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JANUARY 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 1



RECENT ESSAYS | Election '98


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JIM SULLIVAN, a former funeral home assistant and history museum director from South Bend, Indiana, is a contibuting writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.




An International Dresser


I always thought of myself as rather ordinary when it came to what I wear. My clothes, mostly casual (that means my wife makes me change them when we go out), are nothing special. Oh, they're always clean, but not spotless. Most of my shirts, for example, have a dash of spaghetti sauce here, a spot of chili there, a tot of beet juice on a shoulder, a glob of salad dressing on a shirttail, and/or a dab of mustard, including Grey Poupon, on a pocket, or two. Some of my nonessential, and a few essential, buttons are missing, too (on my shirts that is).

My pants also have grass stains and thread-bare areas, not to mention holes. The leg lengths are either too long, with my crotch falling well below the required zone, or too short, and, therefore above my ankle. Stockings, well, that's a different story - few ever can be seen above the top of my shoe. 'One size fits all' may be stretching it. Further, I have black socks and white socks (not a reference to baseball teams).

With only two colors of hosiery, I still can't always find socks that match. They also have a smattering of food residue marks plus a lot of wear and tear, especially in the heel and toe sections, from all my walking around in them without shoes on.

Lately, when I do put on footwear, it's most often tennis shoes. Admittedly, I've never played that sport. And seldom do I get on a gym floor. The last time was in 1985. That was when I got in trouble with the basketball coach for wearing my so-called street shoes - black, scuffed-up, wing-tips - on the court. As might be expected, my gym shoes today are scuffed up, too, and badly. But, hey, they're comfy to wear, except when I sweat. Then they squeak. I also feel yukky in them when they get wet. But I've promised myself, and my wife, that I'd stop brushing my teeth so vigorously from now on.

I just found out something odd about my clothes the other day. Few are made in the old USA. This revelation came to me quite innocently when I was checking my shirt, at my wife's prompting, for ring-around-the-collar. That's when I had occasion to gander at a tag in that part of the shirt. It read: Made in El Salvador.

That made me real curious. So I quickly dropped my pants, twisted them around, nearly tripping myself, and found the tag on my waistband. Made in China, it read. Now I really feel bad for those Chinese prisoners if it's true that they make all that country's exports. I can just imagine that making pants for Americans must be brutal punishment and limited to those who commit the most heinous crimes imaginable. Not surprisingly, my pants look like they were made by some mighty unhappy folks. The seams are all out of alignment with loose threads everywhere. And it's no wonder.

My underwear, which was large to start with, is getting even larger with each washing. It's made in Uraguay, Paraguay, or some other ....guay. The print has become so faint and spread apart, it's kind of hard to make out what it says.

When I got it snagged today, I found out about another little secret. My pants zipper has "Made in USA" engraved on its pull-tab. Surprised, I looked closer. Underneath, in smaller letters, it reads: Assembled in Washington DC.

Some of my other pants say the same thing. But one pair of summer shorts had: Made in Little Rock, Arkansas. Yet the pants themselves were all made out of the country: New Mexico and Vermont to be exact.

I've got a shirt, too, which is prickly and itches my skin when I wear it (the shirt that is, not the skin necessarily), and sometimes when I don't! It was made in Bulgaria. A sweater I own, but wear infrequently, is made in Poland, of what I don't know. It makes me sneeze and my eyes water. And that occurs whenever I get close to the sweater in the closet or cut the grass.

Well, now you can see why I think of myself as an international dresser. My duds come from around the globe. The other day, I had on a new pair of brown work gloves. I noticed a little tag on each. One read: Made in Italy. The other read: Made in France. Unfortunately, they were both for the right hand. Could this be the start of the

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