I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Means (Anymore) Leave a comment

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If you’ve been here since the beginning, or even the beginningish, you might remember that I used to have young kids. My oldest was 7 when I started this deslobification journey.

Now, instead of reminding him to pick up his toys, I remind him to shave.

And we’re deciding which colleges to visit.

And figuring out when to visit them.

Like, it’s not a vague and distant thought that we’ll need to visit colleges someday.

As we’ve been exploring some of his top options, I’ve noticed something.

When you use a college’s website to schedule a campus visit, you enter your t-shirt size.

This struck me because I specifically remember that one of the peripheral deciding factors when I chose my own college was a t-shirt.

A totally free t-shirt.

A totally free t-shirt with the college’s name on it.

I say it was a peripheral factor because it wasn’t the real reason I chose to attend (and spend a good chunk of my parents’ money) there, but I felt influenced by that t-shirt.

If there are two equal choices in schools, why not go to the one where you’re ready to show up on the first day, decked out in school spirit?

Consequently, I kept that unflattering t-shirt from the late 1900s for a very long time. How in the world could I let go of the fabric that determined the course of my life?? Who cares if I collected more and better t-shirts that I actually wore??

When I saw the option to select an XL t-shirt for my son on the first college’s website, I felt a little twinge in my mama heart, wondering if a free t-shirt might influence him the way it had influenced me.

When I saw the option on the second and third websites, the twinge of nostalgia became a headtilt of skepticism.

Wait a minute.

I do not think this means what I think it means.


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Twenty-something years later, a free t-shirt is standard issue from anyone looking to lock in your loyalty.

Love our church? Here’s a t-shirt. Enjoy our restaurant? Take a billboard to wear around town with your yoga pants. Heading to the ballpark with a group of semi-strangers for a one day tournament? Let’s all match!

I honestly struggle to not experience a thrill when someone hands me a stretchy handful of free, wordy cotton.

But the fact that I’ve decluttered trunks full of free t-shirts over the years has given me the strength I need to win that struggle.

To even, sometimes . . . politely refuse the t-shirt.


Thinking about freebie t-shirts made me consider what other things I might be holding onto, assuming they are sentimental because they would have been sentimental a few decades ago.

In this century, almost anything can be stamped with a very specific memory.

While a Valentine’s Day card with someone’s face on it required a special brand of magic (or a personal relationship with a graphic artist) back in the 80s, my kid could make individualized photo cards for each person in her class.

In an hour.

If the memory itself is special, great. The item might deserve space in my t-shirt/photo drawer/”contain”er.

But if the only thing making this item special is the fact that someone with a screen printing machine manufactured a memory, I’ve got to be willing to let it go.

No matter how special it would have seemed back in 1996, I need my 2018 home to stay under control.


A few clarifications for readers outside the U.S.:

(Because I have issues and feel the need to clarify things I’m sure people don’t actually need clarified.)

Here in the U.S., most people refer to universities as colleges. I’m not sure why. So “Where did you go to college?” generally means “Where did you attend university?” But for some reason, if I personally asked the question the second way, I’d feel pretentious. And people might say, “Huh?” But I know that technically, “university” is correct so I end up over-explaining in blog posts.

As long as I’m clarifying things, can I ask what you’d say instead of “yoga pants”? I know “pants” is an awkward word that causes misunderstandings among different varieties of English speakers, so I’m curious. Are yoga trousers a thing?

Trunk = boot of your car.

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