I was poking around in a T.J. Maxx the other day (because I only shop at the very finest fashion houses, such as Targét and an exclusive haute couture establishment known as Goodwill Industries) and I came across a shirt that looked sort of strange . . . yet intriguingly so. It was butter-soft, a soothing mauvey-grey-beige tone that promised to be the perfect neutral, and it fell in luxurious drapes. I held it up in front of my body and something inside my heart said yes. Yes, this shirt will be the amazing blend of comfort and glamour I have always wanted. I imagined pairing it with yoga pants for lounging around the house in a laid-back, yet wildly attractive manner; I imagined wearing it with heels and eye-catching jewelry and feeling myself flooded with pure confidence as men and woman alike stopped dead in their tracks and stared, mesmerized by the effortlessly chic vision that stood before them.
I clutched The Shirt—for that it how it came to be known in my mind, as an object worthy of capitalization—to my chest, faintly worried that someone else would be equally drawn in by its charms and take the last size M, and ferried my glorious discovery to the fitting room. I very nearly didn’t bother with this step, as I was so utterly certain it would be like Cinderella’s glass slipper, but I also couldn’t wait to see the transformation take place.
Once I was properly undressed and unpleasantly illuminated under the T.J. Maxx fluorescents, the first creeping doubt set in. The Shirt had all sorts of interesting folds, to be sure, but it also seemed to have more holes than what, strictly speaking, seemed to be necessary. No matter, I thought, it will resolve itself once it’s on, because this is the sort of Shirt that can’t be done justice by some sort of mere hanger. It requires a human body to come to life, and clearly I was meant to be that body.
I slipped it over my head, and that’s when the trouble started. There was an immediate indication that something had gone wrong—my arms were stuck out at strange angles and my face was buried in fabric. When I attempted to backtrack, I found myself pulling yards and yards of cloth around in a fruitless effort to get my head through the right section. Caught in a sea of mauve-grey-beige, I started to panic.
Blindly, I rooted around with the tip of my nose, attempting to push my way facefirst through The Shirt. My arms were trapped and it felt as though sections of cloth were hanging down to the floor while another areas were tightening around my left ear, and I began to flail around and knock into the walls of the fitting room, which were narrowing in some sort of nightmarish horror movie scenario.
I don’t know how long I spent locked in a death grip with The Shirt, but just when I was thinking I’d have to start bellowing for help, my head popped through an opening and my arms were suddenly free. I was panting and faintly sweaty and felt more than a little as though I’d been birthed from the canal of some terrible cotton-beast, but I took a deep breath and turned to face the mirror. After all that, I was surely going to look like a goddamned goddess. Il faut souffrir pour etre belle, no?
This. This is what I saw.
I can still remember when, as a child, I finally received the Amazing Live Sea Monkeys I’d ordered from the back of a comic book. I was in a frenzy of anticipation to see my little pet family cavorting around in their “bowl of happiness,” swimming and performing stunts and obeying my every command. And oh, the resentful disappointment when I discovered they were nothing more than a pile of dream-killing brine shrimp.
I can now say I have experienced a letdown even worse than Sea Monkeys, friends. I hope whoever designed that Shirt goes straight to hell, where there’s nothing to wear but stupid unflattering outfits festooned with inexplicable holes, and nothing to eat but shrimp brined in the salty sorrow of in bitter, bitter tears.