Like most red-blooded Americans, I own way too many T-shirts. I probably have over 40 T-shirts in every conceivable color (but mostly gray), with every conceivable saying (but mostly I heart beer), in every conceivable size (but mostly too tight).
The wife does not understand my penchant for T-shirts and thinks I should get rid of most of them.
“You have all those T-shirts and yet you only wear the same four T-shirts over and over. Why do you keep so many?” she said as I tried to close my T-shirt drawer.
“Because they all have sentimental meanings for me. Like this one the granddaughters gave me. It says, ‘Papa—the man, the myth, the legend.’ I can’t get rid of it because it’s just so true.”
Rolling her eyes 360 degrees (which always kind of freaks me out) she said, “Well what about your ‘I am a columnist’ shirt. You don’t need that one because everyone knows you’re a columnist.”
“But that’s my favorite one. It’s so soft and fits me perfectly, accentuating my six-pack abs.”
“You mean your one-keg ab?” she corrected.
“Ouch! That was cold. Just for that I will be wearing my ‘I am a columnist’ T-shirt today.”
So I very gracefully pulled my ‘columnist’ T-shirt over my singular ab and headed out the door to prove to the world that I am a columnist. Equipped with my leather messenger bag full of writer’s accoutrements, I headed to a coffee shop to do some not-so-serious writing.
As I approached the front door, a young man sitting at a patio table looked up with a very disapproving expression and said to me, “Whoa man! That’s a pretty bold statement on your T-shirt. Seriously, are you really a communist? That’s super subversive, dude.”
“It says I’m a columnist. A COLUMNIST. I am a person who writes columns for a newspaper,” I said defensively.
“Oh. My bad,” the young man said. “I misread your shirt. I must say, it fits you perfectly … nice ab.”
Entering the coffee shop, I got in the line to order, all the while feeling a little self-conscious about my shirt. “This is silly,” I thought. “Lots of people have T-shirts professing their careers and interests, like firefighters, police officers, nurses and teachers. Why shouldn’t I have a shirt that professes my love of writing?”
When it was my turn to order, the barista, without looking up, asked, “What can I get you?” Then she looked up and saw my shirt and said, “Oh my! This is awkward. Are you really a communist? I’ve never served a communist before. What do they drink? Decaf, I’m guessing?”
“I am not a Communist. I am a columnist,” I said creating a scene. “I write a newspaper column, for crying out loud. And yes, I would like a decaf caramel macchiato.”
When I got home I marched into the family room and told the wife what had happened to me.
“Oh, honey,” the wife sympathized. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Maybe you should get rid of that shirt.”
“But I love this shirt,” I said sadly.
“I know, dear,” she said affectionately. “It really does show off your ab…”
Raul Ascunce is a freelance columnist for the Sentinel-Tribune, an AIM Media Midwest publication. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org