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He was well-endowed around the middle and his bloodshot eyes indicated the remnants of a hangover; the hair on his head was patchy, and he had used the few strands he had to cover the bald pate as best as he could. With some days old stubble, he looked like something the cat might have dragged in, if she had nothing better to do, but you had to hand it to the guy. He was sky-high on confidence. The legend on his T-shirt read, “Every three seconds there is a girl falling in love with me.”
My friend and I were much younger then, so blame immaturity for the display of insensitivity on our part, but the truth is that we took one good look at his T-shirt, compared it with the rest of him, and giggled like schoolgirls. In our defence, I must say, that is exactly what we were. We said to each other, "Somebody's got to find this girl and stop her," all the while laughing and marveling at our own cleverness.
Was his confidence so strong that it could withstand the damage inflicted by his appearance? Or was he just a guy with a good sense of humour, someone who liked laughing at himself? Or was his confidence what it was because of the message on his T-shirt?
Suddenly he caught sight of us eyeing him. His body language perked up even more. He lifted up his T-shirt by the shoulder seam and let it fall, a gesture that said, Look at me.
At that moment we caught the faint whiff of a truth that we couldn’t quite articulate: The Message is the Massage.
Today T-shirts have come a long way from the “Make Love, Not War” messages they used to sport some decades ago. Today they are a popular mode of self-expression, the only item of clothing that is used to crack a joke, share a message, whether meaningful or offensive.
The message on T-shirts generally indicates the wearer’s state of mind, but we have all seen the odd wearer of a T-shirt who has no idea what the message on his Tee means, creating its own brand of irony. Like when a beggar is seen wearing a T-shirt that says, “My dad’s an ATM.” Or the tapori on the street corner declares on his much-too-tight-how-does-he-
breathe tee, “I’m the handsome devil your mother warned you about.” Yeah, right.
After the birth of La Niña, my husband and I had gone shopping at a popular mall, and he was thrilled to find a T-shirt for her with “My Daddy is the Best” scrawled across it. Thankfully for my ego, they had another saying the same about Mommy Dearest. Of course, we bought both.
The T-shirt was the original mode of casual, spontaneous self-expression. Long before Facebook and Twitter and blogs and micro-blogs became a part of our lives, we had T-shirts. And the best thing: unlike the energy-intensive online modes of communication and self-expression, T-shirts are washable.