Shirts That Stay in the Closet



What not to wear

Like all American men and women, I have a spectacular collection of t-shirts for any occasion that calls for looking like a poor slob with an indifferent attitude towards his personal appearance. I have my favorites, t-shirts with the names of Baja fishing villages on them, t-shirts that let all who view me know that I hang out in paradise, if you consider paradise warm weather, flat seas and big dead fish. I have many t-shirts given to me by the local baseball team when I have attended their games, maybe to placate me for them not having won anything for eight years. 

I have t-shirts I wear because my son didn't take them to Australia with him. I have plain t-shirts, shirts with no mission other than to keep me from getting sunburnt. Often I do no careful planning when thrusting a hand in my drawer for a shirt—whatever one I grab is fine. Except for these two.

The Chicken Ranch is a legal brothel in Pahrump, Nevada. A friend of mine's family lives there, and when she said she was going there to visit, and mentioned it was the home of the Chicken Ranch, I said "Bring me back a t-shirt," and she did. 

This is a shirt you can't wear everywhere. It can not just be not worn at church picnics or when I visit anybody's mother. It can't be worn anywhere I don't want to be perceived as a rancid old pervert. When I get dressed in the morning, I never know where the day's travels are going to take me. I could get called in to the college campus where my special lady teaches, if she has a flat tire or has forgotten her phone at home, where wearing clothing that objectifies women marks you as a slobbering deviate, whereas wearing clothing that glorifies a tribe of Mexican Indians that practiced human sacrifice means you have the proper school spirit. 

I don't need to get in an argument over that kind of logic. I take the easy way out--unless I am certain I am going to spend the entire day at one of three kinds of bars—dive, strip, or biker—the Chicken Ranch shirt stays in the drawer. 

The other shirt is even worse. At least I only imagine what other people think of me when I display the colors of the Chicken Ranch. When I wear Marinated in Sin, people tell me what they think of me, which is that I am going to Hell. This can be startling, because by the time I have been wearing the shirt for several hours, I have completely forgotten its message. I can just be standing in the supermarket line peacefully, not aware that I am advertising that I am in the clutches of Satan, when the person behind me abruptly starts warring for my soul. "I'm praying for you!" he'll bellow suddenly (public critics of the shirt are always guys), causing me to clink my bottles of vodka together in alarm. I have had no time to prepare myself for a theological debate, unlike Sunday mornings when I know the Mormons could knock on the door at any time, and usually have to say something basic, like "Don't bother," or just "Shut the intercourse up." Later I am ashamed for my lack of glibness.

I am sure many religious people leave me alone, but that is only fair, because I leave them alone. I don't scrape Jesus fish bumper stickers off cars or pull magnetic Marys off their dashboards unless I have purchased the vehicles in question. When I see people who proclaim that they are Not of This World, I don't yell "Yes you are, you deluded bastards, you evolved here!" at them. When I sneeze all over small children and their parents graciously say "God bless you," instead of shooting me a dirty look, I simply say "Thank you," instead of seizing the occasion to launch into a diatribe concerning the existence of God and questioning whether invoking His name in the wake of an unexpected expectoration has any positive effect.

So I ought to be able to wear the shirt anywhere and not be molested, in the interests of fairness, but that is not the case. I am particularly apprehensive about wearing it while hiking up Cowles Mountain, a local peak with a steep ascent that I stomp up on a regular basis, along with many other health-conscious San Diegans, in the hopes that it is keeping my heart strong. Just in case it has the opposite effect, though, I don't want to be wearing a shirt that says "Marinated In Sin" after I have succumbed to a cardiovascular event, for fear of  being clucked at by possibly faithful fellow hikers.  When I leave this life, I want to go without being a lesson to anybody. 

I like that. Maybe I could get it put on a T-shirt. 

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