Absentee Fig Leaves Insult My Intelligence

Once upon a time, a young man named Adam shared a garden with his wife Eve and a devious little critter named Mister Happysnake.  The not-so-happy couple had, much to their regret, recently discovered an abiding love of apples and had subsequently found that some parts of their paradise were at risk of frostbite.  Mister Happysnake, in particular, was not amused.  The frigid winds caused him to shrivel up in fear until he no longer resembled that evil serpent who had visited such harm on him.

“Please protect me,” cried Mister Happysnake.  “It’s so cold I can’t even release my tears.”

Eve heard her friend’s cries and begged Adam to find some sort of solution growing from the ground.  Adam hesitated, remembering the last time he had listened to his wife when she was under the influence of lizards.  But he relented and soon discovered a most excellent fig leaf.

Appreciating nature is a lost art.  (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

Appreciating nature is a lost art. (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

Unlike the apple, the fig leaf was a gift sent from heaven.  It remained magically affixed to the much grateful Mister Happysnake and it formed an airtight shield.

But one day the serpent returned and told Eve, “Lady, you gotta try this new cotton plant.  Just pull it out of the ground, roll it up, weave it just like this, and you’ve got something that will make Mister Happysnake even warmer.”

Eve did as the serpent said, for the Big Man hadn’t prohibited the use of this plant.  Unfortunately, she lacked the artistic skill necessary to make a properly warm article of clothing.  It didn’t matter, though. Adam took pride in his wife’s handiwork and the couple started teaming up to create more and more holey items, for the Big Man had encouraged holeyness and they didn’t want to divert from his wishes again.

And soon their lives revolved around manufacturing these useless items and then convincing the nearby sheep and alpacas that a cotton sweater was exactly what they needed to make their lives complete.

God bless progress.

Brand Names Insult My Intelligence

I do not purchase clothing that prominently displays a brand name.  (On the other hand, I’d be tempted to wear an “I love Halliburton” t-shirt for the shock value.  But that’s another post…)  I am not a walking billboard and I am not stupid enough to pay for the privilege of becoming one.

Unfortunately, most people are not as wise as I am and I usually must remain silent about their mindless attire.

I’m not presumptuous enough to tell you that clothing should be art.  Since I’m less than wealthy, I see little point in plunking down over $100.00 for a designer shirt that will be shredded within a year or two.  (Those luxury goods aren’t always designed to last.  Rich people often care more about the latest fashions and they can afford to replace things more regularly.  In their minds, a shirt from 2012 has already gone out of style and belongs in the dumpster.)

Instead, I want my clothing to cover all of the necessary body parts and remain intact long enough to keep my bank account from crashing.   (Gender appropriateness is also important.)  Therefore: clearance racks!

And you thought this would be an advertisement for Wal-Mart…

This works for me because I’m a guy.  By contrast, women often like to accessorize with pretty things.  For example, a non-utilitarian purse.  They treat it like clothing and it has to match the outfit, so they often end up owning many purses.

I’ll leave the “battle of the sexes” content to the bloggers who do it better.  I’m more interested in the idiotic, and one particular design type stands out.  It’s the standard “look how special I am because I can afford an expensive brand” variety:

This demonstrates the owner's aesthetic excellence.  (Photo credit: )

This demonstrates the owner’s sense of aesthetic superiority. (Photo credit: prettycatty)

Let’s review.  You’re carrying around a container that holds cash, cards, and expensive electronics.  Why are you advertising to potential thieves that the contents might be especially valuable?  Of all the purses at the football game (note the obligatory transgression of gender stereotypes), yours now stands out as the most desirable to steal.  Brilliant!

Of course, your bag’s probably fake.  Just like you.

Funny how things work out…

New Socks Insult My Intelligence

When preparing to travel, many of us often forget to consider the “small” objects that occupy so much room in a suitcase.  If you’re taking your SUV on a long road trip, your time can be spent on more important thoughts such as not forgetting those small objects; after all, you could fit a small department store in that vehicle.  However, this time of year sees many students (and a few others) preparing to spend a summer or maybe even a year or more in a foreign country.

Let’s assume that you’ve lined up a one-year job in France starting in a month.  You’re putting all of your furniture into storage because it’s too expensive to ship and you suddenly reach the inevitable realization: I can only bring three suitcases (or fewer if you can’t carry three on your own) and these three suitcases must contain the necessities for twelve months.

And so you ask yourself what you need to buy before embarking on your adventure.  Your destination’s climate is different and your clothing choices should reflect that.  That brings you to the stores and you inevitably make the ultimate impulse buy: socks.  Big beautiful fluffy white socks that will make your feet feel so good as you walk and walk and walk and walk around a country where it didn’t pay to bring your car.  Did I mention you’ll be walking a lot?

Well-worn socks.  (Photo credit: knitting Iris at http://www.flickr.com/photos/87255087@N00/8030202142/ )

Well-worn socks. (Photo credit: knitting Iris at http://www.flickr.com/photos/87255087@N00/8030202142/ )

Anyway, you bring your loot home and soon it’s time to pack.  Suitcase, meet socks.  Socks, meet suitcase.

And guess what.  Those socks take up a ton of room that could be used for other things.

Unless your name is Clinton, this type of "Socks" was never an issue.  (Photo Credit: Ben Sheldon at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensheldon/3190911949/ )

Unless your name is Clinton, this type of “Socks” was never an issue. (Photo Credit: Ben Sheldon at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensheldon/3190911949/ )

And with that in mind, I would like to share a few packing tips.  As I am not an expert on women’s clothing, my examples will come from the men’s side of the department store.  Nevertheless, most of my recommendations should also apply to the ladies.

Rule #1: They sell socks in France. Actually, they sell socks in most countries and you won’t go broke if you buy them over there.  Once your travels end, they’ll be well-worn (read: more compact) and easier to ship home.  You only need to pack enough socks to last you until you can go shopping.  In some European countries, you can wear the same socks for a month (or so it seems) without anyone noticing the odor… so I wouldn’t worry too much about bringing a lot of socks.  Just sit back and appreciate the water conservation efforts.  Seriously.  If you’re lucky, you’ll stop noticing the smell just like the natives did.

Rule #2: You will be shipping a lot of stuff home unless you only pack two of the three suitcases you bring.  Besides souvenirs, you’ll pile up a ton of new stuff you’ll use while you’re there.  Of course, the empty suitcase trick only works well if you’re spending a couple of months with a host family that already has dishes and other household necessities for you to break borrow.

Rule #3: Some items aren’t worth bringing.  Unless you’re wearing it on the plane, skip the sweaters, leather jackets, and blue jeans.  Compared to fleece and khakis, they take up a ton of room and your first goal is to not be naked and still fit your TSA-approved travel-size toothpaste into a suitcase.  With a few exceptions, you should choose the clothing that takes up the least space.  After all, your most snazzy clothes may not appear too snazzy in a foreign context.

Rule #4: Underwear is ambiguous.  When traveling, especially if you’ll end up sharing a hotel or hostel room, you’re probably going to be undressing in front of people… unless you always utilize the bathroom for this purpose.  That silk banana hammock thong is probably going to freak people out even if you’ve all seen enough penises to start an Oscar Mayer factory.  And you probably will see that much nudity but you’ll get used to it quicker than you’d expect.  You don’t necessarily have to go with the bulky flannel boxers but you should plan to show some courtesy towards your roommates.

Rule #5: Bring an international size conversion chart because each country uses a different set of numbers.  Oh, and “extra large” can resemble a U.S. medium at times.  Also assume that your chart will usually be wrong, so be prepared to try everything on before buying it.  Except of course for that nice big fluffy 6-pack of socks in plastic wrapping…

Coed Naked Immaturity Insults My Intelligence

Cultures have layers that can be peeled off like clothes.

My regular readers may remember that I’ve written several posts about my time in Switzerland.  (Here’s the first, second, third, and fourth.)  Today, I will strip the culture even more bare by showing the naked landscape without its coat of snow.  So here’s the pic:

Relaxing for tourists, up to a point...

Relaxing for tourists, up to a point…

This photo comes to you from the resort village of Interlaken.  The mountains form the culture’s outermost layer, the one that gave the world Heidi and all those sports and scenic views people flock to the country for.  Then, if you look closely at the building’s perimeter, you’ll find the diving boards for a public pool as well as some tourists who the pool’s intended for.  But then on the inside, behind those large windows in the center of the building, you’ll find a cultural layer where few dare to tread.

I’ll give you a hint: there’s a reason I didn’t get closer to the windows to take this photograph.

Those windows shield the “wellness” facility.  It has saunas, a hot tub, a cold bucket of water (read: shower) and a torture device called a kneipp; you put your aching feet under the kneipp’s faucet and it alternates between boiling and frigid water.

You’ll be gravely disappointed if you clicked on this post hoping for adult content.  Men and women use these facilities together and there’s not much clothing to be seen.  You may wear a towel in the saunas (not a swimsuit) although some people lie naked on their towels.  The changing area is shielded from the windows but not from everyone’s view… although there is a restroom.  The facility prohibits underwear because that carries sexual connotations.

Few know about this layer of Switzerland and, among those who do, even fewer want to see it.  I had been in Europe long enough to not be uncomfortable with seeing the nudity, though I wasn’t quite willing to go inside.  After long and active days, I couldn’t let my squeamishness keep me from the accompanying relaxation.  The Swiss are used to it and it isn’t sexual for them, so I’m presumably not going to Hell for seeing all those body parts.

And the strangest thing happens if you visit often enough.  You learn to get annoyed when immature loudmouths come through or get uncomfortable with the tourist couple that cuddles suggestively in the hot tub.  The nudity becomes invisible and the interruptions become notable.

I eventually left this innermost layer of Switzerland and returned to the United States.  Somewhat surprisingly, I found myself having to learn how to respect my home culture’s norms.  It’s the “oh, wait… I ought to be looking away” reflex that evaporated during my foreign travels.  And of course, a lot of the old humor wasn’t still funny.  I went shopping with an old friend and she tried to get me riled up by showing me topless photos a store was selling.  I yawned and she hasn’t introduced me to any single women since then.

Life is funny sometimes.

Paying Full Price Insults My Intelligence

Models in a mall

(Photo credit: Toban B.)

Although I am unemployed, I still have to wear clothes.  (Trust me, that’s not negotiable around here.)  That means I have to own clothes and I can’t own clothes unless I buy them.

I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart and similar stores because the merchandise just doesn’t last very long.  However, I have a fairly strict budget.  And in spite of this, I don’t have to walk around naked.   So I’d like to share an easy tip with all of you.

First rule of shopping on a budget: don’t go to the advertised sales.  Advertised sales are designed to get customers in the door to view a very limited number of reduced price items in hopes that other (more expensive) merchandise will also be purchased.  You should also know that some clothing manufacturers prohibit stores from advertising their products below a certain price point.  It tarnishes the brand’s image if everyone knows you can get Armani for ten bucks.

Instead, stop in occasionally when there’s no official sale going on.  Stores still have to get rid of unsold merchandise and they do it under the radar when there’s no publicized “special event.”  After all, stores are allowed to sell products below the agreed-upon minimum if a customer has the product already in hand to see a physical price tag.

This, incidentally, is why Amazon doesn’t list the prices for some items until you click on the product’s page.  Viewing a list is like browsing the racks and clicking a product is equivalent to looking at something more closely.

The only downside to shopping like this is that a lot of the super-clearance stuff looks really tacky on the rack.  About half of it will look good if you take a moment to try it on.  The other half was designed by clowns, and probably for clowns as well.

But if you were Bozo, you would have gone to the advertised sale instead.

Cheap Materials Insult My Intelligence

Whenever I leave the house, I like to wear pants.  That means my belt is my companion, constantly protecting me and the people around me from unpleasant situations.  In the old days, which weren’t even 15 years ago, you could buy a sturdy braided leather belt made of real leather.  These belts were constructed of a single piece of material and they were thick, so you could wear them every day for years.  In contrast, here’s a nearly departed companion:


This belt, like most others sold today, was made of much thinner strips of “leather” glued to a center piece of unknown material.  It only looked braided.  The strips of leather quickly started peeling off and pretty soon the belt will break in two.  You can see that the top half has already torn.

Incidentally, this was not an inexpensive belt.

“Say Yes to the Dress” Insults My Intelligence

You only thought the worst thing you could tell a woman is “that outfit makes your butt look big.”

Welcome to the world of “Say Yes to the Dress.” This show presents little more than brides shopping for wedding dresses.  Exciting, right?

On this show, any negative commentary about a dress will make the bride’s mother/sister/friend a villain if the bride loves it.  If someone points out that a bride’s beloved dress (which she hasn’t purchased yet) gives her a serious case of camel toe, that person is evil.  Even though the bride brings people along to obtain their opinions, their only acceptable commentary is to say yes to the dress.  It’s like a page from The Emperor’s New Clothes.

A bride in a very traditional long white weddi...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The show title says it all.  Actually, it sounds more like a tired advertising slogan: “Say yes to the dress!  Women’s clothing up to 66% off, this weekend only at Macy’s.”

In spite of this, I wouldn’t call the show an infomercial because no product is being advertised.  Instead, this show conditions potential shoppers to behave in a way that will benefit the dress shops.  That means no criticizing the dresses and no fear of exorbitant price tags.  Oh, and it’s also not unusual for a bride to purchase two dresses: one for the wedding and one for the reception.

It doesn’t even matter if the bride’s butt looks big on her wedding day because she’ll feel like a princess.

Until the wedding photos come back.