White Shirt

It has always made sense to me that white t-shirts come in packs of three (or more). After all, in a world of coffee, red wine, and bloody noses, the notion that a white shirt will be staying white for any length of time is simply ludicrous. It is just not going to happen. And t-shirts manufacturers understand this. They even capitalize on it. Which is both clever for them and helpful for us. I only wish the manufacturers of white dress shirts felt the same way. Because if they did it would save me a lot of last minute trips to the department store.

First, let me point out that virtually every school event my children have ever participated in lists “white shirt” as a requirement (the only exception is when the dress code is “black shirt,” which you think is going to be better, until you realize that there is no lint brush in the world that can save a shirt past a certain point.) And so, knowing about the “white shirt” requirement, I always make every effort to secure said shirt well ahead of time, either by buying a new one or retrieving an old one and washing it. Inevitably, however, despite all of my planning, the night of the event arrives and the “white shirt” will be no longer white.

It doesn’t matter where I keep the white shirt, either: even hanging it in my own closet is no guarantee of safety. (At this point I doubt it could be saved by placing it in the same vault with the world’s last known specimen of smallpox, which is, as I understand it, carefully guarded deep in the bowels of the earth somewhere in a clean room.) It simply doesn’t make a difference: no matter how carefully I guard the once pristine white shirt, arrival at the concert venue (or dance performance, or award ceremony), always reveals a stain of some sort in some very prominent location. Always. It’s like the scene in every caper movie ever made, where the bad guys open up the vault only to find that the diamonds are already gone—the hero has somehow managed to sneak in and take them. My question here though is both how did a simple shirt end up playing the part of the diamonds, and why did I end up as the villain? (Don’t let my kids answer that.)

It seems to me that the kindest thing the people who organize these events could do would be to set up some kind of white shirt dispensing system in the lobby. It wouldn’t even have to be manned: a vending machine would be fine (although, with my luck the last size small white shirt would get stuck leaning against the glass the same way the last Mars bar always seems to do). Just think about it: instead of selling flowers at the performance for five dollars a piece, they could sell white shirts for twenty. (Or thirty. Probably even fifty. If they were clever—and mercenary—they would raise the price the closer it got to the actual performance.)

Or they could simply change the dress code from “black pants and white shirt” to “pajama bottoms and a dirty t-shirt,” and the problem would be solved. Don’t worry: I’m not suggesting that everyone on stage actually be dressed like hobos; I’m just saying that if that were to be the new dress code then dirty t-shirts would become as scarce as white shirts used to be, leaving everyone no choice but to show up in their nicest attire. It’s reverse shirt psychology. Or something like that.

If nothing else at least it could keep me and all of the other mothers out of the dress shirt aisle at eight pm on a Friday night.

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