Sunday, June 18, 2006

On Clothes

Aesthetic decisions rise from the urge to individuate.

One of the first such impulses I remember having happened to me in the Skee-Ball pavilion at Six Flags Over Georgia in 1977, when I was eleven. I'm still confident in my Skee-Ball skillz, but at eleven I was untouchable. I had accumulated an unweildy pile of tickets, and I was intent on winning a CB radio, but Mom and Dad came to collect us and I had to cash in my tickets. At the booth, a T-shirt caught my eye. It was canary yellow, and had one of those heavy puffy sparkly rubbery 70s iron-on decals on the front that had a picture of a Basil-Wolverton-style green-furred, popeyed drooling monstrosity motoring down the road in a Corvette convertible. Swooshing around the beast were the words, "Corvette: Wrap Your Ass In Fiberglas". I fell in love with it. I had enough tickets. It would be mine. I pointed and handed over the tickets.
"Oh no. Pick something else." Mom.
"Why?" Me.
"It's ugly. You don't want to waste your winnings on that ugly shirt."
Then I made my first aesthetic individuating announcement. "It's not ugly. It's cool."
"It's not polite. You can't wear it outside."
"Can I wear it home?" God, what a wuss I was! I'd already CONCEDED the terms of use!
A sigh, an eyebrow.
"It's because it says ay ess ess, right?"
"Right. That's just dumb. You don't want a dumb, ugly shirt."
Aha. Her mistake. She'd already conceded possession of thew shirt, and had moved on to terms of use. I pressed the issue.
"You let me buy those Car-toons magazines with all the monsters in it and stuff." This was true. (It was also true that my parents had a handsome Al Capp volume that featured Basil Wolverton's contest-winning drawing of Lena the Hyena, perhaps explaining their tolerance of the work of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, but I didn't put all that together until years later.)

Connection flickers. I'll post now.

Anyway, I got to keep the shirt, I only wore it at home, my friend Wallace laughewd at me when he saw me in it and I don't think I ever wore it again.

But I still rule at Skee-Ball, and there are many ugly things I find quite beautiful.

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