I dressed pretty conservatively in my youth. To be more accurate I should say that without a clothing budget of my own, I was dressed pretty conservatively. Button-down short-sleeve shirts, striped t-shirts, jeans, slacks, nothing out of the ordinary. In fourth grade I remember asking for some psychedelic pants, thinking my folks might find some tie-dyed or paisley trousers for me but instead receiving a pair of slacks with a weird yellow-and-green herringbone pattern. Not psychedelic in the least, but I wore them to school one day and was terrified I was going to get expelled for flouting sartorial norms.
Skip forward to seventh grade now, and I realized I was maybe the only kid who never wore t-shirts with sayings on them. That’s how I described them: shirts with sayings on them. I wanted to make a statement, so one Friday night at JCPenney Mom let me look through a rack of t-shirts with sayings on them and I picked one that said “Caution. Polluted air. Breathe at own risk.” I thought it was perfect, a trenchant statement on the smog running amok in American cities in the early 1970s. I wore the shirt to school a few times and then one day noticed another student wearing the same shirt, an older girl who could charitably be described as slovenly. Seeing that message on that girl made me realize, to my absolute horror, that the shirt referred to farting.
Not the trenchant statement I wanted to make.