Tuesday, August 11, 2009

the ethics of secondhand

You've seen them. If you spend any time at all in antique stores or thrift shops, you've seen them. Other people's old family pictures. Some with frames interesting enough to warrant a second look. And you feel sorry for those people. All done up in buttons and corsets, or newer faces smiling unwittingly while their loved ones haven't even had the decency to remove them before chucking the frame they're in into the trash bag of other junk -- candle holders still clinging to their drippy stubs, jeans that never really fit them in the first place, a decorative plate stamped with the name of some foreign city they've never been to personally, that someone (who??) will buy for 50 cents, though they too have failed to stroll the streets of the named city.

Those discarded family members are proof of perhaps the most blatant of evils committed in the name of spring cleaning, but there are others – subtler to be sure, but still reeking of severed ties and desecrated memories.

And that's where my husband comes in.

He runs. Jogs. Whatever you call that odd pastime where you become sweaty for no good reason apparent to me. As part of this activity, he likes to have brightly-colored teeshirts. I suppose it's a good idea for the Hummers and Expeditions to have their attention called to something human as they drive by him hoofing it on the side of the road. Or, should his broken body have to be recovered from a trail somewhere, the Coast Guard helicopters would hopefully see a smudge of orange in the brush before it cost them too much money.

Every once in a while Mike goes searching for new shirts.

Plain, solid-colored teeshirts are few and far between, and he's come home with some interesting ones. Like the green one printed for the Bautista family reunion. A yellow tree snaking up it, its branches are labeled with related surnames, its roots hailing the patriarchs and matriarchs of a proud line. This is almost as bad as the pictures in the frames. Some Bautista, embittered, perhaps, indifferent, maybe, has dumped off this tangible piece of a celebration of his ancestry. And Mike is willing to parade around in it, in essence, wearing a lie.

Additionally, if you peeked in my husband's dresser, you might think him one of the most charitable and social men around. He apparently volunteers for fundraisers involving research on any number of diseases. And while Isaac and I weren't looking, he's attended numerous festivities culminating in a souvenir shirt – clearly, hard won, of course.

“I like to live vicariously through my clothes,” he tells me when I question the ethics of his wardrobe.

“The irony of the name 'Goodwill' is not lost on me, either, honey. – You, my friend, are no ambassador. Oh no.”

Recently, he was lamenting having to give away his family reunion shirt, his shoulders, he decided, a bit broader than most of his kinsmen, it seems. Once again, I confronted him. “May I just remind you, you are NOT part of the Bautista family, dude! Nor were you on 'STAFF' at the Juvenile Diabetes Walk for the Cure!”

“Maybe not,” he shrugs smugly. “But I sure did have a great time volunteering at that beach festival in Santa Cruz!”



bobbie said...

I do remember, several years ago, when Mike looked at my T-shirt and commented that he guessed I was going to save the world, one T-shirt at a time. I forget if it was Save the Trees, or the tigers, or the whales. But his reunion and staff shirts do me one better.

I've always thought those ancestral pictures in yard sales are very sad.

Dianne said...

I love the header photo!!!!
what an adventurer he is :)

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