Thursday, May 19, 2011

The shirt that keeps on lying

I'm a bit of a thrift store junkie; if you read this silly blog regularly, you know that already, because I mentioned it here, and here, and here... (I really do lead a normal life, I swear to you—I don't just hang out at resale shops and scan the craigslist page.)

Anyway, I like to shop secondhand. A few years back, I was searching for a replacement sweatshirt to take the place of ol' Esprit. Ol' Esprit was a baggy, grey, mostly-cotton-blend that I had worn happily for years. It was loose in all the right places, had a snug enough neck to actually provide warmth and coverage, and was the perfect neutral shade so it matched nearly everything I own. However, as often happens to favorites, Esprit began to show serious signs of love. When the seams started to split and I could no longer leave the house in it for fear of being jailed for vagrancy, I knew it had to go. I wore it when painting for awhile, but knew all along I needed a shirt to step into Esprit's shoes.

Enter the nearby Goodwill store, which in addition to its convenient location, also accepts debit cards for any amount, no matter how small. I went there to find my new sweatshirt love. I wore a T-shirt, so the try-on procedure would be simple, could be done even without a dressing room (in case they were filled), and would replicate new sweatshirt's most common wearing scenario: over a T. I found lots of options, but only one fit the bill perfectly—the fit was ideal, boxy and wide but not too long; the bottom band was not tight at all, thus permitting free movement and requiring no tugging. Best of all, the arms were not too long! This must have been a true woman's sweathshirt; all the men's versions are always designed for gorillas, or at least it looks that way on me with my short limbs. The only problem with the grey sweatshirt was that it sported a lovely Harvard Business School logo in the top left corner. The logo colors were nice and subtle, dark maroon and navy, and other than that I loved the shirt. So, I purchased it and decided it would not matter that it had writing on it, which I normally shun. (Writing should be on paper. Or a monitor.)

I brought the shirt home, washed it, and have worn it all over the place since that day. But the funny thing is that the Harvard thing gets a lot of attention. I've had a number of people ask me if I went to Harvard. Of course I tell them the truth: "Oh, yes, Muffy and I roomed together and I graduated Summa Cum Laude..." Okay, I tell them the real truth, which is no, I've never even set food in the state, let alone on Harvard's campus. And most people seem to be either happy about it (I'm not such a big shot after all) or disappointed to learn I'm a fraud.

The last person to ask was the chubby, curly-haired young guy working the deli at the nearby grocery. He was a friendly fellow, and I was the only one waiting for cold cuts, so he felt unhurried and entitled to chat. "You said a half-pound, right?" I nodded. He went on: "Did you go to Harvard?"

"No, I bought this at a thrift store."

He was one of the disappointed ones, perhaps looking to meet that one Ivy League person walking around the Shop 'n Save. "Yeah, I guess if you'd been there, you wouldn't be shopping here."

"Well, maybe I would be. Those people have to eat, too," I replied. He handed me the package and we parted ways.

But I thought about it. What are the chances of my meeting a Harvard grad of any kind in my local deli? Would I be buying ham off the bone somewhere in the North Hills of Pittsburgh if I'd walked the halls of Harvard Business School? I only know one person who went to Harvard, and I don't know if she actually attended the school—only that she was accepted. And if she is studying there, will she come back to Pittsburgh to practice whatever she's practicing, or will she likely flock to a bigger, more citified city? If she does live here, will she choose a simple, very affordable neighborhood in the 'burbs, or purchase some mansion nowhere near me? Will she shop for lunch meat, or send a minion? Or are we all really pretty much the same, even the very bright and well educated?

One has to wonder.

P.S. I'm wearing the shirt today. Inside out. I like to get double my money.

P.P.S. This one's starting to look pretty ratty, too... Short-armed sweatshirt donations will be shamelessly accepted.

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