New Adventures of Travel with the W&M Hoodie

A key part of my standard travel gear is a hoodie.  I have two, one from my law school alma mater and one from my undergraduate alma mater.  I’ve found that both of these have generated interest and conversation from strangers while I’m traveling, but the William and Mary hoodie in particular seems to possess almost magical powers of garnering attention (I’m basically never wearing the thing near the East Coast, thus it’s far from a common siting).  Introvert though I am, I’ve found that I enjoy the polite conversations I usually get when someone lays eyes on the green and gold and strikes up conversation.

Usually, the hoodie results in one of three conversation starts:  (1) General comments on the quality of the school (2) Mentions of friends/family/co-workers etc. who attended the school (and the “do you know?” game that follows).  (3) Geographic comments (“Oh!  You’re from Virginia?”).  Once in a great while, it gets (usually from children seated next to me on planes) “Who’re William and Mary?”

But this most recent trip to Australia generated a new kind of conversation starter for the hoodie.

Now, understand, The Hoodie has been to Oz before (it got high praise from a gentleman in the International Terminal of San Francisco Airport on my way out, and a “Hey!  William and Mary!  Great school!” in a parking garage in Canberra.  So the bizarre change I encountered in both Australia and New Zealand on this trip was a head-scratch-er for me.

I had four different people, in widely different areas of Australia and New Zealand, question why I had the names of old British monarchs on my shirt.

Not “Who are William and Mary?”  No, they were all very clear on who William and Mary were.  The mystery lay in why a person would embroider the names on a sweatshirt in large letters.

All four were from some part of the Commonwealth (a Brit, a Kiwi and two Aussies), so that kind of removes any reason for surprise at them knowing who William and Mary were in history (unlike the U.S. where an astonishing number of people don’t have a clue).  Since I’ve traveled around and with so many Aussies, Brits, Kiwis, Canadians, etc before, it’s really rather strange that this is the first time that it happened.

In two cases, it was all very pleasant.  I grinned and assured them, yes, it was the same William and Mary from that list of monarchs some ancient schoolmaster made them memorize, and explained about the charter.  None of these people had known anything about this part royal history, and they seemed pleasantly surprised and then the chat turned to the usual “What brings you down here?”

But one (and I’ll let you guess which nationality), well, let’s just say the encounter was far more amusing for me than the questioner.  The woman (whom I’d heard behind me, commenting to a companion something about “American girl…monarchs…shirt…” in a none-too-friendly tone) all but marched up to me:

“Do you know William and Mary were our king and queen in the late 17th century?  WHY are their names on your shirt?”

I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice:  there was a challenge.  This wasn’t just a question or a demand.  She was expecting me not to have the answer.  I don’t know if it was a moment to confirm American stupidity, or if it was just another opportunity to use blunt confrontation to establish her intellectual superiority (I think it it’s the latter–I heard her giving an unsolicited lecture to a group of Asian tourists about English shrubbery a bit later), either way, she failed rather spectacularly.  Instead of gaping like a fish, or giggling inanely and making a reduced-IQ comment about liking the style, I met her with a very cheerful smile.

“Yes, they were, and during their reign, in 1693, they chartered  The College of William and Mary in Virginia.”

The superior stare faltered and she actually took a step back.

“1693, well, yes, that would be the right time period…I never–” she paused, and her shoulders sagged a little.  “Well, I didn’t know that.”

I could tell the admission pained her and before I could sweetly begin to elaborate on how The College was supposed to educate clergy for the colonies and about how Thomas Jefferson was an alum….she walked off.  I probably shouldn’t be this delighted about it, but I’m quite pleased.  I could tell it really stuck in her craw that she hadn’t one-upped me, and had, in fact, been one upped herself.

The Hoodie went from a tool of conversation to a tool of education smack-down.

As I turned away from my little victory, a couple from approached and asked me to take their photo.  “We saw your shirt.  We’re from North Carolina!”

Annoying Clothing Transition

It got colder here this week.  Nothing remotely approaching the frozen arctic hell I know is in store for us, but sleeveless shirts aren’t really feasible unless they’re worn under snug hoodies right now.  So, out come the cool-weather clothes, even though I know full-well that in a few weeks it will decide to warm up again.

I hate this.

Every year, I try to out-wit the seasonal transition, putting off the annoyance of  pulling out the flannel, the sweaters, the tights for as long as possible thinking that maybe, just maybe when I get them out it will be a one time swap.  Cool weather clothing comes out, warm weather goes into the storage tubs and DONE.

But it never works.  I’m stuck with that period of weeks where I’m navigating around having two divergent wardrobes scattered around.  I can’t put away the warm weather stuff completely, but I can’t leave the cool weather stuff tucked neatly away.  It’s a disaster that looks like a thrift store has exploded all over my place.

Once again, I ponder removing myself to one of those single-season areas of the world.  Like California.  Or the tropics.  Or Antarctica.  One wardrobe.  No annoying transitions.  Simple.

Feminine Mystery


I’ve always said I’m grateful to have had a brother (even though growing up there were plenty of times I wasn’t grateful to have my brother) because I think I understand the opposite sex much better than girls who grow up without them. There’s something about spending that much time in a nonsexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex that is very educational and helps you avoid certain misunderstandings if you start dating the opposite sex when you grow up. Now my brother and I are six years apart and even though we have a good relationship we weren’t super close, so I’m sure there are plenty of things I still don’t understand about guys, but I still find myself from time to time explaining male behavior to friends who’ve done more dating than I have, just because they don’t get men.

Tonight I was reminded of just exactly how much women can remain a mystery to men without sisters. I’m often amused to discover that my male friends actually believed certain movie stereotypes about women; for example, they’re often disappointed to learn that at slumber parties we don’t sit around in our underwear braiding each others’ hair (apologies to our male readers if I just shattered any fantasies). But I had never encountered the particular delusion my friend K suffered from until tonight.

K is at a special disadvantage in that he has no sisters, he works in a male dominated profession, and he’s gay. He’s spent seriously limited time around women. Tonight a bunch of us were drinking some apocalypse cocktails (don’t ask) and one of our mutual friends left, leaving behind a skirt she had just been given. We realized it after she left and there was a lot of joking about what to do with it. Someone offered it to me, as the lone remaining female, but I quickly demurred on the grounds that the lime green color would make me look like I was suffering from a liver disease. Then K picked it up and pretended like he was going to put it on. He looked inside and said, “Wait, where are the pants?”

We all looked back at him blankly, not knowing what he meant and he said, “It’s just a tube of fabric.” We pointed out that’s what all skirts are and he looked totally confused. He motioned to me (I was wearing a skirt and tights) and said, “Yours has pants attached to it.” I shook my head and stated that I was simply wearing tights underneath my skirt. “But you have short type things under the skirt,” he insisted. I shook my head. “So if I looked under your skirt I would see your underwear?” “Sort of.” I tried not to look too offended when he shivered at the prospect.

Turns out that he believed all skirts were skorts or that they were made like dance skirts with trunks attached. Poor boy had just never had occasion to put one on take one off, or look underneath one. I guess us ladies retain more mystery than we think.

I am that Trollop

I have a black t-shirt with the word “Trollop” written on it in big red calligraphy letters.  Originally this shirt was something of an inside joke, but circumstances marred the original meaning a bit.  Nonetheless, I love the shirt and I wear it—well as much as I wear t-shirts, which is basically just to work out or do grungy work.

The reactions people have to this shirt are kind of fascinating.  Women almost universally love it (assuming I don’t have to explain to them what the word “trollop” means, which happens more than you would probably think).  One of my favorite compliments came from a middle aged Girl Scout leader who has always seemed very straight laced to me.  When she saw me wearing the shirt she squealed and said, “I love your shirt.  Makes things so much easier for the gentlemen.”

Men don’t seem to feel as comfortable complementing it.  But there’s a certain group of men who get offended by the shirt on my behalf.  They’ll go on and on about how I’m not a trollop and demand to know who told me I was.  As though someone were forcing me to wear the shirt.  I told this story to a friend tonight and she said, quite diplomatically, that it’s very chivalrous of them.  I’ve always found it more condescending.

Here’s the thing:  I bought the shirt.  I put the shirt on.  No one has ever called me a trollop unless it was in jest.  I’m not a trollop.  I know this.  That’s why the damn shirt is so entertaining.  If I really was a woman who was overly disposed to casual sex it wouldn’t be funny.

But I’m not offended by these men lacking a sense of humor or just being clueless.  I’m offended that these guys think I am so helpless I can’t conquer a t-shirt without their help. In trying to stand up for women’s rights, they’re actually playing into ideas of female weakness.

Perhaps I should just get them a t-shrt that says, “Pretentious Asshole.”

The Irregulars

This past week I had a brief twitter convo with friend of the blog Christina.  She tweeted that she wished she could open a store for cute orthotic shoes.  That reminded me of a dream business I thought of a few weeks back selling socks and tights to women with tiny feet.  I’m 5’8” and wear a 6 ½, and I’m tired of having the heels of my socks be halfway up my ankles.  Christina replied we should also combine with her idea for a shop selling clothes for “fat chicks and small boobs.”  She suggested we call it “The Irregulars.”  This made me realize that we should also sell clothes for girls with no hips and big asses (read: me).

I was excitedly telling some friends here about the idea and one of them asked if we could also have tops for girls with big boobs and small ribcages.  I said, “Sure,” but it reminded me we should also have tops for girls with small boobs and big ribcages (I was one of said girls until two years ago.)

All of this made me realize that they don’t make clothes for any of us.  Women’s clothes, at least in the US, are not made to fit any woman I know in every direction.  You buy big enough to accommodate your boobs and you’re wearing a tent.  You buy big enough to accommodate your ribcage and you have to big empty places where your boobs are supposed to be.  You buy big enough to fit your ass and your pants keep falling off because you don’t have hips.  We’ve all been there.

On television they tell me I should just take all of my clothes to a tailor to make them fit.  People on television make more money than I do.  And even if I had the money to do that, I resent the idea that I should pay for a new garment, then pay to make said new garment fit.  Can you think of anywhere else you buy a “new” item which is already broken and you pay money to get it fixed?  I mean, seriously!  Some things I can fix myself.  I can hem dress slacks, I can wear belts to hide that my shirt is too big through the middle.  (Incidentally, I love wide belts!  They totally make it look like I have a waist!)  But I tried hemming blue jeans once and will not do it again.

Yeah, I think we all need The Irregulars.  So never fear all you irregulars out there.  Someday the Ch/Kristinas will open up a shop and save you all.  Until then just remember that you might be irregular, but you’re not alone.

Academic Time Vampire

If any of you have been trying to connect with me this week you have probably failed.  There’s a good reason.  I’ve been kidnapped by this week’s Time Vampire:  Academic Conferences.

Now don’t get me wrong; I love academic conferences.  It’s like a vacation to nerd town.  What’s more, it’s your neighborhood of nerd town.  It’s a place where you can make a joke about an obscure theory and have people laugh at it.  It’s hours and hours of people talking about the things to which you’ve decided to dedicate your life.

The downside?

It’s hours and hours of people talking about the things to which you’ve decided to dedicate your life.

Which means you want to be in the thick of things all the time.  And that massive project due in one week you’ve barely started?  That stack of papers you’re supposed to be grading?  That medieval saint’s life you were supposed to read?  That blog you help run?

All fall by the wayside.  Which means you’ll be scrambling like mad next week to catch up.

In the midst of this you’re circulating and networking and trying to secure a career for yourself once you graduate.  And serving as a representative of the groups you’re already affiliated with.  Oh yeah, and you’re in a city you’ve never visited and may never visit again, trying to actually see something besides the interior of the overpriced hotel.

And this says nothing about the preparation.  Writing your presentation.  Packing.  Oh packing.  Trying to find the outfits that will best help you represent yourself to people you only see every year or so.  That may be hiring you in a year or so.  Dying your roots, because you’re about to see people you only see every year or so and don’t want them to know how much grey hair you have.

Oh yeah, and as much fun as it is, it’s also exhausting, so it will take you a couple weeks to physically recover.

Seriously.  I’m having an amazing time, but I also feel like this conference has stuck its pointy teeth (incidentally, in my field we actually have panels on vampires.  And colloquial expressions, like “time vampires”) into my life and is just slurping away the next month of it.

Mentioning Unmentionables

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’m talking about my underwear again.  And your underwear.  Assuming you’re a woman.  Or wear woman’s underwear.  No judgment here.  This is a serious matter I’m only starting to become conscious of and I think the rest of the world is largely not conscious of at all.

We’ve all seen the segments on television shows telling us about how like 75% of women in this country wear the wrong sized bra.  And I think that’s true and needs to be remedied.

But nobody’s talking about our panties (I’m like an eight year old, by the way, and can’t say that word without fighting a giggle.  Perhaps this is why we don’t talk about them?)  I’ve worn the same make and model of underwear for years.  Every Christmas, after Christmas my mother orders me and my sister unmentionables from the Vicki’s Semi-Annual sale.  I tend to wear my trousers on the tight side, so the priority is getting panties that don’t leave a line.  I wear dark colors mostly, so I can get away with just about any color underneath.  So I get the seamless bikinis in whatever color’s on clearance.  And they work just fine.

But then my roomie Bridget started going on about how the boy cut underwear are the greatest thing since sliced bread and they’re so great at creating a seamless look.  So I tried them.

Big mistake.

See, I’m built like a rectangle.  Or as a director once said, “a twelve year old boy with a big ass.”  I have no hips, no waist and a big round bubble butt.  And boy shorts are designed with the assumption of some pull out at the hips that doesn’t happen on me.  So they bunch in the front and ride up my ass and it’s all a mess.  But on Bridget, who is skinny but has a waist line and hip bones and lacks my giant ass, they evidently work.

Since then I’ve made other attempts to branch out.  I’ve tried hip huggers (bigger mistake than the boy cuts) and some other kind that I don’t remember the name of that were also a disaster.  I’ve had at least one pair of panties I strongly suspect was designed with the assumption my hoo-ha was hairless (a rant for another time).

My point is all of this, besides enabling voyeurism, is that no one talks about the fact that women need to find the right style of underwear to fit with their body type.  And no one bothers telling us that.  They market underwear to us based on what’s cute and sexy and totally neglect the fact that it’s supposed to be functional.

When I get my own show on TLC, there will totally be an episode on this.