October 23, 2003

Shirts, like relationships, are hard to keep clean

While washing dishes in the abhorrent house I lived in this past summer, I was watching a neighboring frat boy jump around on his roof while talking on the phone. Trying to figure out how he climbed up that high in those ridiculous shoes of his, I didn't notice that I had the water pressure turned up so high that old marinara sauce was all over the sink. It was when he almost slipped off the roof that I began to lose interest in watching him and started to pay attention to the dishes, only to realize that I had inadvertently stained my spotless white polo with dirty red sauce. Now, this was a big deal.

It wasn't just that it was a stain, but that it was tomato sauce on the white short-sleeved polo that had been through so much with me. This classic staple of my wardrobe has traveled domestically, internationally, and all over Chicago.

It doubled as a casual and dressy shirt as well as the occasional pajama. What would I do if it were permanently stained? Could I cover it up with a cardigan or would I be forced to dump it into the lowly drawer of ugly clothes in my closet? While scrubbing out the stain, I began to liken this stain to my recent relationship history. As my old friend Libby once told me, "Persis, you don't like relationship change. You don't handle it very well." She was so right.

Obviously, I'm not completely ridiculous and did realize that I'm not involved in an unhealthy relationship with this polo, unless it's bad to be a huge prep. After all, it's not like I paid $68 for it and only wore it to justify the hefty price tag. I bought it for under $15 at the local Express. Just like the perfect pair of black pants, this white polo was hard to find and unfortunately even harder to keep clean, just like a good relationship. Certain relationships are meant to be short-lived. Then there's the seasonal trend such as the currently popular corset top; it may make you look good, but you don't want to wear it to bed, dinner with your mom, or to a movie. Face it, you don't have that much in common with a demanding, unforgiving 16th-century relic, so you might as well keep it short, sweet and seasonal. This way, if a snap breaks or a tie comes loose, it's easier to get rid of the once trendy piece.

But when you hit the jackpot, i.e. that white shirt that works with anything or those perfect black boots that are both comfortable and super stylish, it's hard to let go of them. When faced with a good relationship or a spotless white coat, we try harder than ever to keep it stain free. And when a spot does befall our treasure, the effects are often devastating. Due to both partners' intense involvement with each other, something as small as not picking up the phone can evolve into a five-hour-long late night conversation where nothing is resolved. That's why flings are so easy-you're not worried about the appearance or upkeep of them. When there's a bump in the road, you usually take the exit ramp to a less crowded, more sunny freeway.

But what if you took that carefree attitude and applied it to the classic that you're ever afraid of dirtying or tearing? Usually, when we consistently imagine something bad happening, it does. Even though there may not be karma in the world of clothing, in relationships, continually obsessing over minute details is a recipe for disaster. So when you do spill sauce on your relationship, treating it casually might have better implications. Ordinarily, when confronted with a stain on a white shirt, I would have broke out the detergent, bleach, and as a last resort, the dry cleaners. All of that just for white cotton? Instead, I gave it a quick rubdown with liquid hand soap and threw it in the dryer to reshape. I think it's time for me, and maybe for all of us, to apply our laundry-logic to dating; perhaps if we didn't take our relationships and ourselves so seriously, we'd all be a bit happier.