Opinion: Shirt happens


Two weeks prior to leaving for a cruise vacation, I had to buy a dress shirt for one of the formal evenings on the ship. I don’t like to wear a white shirt, preferring one with a bit of color, but Mary Ellen was adamant that I go traditional. I also made an additional purchase for the more casual nights.

The first evening on board, I began dressing about an hour prior to dinner, knowing that I needed extra time to extricate the new shirt from its cellophane wrap and remove the dozen tiny pins which, by the way, I had no idea how to discard that was considered environmentally friendly. The garment clearly met the criterion my wife had established for appropriate attire, so I put it on.

“You have a stain on your shirt,” said Mary Ellen.

“That’s impossible. I haven’t even worn it yet.”

“They must really know their customers at Macy’s.”

“What do you mean?”

“They pre-stained it for you.”

Yes, right next to the third button were brown blotches, nothing I was familiar with despite my extensive experience with the tell-tale signs that are left by every group in the current food pyramid. “Well, I guess I can’t wear that to dinner,” I said, hoping to now be able to put on my alternative choice.

“Well, I don’t know why not. It’s gonna look like that anyway, right after you finish your appetizer.”

I reached into the drawer and dug out the blue button-down, happy now that an unplanned turn of events had worked in my favor. Twelve pins later I was ready to head for a delicious dinner.

“You can’t wear that shirt, either,” said Mary Ellen.

“Why not?”

“It has a smudge under the second button.”

Sure enough, once again I had purchased a brand new piece of apparel that had somehow anticipated its unavoidable destiny and had saved me the embarrassment of being first to ruin it. “Wait a second, Mary Ellen, my tie will cover the problem.”

“Super idea. Too bad that every tie you packed also has a stain on it.”

“Okay, I’ll be sure to button my sport coat. That will cover the mark on the tie.”

Mary Ellen walked over to the closet and pulled out the one dinner jacket I had brought on the trip. She looked at it carefully and shook her head. “Not going to work. Did you bring a rain coat?”

As we walked to the dining room, Mary Ellen suggested it was more embarrassing for me to arrive at a formal meal with a soiled garment than to acquire the stain during the normal course of my being a slob. When I sat down, I ordered the shrimp cocktail and effortlessly completed my assignment, now revealing signs of a more recent mishap.

After we returned home from our vacation, I washed the shirts and successfully removed the original soiled areas, but what still remained was clear evidence of some fine Italian wine, a scrumptious Chicken Parmigiana dish and a to-die-for Bouillabaisse. Mary Ellen took more than 1,000 photos on our trip, which she claims will serve as the ideal way to remember our cruise. I believe my method to permanently preserve memories was, let’s just say, spot on.

( Dick Wolfsie’s new book, The Right Fluff/Weightless Observations about Life on Earth, is  a compilation of his most popular columns over the past three years. E-mail Dick @ Wolfsie@aol.com to order a book or go to www.wolfsie.com)

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