Archive | December, 2010

How to Take Control of Your Wardrobe

30 Dec

Young Lolwut would like to take charge of selecting his clothing, thus ending the playground taunts of “Your mother dresses you funny.” Hopefully, with a little advice, Lolwut can turn the tables on his schoolyard antagonists, pointing out that he dresses himself.

Mr. (?) Lolwut –

As far back as I can remember (which is sometimes just earlier in the day), children have always yearned for more personal freedom and parents have yearned for more time to themselves. There’s just no good way to “have your cake and eat it too,” as several parents have said while avoiding direct questions.

As my brother and I found out during our many long and mostly sunless years growing up in a secluded corner of the dimmest part of town, our parents would be hard-pressed to give up what little control they had in life by letting us make our own decisions.

When it came right down to it, selecting our clothing, toys, books, friends and major religion were the only choices they really had left to make. Several foreclosures had ensured that they ended up in the only housing that would take them. Many years of invisible toil in thankless jobs had left my father on the corporate treadmill. My mother most likely would have enjoyed selecting a different living room dirt floor pattern and husband, but a series of misunderstandings during a “duck and cover” drill during health class had left her impregnated.

So they chose everything for us. We first noticed this when we asked for new bicycles. We had seen some in the local circular and thought they’d be a keen way to escape the unlit sections of town, if only for an hour or two.

We were denied this request and given ambulatory contraptions cobbled together out of factory seconds from Josiah’s Handcart Shoppe and abandoned hoop skirts. While they were mobile enough to outpace walking, they left us full of groin-area bruises and splinters.

When we wished to change schools in hopes of reaching the nearly-mythical 6th grade, we were informed that our entire family had attended this underlit one-room schoolhouse and that we would too. When we indicated that the schoolhouse had not been staffed in over a year thanks to the new public school only minutes away by splintermobile, we were told that anything past 4th grade was simply “showing off” and would only make our ancestors jealous and perhaps homicidal.

Needless to say, choosing our own clothes was out of the question. Due to the extreme financial duress we endured, my brother and I were often subjected to hand-me-downs from various well-meaning relatives who apparently had the big hearts to give away their excess wardrobe but not the brain capacity to retain pertinent information such as our ages or sexes.

Consequently, my brother and I were usually adorned in bizarre combinations of flapper pencil skirts, vintage Levi Strauss undergarments, low-cut burlap sacks and various pieces of chainmail. We would do our best with what we had and hastily mount our rolling hoop skirts in a vain attempt to grasp at higher education before it was removed and taken nearly nine blocks away to what for all intents and purposes was another planet.

As we grew older, we lost our will to fight these various injustices and instead, became genteel doormats for our parents’ micromanagement. The day our draft cards were called was one of the happiest of our young lives. Finally we would have a chance to dress like others and perhaps even ride a splinterless, free-rolling vehicle.

Take heart, Lolwut. You’ve not much longer to endure this treatment. Sooner or later you’ll be free of their iron grasp and allowed to dress yourself however ridiculously you want, at least temporarily. By that time, however, you’ll most likely be looking for employment or higher education and will have to adjust your wilder apparel selections in order to retain both of these advantages.

To the future!

Clifton L. Tanager


How to Serve Notice on Serving Your Country

19 Dec

Excellent question, Exclamation Point. (I’ll never get used to these “new wave” names.)

It’s always tough to break bad news to your parents. (This is assuming, of course, that you have a good relationship with your elders. My cousin, Ralph Bostwick, was so unliked that his declaration of intent to join the military was greeted with a small impromptu parade that began in his high school parking lot and traveled through town to his bedroom, where his possessions were cheerfully thrown out of the second story window, along with his remaining dignity.)

There are several ways to go about this. One option is to post an anonymous letter in the local paper, informing your parents of your whereabouts while still leaving just a hint of doubt in the minds of others who are less acquainted with you. This presumes, of course, that your parents still read the newspaper rather than just track the whereabouts of various celebrities via Google News.

Another option is to send an informative postcard from wherever you’re stationed with just enough verbiage to communicate that they won’t be seeing you for up to four years. This is best handled within the first few weeks of boot camp, as the latter weeks’ intensity may find you without the strength to lift a pen.

Of course, don’t put this off for too long or you’ll be sending this postcard from behind enemy lines or from within a POW camp. If this is the case, be sure to mention your exact whereabouts and specify that they forgo the usual selection of handmade cookies, audio cassettes and condoms and send you something more useful, like reinforcements or a large cash bribe.

However, this is a digital age and your options are much more open than mine were. You can send it via chain email (remember to include a vaguely-named attachment), update your status to “In the military for the next four years. Don’t touch my stuff. That means you, Doug,” on Facebook or just direct them to your vanity Wikipedia page and indicate that “recent updates” have been applied.

We had none of these during the 1950’s. If you didn’t tell them in person or write a longhand letter, it may as well have not happened at all. Some of my platoon put this on hold indefinitely, which usually resulted in a form letter from the Uncle Sam informing the parents that their son had been killed or injured severely in the line of duty, thus turning the procrastination from “indefinite” to “just recently.”

Of course, the military had its share of screwups as well. My good friend Stacey Aaronsen was felled by a sniper in the line of duty and the corresponding letter was sent to his parents, who were convinced his sudden and long disappearance was just a phase he was going through.

However, the myopic clerk in charge of hand-addressing the envelopes dropped the crucial “e” from Stacey’s first name, resulting in the letter arriving at the home of Stacy Aaronsen, a lifetime civil servant who had been married for nearly 30 years at that point. This letter was opened and read by his wife, who sat still for nearly ten minutes straight after completing it, finally wheeling on her husband with panicked queries as “Who the hell are you?” and “How did you get in here?”

After a long and pointless discussion, they agreed to disagree and parted ways after 28 years of marriage. Stacey (with an e)’s parents endured the years of silence with good cheer and vague rumblings about the length of late-adolescent “phases.”

Exclamation Point: your best bet is to tell them straight out. Not only will this save their marriage and save you some embarrassment, but it’s incredibly hard to find anywhere that sells postcards these days.

Clifton L. Tanager