15 August 2007

Either you get it, or you don't

I like t-shirts with cool, unusual, or varyingly obscure text or imagery on them. Unfortunately, this often prompts strangers to stare at them quizzically and ask me to explain. For years, I have sportingly revealed what the acronym WYSIWYG stands for. However, sometimes that wasn't enough.

Back on a summer Saturday in 1998, I ended up going to Lilith Fair alone, because O got a job on the same day that he needed to take. All our other friends were working that day too; such is a life in film.

O managed to sell his ticket to some random guy over the phone, and rather miraculously, I found him outside of The Rose Bowl on the day of the concert.

Between sets on the main stage, I wandered the outer perimeter looking at booths with info and merch. About ten feet away, I noticed three women staring at me. One approached and asked, "What does that mean?" while pointing at my WYSIWYG shirt.

"Oh." I pointed to the box of small words printed on the bottom right corner of my shirt and read aloud, "What you see is what you get."

"Is that a proposition?"

"Um... no." If I wasn't turning red, it sure felt like I was. "What do you mean?"

She and her friends laughed, and then she said, "Where did it come from?"

"It was a gift."

"No, not the shirt, the acronym."

"Oh. It's a computer term. Like if you're designing a web page, a WYSIWYG editor would let you see what the page would actually look like instead of showing a bunch of code."

"So, you're a web designer?"


"Then why are you wearing that shirt?"

I liked the honest sentiment of What You See Is What You Get, but all in all, it was just a fucking t-shirt, not a big personal statement. At the time, I didn't have the presence of mind to say that however, so I stammered through a convoluted explanation of cameras, lenses, viewfinders, and subjects.

"Are you a photographer then?"

I didn't want to go through another round, so I lied and said, "Yes." For those purposes, it was close enough to the job I was aspiring to at the time: cinematographer.

"That's cool," she said.

"Yeah." I felt drained, anxious and tense; I couldn't take anymore. "Well, see ya," I said and walked away. I made a mental note to kill O for abandoning me to work when I got home.

Last weekend, I was making my way through a massive show of gems, minerals, and fossils when I noticed an older male proprietor reading my KBHR shirt. It says:
57 AM
The Voice Of The Last Frontier


I'd been walking through the show for a couple of hours without a break, and I was beat, so I walked around him to ward off the imminent question. However, my move prompted him to say, "I was just reading your shirt," because he assumed that I thought he was staring at my breasts.

"Ok," I said, walking to the next table. In my peripheral vision, I saw Mom drift over and start explaining my shirt to him, but I just kept moving.

I'm tired of explaining. At some point, either you get it, or you don't. For me, that point is now. So how can I blow off people's t-shirt inquiries without being rude?

A lot of my t-shirts are looking pretty beat these days: faded, frayed collars, small holes forming; I could use some new ones. What to buy though? More question-inducing threads or unapproachable solids?

I never did much care for solids...but I really am tired of explaining.

Two years ago at TTaT: tip of the week- Adult Swim fans
Technorati tags: , ,


  1. T-shirts are like tattoos in that they invite unwanted (if not entirely unprovoked) questions. Those Lilith Fair ladies really gave you the third degree! It reminded me of a conversation with my least favorite neighbor ever when I was wearing my platypus T-shirt.

  2. They really did. It's like she had it in for me because I was displaying something she didn't get.

    As for "not entirely unprovoked," I've been mulling over the private vs. public since I posted this. For me the back burner hope was/is to connect with people who do get it. Instead, mostly it comes off as an invitation to inquisitive extroverts.


  3. hi there,
    i got it,
    as i'm from radiokbhr.blogspot.com
    and because i know very well the feeling of being watched by people staring at my t-shirts...
    i like your blog, take a look at mine.

  4. Cornelius: Excellent! Thanks for stopping by, I'm on my way to check out yours right now...

  5. hi claire
    nice to meet you
    and glad to find a post from you on my photo blog (and happy that you like it)
    see you soon, here or there.