Maggie Van Ostrand
simply not enough to keep up with the times and work into the conversation bits
of current events to show you're hip, slick, and cool: "Say, you heard they found
signs of water on Mars?" or "Should Kramer attend meetings of Idiots Anonymous?"
or "If Gore is right, how come it's snowing?" |
We're also supposed to
keep up with the ever-changing definitions of old words like cell, gay, and horse,
plus a bunch of new ones like strategerie, truthiness, and nuculared. If that
isn't enough, we're not supposed to finish words any more, and I'm not talking
about accepted short cuts like limo(usine), sweats(uits) and deli(catessen), I'm
talking about op(eration), stat(istics), and intel(ligence). And there's even
more new stuff to learn about than that.
There's no such thing anymore
as overcoats, now they're called outerwear; no more shoes, they're footwear; no
more place settings, they're tablescapes, themselves broken down into other categories,
such as candlescapes.
The one that's most bothersome at this time of
year when we search high and low for just the right gift, used to be called pajamas
but they're now called "nightwear." Even worse is the fact that nightwear isn't
even whole. You can't ask for a pair of nightwear because today it seems they
make only bottoms.
A trip to what is thankfully still referred to as
the Men's Department is no longer fun because all the tops are missing, gone perhaps
to be laundered in the newly discovered rivers on Mars. Whether you call them
pajama tops or nightwear tops, they no longer exist. Just a million mateless bottoms.
When a woman stays in a man's apartment overnight, she used to wear the tops.
What does she wear now, perfume?
They tell me there are some upscale
shops where you can actually buy blackmarket nightwear in two pieces, sold separately
by crafty shopkeepers. Why sell one pair of pajamas for $50 if you can sell the
tops for $35 and the bottoms for $60?
This is the time for shoppers to
rise up and demand the return of tops. Otherwise, our future will be bottoms up.
Okay, now we're past the bottoms-only problem, we now must concern ourselves
with size. Once upon a time, we were able to get Large, Extra Large, and Extra
Extra Large for those relatives who eat at fast food joints instead of sucking
on a lettuce leaf as super models do. Not any more, not with lying labels.
Let's be fair. Perhaps in China, they think "large" means "small." While
nightwear labels may well say Extra Extra Large, right after they've been folded
to better fit into the gift box which was once given to us by the shops but we
now have to purchase separately, we note the size of the waistband, and decide
to call them boywear and give them to the man's 10-year-old son instead.
Okay, now we've got the name straight, and we understand that labels lie,
but we're still faced with other changes.
In the U.S., there are laws
against child labor, and laws for color fast and pre-shrunk fabrics. However,
we have no law against buying goods from other countries who do not have such
binding consideration for its citizens. Our most difficult lesson to learn is
that it's all right for little children to labor for who knows how long or under
what conditions, working with fabrics whose colors will run and shrink in our
washing machines. We suppose that, to these children from countries where citizens
may not be as tall as Americans, small probably appears large.
it must be okay for shoppers to buy these imported goods, since a phone call to
Office of Textiles and Apparel, U.S. Department of Commerce, elicited an urgent
denial of wrongdoing. Good to know it isn't the fault of the U.S.
like the old days, is it, where we could walk into Bloomingdale's or Neiman-Marcus
or Marshall Field, and find "Made in the U.S.A." on the label and knew it would
neither run nor shrink, nor was it produced with child labor.
Mrs. Claus tries to wash all that chimney soot out of Santa's suit on December
26th only to find that next year, the only person who'll be able to fit into it
will be an elf, and that she has inadvertently turned all his underwear pink.
Santa might lay his finger aside of his nose
But we'd rather have
union back in our clothes
Merry Christmas everyone, and Bottoms Up.
Maggie Van Ostrand
In Cactus" December
13, 2006 column
Christmas in Texas
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