In honor of the surprising newfound readership of this blog, here’s a story about another time one of my stupid jokes went too far and I caved under pressure and quit (what I assume will happen here shortly).
My family could never afford brand name clothing. Every August, we’d pick a Saturday to hit up a couple of Lower Middle Class Department Stores and sift through the clearance racks. Even if you pay Goodwill prices, you’re not poor if you get it at TJ Kohl’s Dead-Eyed Parent Emporium! Find one at (near) the mall. Everyone else’s large is a medium and all the clothes kind of smell like milk.
Depending on where we lived and which way my ideology of the week leaned, this was a source of either embarrassment or contrarian pride. At fifteen, surrounded by January-tan Gap models with lake houses who kept inviting me to youth group, it was the latter in a walk. One belief I carried with me long after I quit being religious was among my father’s favorite “the devil perverts society” talking points: stern anti-materialism. From the day in the late 90s I ruined my only pair of JNCO jeans onward, I’ve refused to wear anything with a logo.
Yep. I’m such a hipster that I’ve been doing this since before going to liberal arts school and learning how to properly perform cunnilingus on Naomi Klein.
Back then, though, I took it much farther. The only shirts I’d wear were black, grey, or blue baggy plain tees. In middle school, I wrote DEATH TO CONFORMITY in silver gel pen on all my binders. When I showed up to the first day of school sophomore year wearing all black, a teacher pulled me out of the hall to ask me a few tense, vague questions, starting with “Is everything okay?” It wasn’t until after a few minutes of this that I realized she was avoiding asking “you’re not going to murder anyone because your dad fucks you, right?”
I was a shitty little dude, though, so I wore it like a badge of honor. I thought I was better than everyone because my t-shirts cost five bucks and theirs were sixty. Since I had never owned anything nice, me and my untrained eye thought the whole $55 markup came from slapping Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle on the thing and calling it a day. (My nipples are visible in every photo of me from 1998-2006.)
So I decided to take my weird hate out on everyone. One day, feeling especially snide, I scrawled this on a sheet of printer paper:
i jsut wrot “abbercrumby n fich” on this shirt wil u pay me $60 4 it??
Then I taped it to my chest and went to school.
I pranced into the halls, confident that everyone would be pissed at me for mocking the brand that formed the core of their lifestyle, and that I would finally be acknowledged as the subversive force I dreamed myself to be. The homecoming court would look on me with revulsion, and one of the cool English teachers would tell me to never give up, and I’d sit alone at lunch, and then a cute artist chick that everyone thinks is a lesbian because of her short hair would put her tray down across from NOPE! They loved it!
Sure, nobody figured out that the shirt was supposed to be petty angst instead of good-hearted ribbing, but fuck it! Word got around, and by my last class, everyone ran to me once I stepped through the door because, for the first time ever, my reputation preceded me. My comic’s narcissism took over. These people I hate think I’m funny.
So I dropped any pretense of a message and did it again the next day, and then through the rest of the week, every day a different joke scotch-taped to my pubescent manboobs. Some were better received than others, but the attention was all that mattered.
On Friday, I met my first administrative resistance when my health teacher made me take off a sign that said “I beat anorexia.” (I couldn’t tell you if I stole that one consciously or not.) The next Monday, I had to take off my sign because it was a veiled bondage joke. Tuesday? Didn’t even wear one Tuesday. Yes! I was finally a martyr! A martyr that the students supported. Hot Christ did I love eating that cake.
I assured everyone that I hadn’t been beaten, that I had just decided to only make a new sign two or three times a week. But it wasn’t the same. The next couple of signs were successful, but I couldn’t top that first surprise hit. That, and it wasn’t worth people staring expectantly at my chest whenever I walked into a room. (Alaina, I know how you feel.) Soon, the signs were gone and not missed.
So, I learned my lesson: don’t tape weird hateful jokes to your chest. God I was fucking weird.