-shirt got nobody talking. Nobody. I wore it on campus. I wore it at Little Five Points. I wore it at Lenox Mall. Either nobody cared for Ben Folds, or nobody cared for me wearing a Ben Folds t-shirt. In the words of a great philosopher, where was the love? Where was the love?

The love was at Costco.

"Cool shirt," said a girl with several earrings. She returned to her cell phone quickly. I looked down at my chest, for I'd forgotten I was sporting the shirt I was sporting. It had been two years since I bought it. Two years. The girl had gone, but I was in business. Costco. Go figure.

But then came another dry spell. No comments, no matter where I'd go. Not even a casual fist pump of conciliation. No "Ben Folds rocks and you and I know that!" Nothing. I accepted that Folds had a small cultish following, that I'd have better luck with Vote for Pedro apparel. But I didn't want the wandering eyes of Napoleon Dynamite fans. I wanted Ben Folds pussy.

The shirt grew old, faded, tattered, especially in the front. It had become part of my half-hearted wardrobe, rather than an exception to it. I stopped expecting anything....until comment #2. September 2007. "Ben Folds is awesome!" shouted the voice.

I turned around and saw not a hipster girl in tortoise-shell glasses, but a dude.

A dude.

"Thanks, man," I said, and that was that.

This exchange also happened at Costco.

Damn you, Costco.

In the end, my Ben Folds shirt was not the subtle-but-lethal opening line I'd hoped. But that's okay. I learned that there were better, more mature ways to approach girls, like, for example, talking to them.


Andrew said...

So, wait. Does that mean my version of your shirt isn't going to work?

NO! But the girls love Dave Matthews!

Michael said...

What about a shirt made of scrunchies?

Chicks dig scrunchies.

YiQi C. said...

Nobody notices you when you deliberately choreograph your body language or plan your wardrobe because you want to be noticed for how you walk or what you wear.

But, due to a lovely thing math-minded folks like to call probability and statistics, if you incorporate particular articles of clothing that are evocative of specific lifestyles or philosophical/ideological views consistently and frequently enough, you will find that people will notice and comment.

Or, you can just wear something that is semiotically inextricably tied to a certain activity and you will get comments. For instance, my hands get cold faster and before anything else on my body. Sometimes i wear "biking" gloves or baseball gloves of golfing gloves when i drive and then keep them on as i purchase a caffeinated beverage or a DVD.

The people working the registers always say something about the gloves. Was I out biking? Was i out golfing? I say that i wear them b/c my hands are cold. And then i have to explain that it's not cold enough for winter gloves.

It's also possible that more people notice your Ben Folds (or any other shirt bearing logos or pop-culture iconography) than you realize--it's just that they don't indicate as much by telling you.