Openness, honesty and t-shirts

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me whether I was the ‘real me’ on Twitter and on my blog – I’m not entirely sure how or why this came up, but it prompted an interesting discussion. The bottom line is that it is the real me exists – here, on Twitter and on Facebook.

No, not every single detail of my life is documented [though one friend at the weekend suggested I did just that on Twitter, with the exception of dating activities – though as I go on very few of those, it’s not exactly a massive omission], but the highs and lows are both in evidence. While I don’t necessarily blog about moments of heartbreak in the public sphere, I do mention the days when life isn’t quite as great as it might be. I’m more likely to rant on Twitter than Facebook; my blog dwells on the quirkier side of life; and Facebook is day to day stuff with real friends. I have boundaries and make conscious decisions about what to share and when (except when under the influence…).

I wonder sometimes at the ability of others to be so candid in their online activities, those that ponder deep philosophical thoughts, document the harsh realities of life, or tell the world just how much they’re hurting right at that moment. I’m not that kind of person, I keep my messy stuff anonymised and highly inaccessible. But openness is also important. Like many a good Christian, I belong to a small group which requires me to be honest and accountable about even the difficult areas of life. It’s scary, but utterly worth the feelings of vulnerability it brings with it – like on Sunday when I shared something incredibly personal and very scary.

In a bizarre coincidence, this concept was the main thrust of this week’s Glee, kind of. At the end of the programme they appeared singing Born This Way (Lady Gaga) wearing t-shirts on which words or phrases were printed that summed up their deep secrets or insecurities – Kurt’s said ‘likes boys’, Santana’s read ‘Lebanese’ (i.e. lesbian, it’s an in-joke), Emma’s admitted her OCD. Within seconds, Twitter was abuzz with people contemplating what their own t-shirts would say.

What about mine? Well, that leads me to the main point of this ridiculously long and honest post…

One of the things I’m particularly in awe of are people who write about their experiences of food, weight and diets in a public forum and use that context to stay accountable. A Facebook friend posts their weight updates every week – good for them, but you wouldn’t catch me doing that. (Partly because it would be so hard in the weeks when things don’t go your way; partly because I wouldn’t want people to know my actual weight; partly because it’s such a bloody hard journey that only the most supportive friends should be involved. Plus, I have a paranoid fear that people will think I’m attention seeking.) However, I came across something a little while ago that I wanted to share, and this seems the logical place to do it.

You see the thing is, my t-shirt would probably read ‘Fat’ or ‘Used to be Fat’ (though people have such varied definitions of the word than in many contexts, like the Daily Mail, I still would be fat). Yes, I used to be fat. Not just ‘could do with losing a stone’ fat, but almost Monica in Friends fat. In my late teens/early 20s I would watch episodes in which her diet was mentioned and think “Wow! If only I could do that…” [though obviously Courtney Cox never was fat so it was a slightly unrealistic ambition]. There were moments when she’d make the throwaway comment “oh, I used to be fat” to explain her attitude to cheese or cookies – a phrase that I’ve actually found myself using recently in pastoral contexts where food issues have cropped up.

Aged 21 I began a journey that saw me lose 5 stone in just over a year. Over the following years I put some of the weight back on and two years ago I began over again with a new attitude and lost another 4 stone. Some people know about both these times, having known me way back when; others know about the last two years; while lots of you have never met me in the flesh and have little idea of what I actually look like.

While I may not put those words on a t-shirt and wear it in public when we go and watch Glee Live in June, there is something I can share publicly that’s just as honest. The photo below was taken on my 21st birthday, while on a walk with the family that lived next door (it’s desperately depressing that the baby in the backpack is now 9, Doris needs to stop growing up!) – today, I honestly don’t recognise myself.

The point of this post is to draw a line under the photo, to stop the past being what identifies me. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting out of that mindset and improving my quality of life – it isn’t who I am any more.  I appreciate that it sounds awfully cheesy, but it’s an important idea. Emma’s t-shirt doesn’t need to say ‘OCD’ once she’s dealt with it; you – and I – don’t need to be defined by our pasts once we’ve moved on. Whether it’s a t-shirt that reads ‘Fat’, ‘Divorced’, ‘Self-harmer’, ‘Single’ or whatever, we don’t need to keep wearing it. 

Put your hands up…

Over the weekend, a former colleague of mine made contact. This was slightly exciting on two counts.

1. Her first contact was via a slightly cryptic comment on my Yale post.
2. Her second contact came with this photo attached:

I’m insanely jealous of this colleague. Not only has she successfully left our organisation, but she managed to get all the way to Boston. Plus, not only is she in Boston, she’s just enrolled at Harvard Law School, immortalised in film and song thanks to Elle Woods’ adventures in Legally Blonde.

This colleague also knows well my passion for US college memorabilia – particularly the Harvard t-shirt that remained elusive until last Christmas [though it’s still not quite the one I want, but that may have to wait until I get to visit properly]. She therefore knew that I would love this glimpse of the Harvard Coop where vast quantities of such material can be found. The Single Ladies reference is just an added bonus…

Godly garb

Last week, when basically comparing the Christian world to Rowling’s wizarding world, I mentioned some of the quirky clothing sported by some people of faith. It’s taken me a while to accumulate enough evidence for a full post on this topic, but the results are (I think) amusing enough for Friday fun.

Firstly, a disclaimer. I am not mocking those who wear or design these t-shirts. In fact, good on the people who choose to wear them for putting their faith out there for all to see. In a lot of cases I’m actually quite amused at the way in which secular graphics have been manipulated to include a Christian dimension and most of the examples below made me laugh out loud and impressed me.

So, first off we have a selection of familiar designs that have been tweaked, just a tad:

See – actually quite clever. I think Abreadcrumb & Fish might be my personal favourite.

Then we have the movie versions. Sadly, nowhere could I find the Lord of the Kings tee I’d spotted the other week, but I did discover these:

Have to say, I’m quite keen on the Star Wars reference. 

And finally, some t-shirts that I actually love and could almost be persuaded to buy…

For religious grammar pedants:
A little bit of irony (from here):
(Incidentally, love that this is on a man’s t-shirt!)
This one was specially created by this guy and as soon as I spotted it I had to send it to C – too, too amusing:
And last, but by no means least, there are (of course) a whole host of relationship related t-shirts, because as we know, that’s what Christians are most obsessed with. (Remember the Jesus loves you…but I fancy you t-shirt?) There are various variations on the I ♥ theme, but this was a favourite: 
Cos you know what? I do. (From here.)
And you may also appreciate the Bible reference. 2 Corinthians 6:14 reads: ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?’

But perhaps, after all these examples, maybe the strange person who declared “I don’t do t-shirts with words on” had a point…

Clever Clothing

T-shirts are wonderfully multi-purpose items. Not simply clothing, they can in fact communicate any number of things about their wearer.
From the age-old “I’m with stupid” (message: the wearer is actually stupid) to retro bands (message: ‘I wasn’t born when this band were around, but I like people to think I’ve got good taste in music’), or political causes, the t-shirt has long had a dual function.
For your amusement today, I bring you: intelligent t-shirts.
Shirts that show that not only is the wearer clever, but also has a sense of humour. Ok, a warped sense of humour. Actually, they are in fact a geek who would not be out of place on Big Bang Theory. (Unfamiliar with this comic genius? Watch this and this.)

[It took me a good long while to get what this actually meant. I’m rather pleased – it means I’m not a geek, but that the person who sent it to me may well be!]
[Thanks to the wonderful Big Bang Theory]
Finally, my favourite (as it’s the only one I truly understood): Lego Evolution
ThinkGeek seems to have an almost unlimited supply of these things, so there’s bound to be one for the geek in your life…
…unless they’re someone who subscribes to the “I will not wear t-shirts with words on” philosophy. I find this both amusing and bemusing. Yes, we all have irrational ideas with regard to clothing (or ‘apparel’ stateside – could we bring that word into British use?). I, for example, will not wear grey on my top half – it’s a stringent rule. But words? Hmmmm.
I guess it depends on what the words are. I don’t have many, but I don’t actively avoid them either. I like political t-shirts, but my current favourite has a random inscription of ‘Talk like an Angel’ which I believe to be enigmatic enough to not be embarassing and yet be quite a good conversation starter. You never know when that might come in useful!

Telling it like it is…on a t-shirt

I’m a big fan of the university t-shirt. Not because I’m an academic snob & like to advertise where I studied (which happened to be a pretty good place, as was the place I did my postgrad…ok, so now I’m boasting just a little…), but because I like them. I kind of collect them like other people collect Hard Rock Cafe shirts – to show where I’ve been.
Most of the, I’ve not been there at all, because usually, my Dad picks them up on his academic jaunts around the world (I’m also fussy over design, so reject ones I don’t like when I’m on location). Currently, he’s on a sabbatical in Texas, spending lots of time in the library at Southern Methodist University (SMU) soon to be home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
Knowing my penchant for the university tee, he asked me to check their bookstore’s website & pick out what I liked, so I’ve just been having a browse. Being an official “ex Methodist” (to quote one of my colleagues last week), I wasn’t keen on one that featured the ‘Methodist’ word, but there were many that didn’t.
Personal favourite (though not what I’m going to request):
“SMU We’re not snobs…we’re just better than you.”
I’m sure there’s someone I know who could do with that on their chest!
The title of this post also finally gives me chance to mention some t-shirts I found in NZ which I’d forgotten to use in my NZ posts. From a rather fabulous store called Globalculture, they truly reflect the wonders of the Kiwi vocabulary:

“Choice, eh!” [chois, aye!] Translation: “Pretty good don’t you think?”
“Sweet As” [sweet as] Translation: “I confirm that what you are proposing sounds is good by me”

Desperately wanted to buy one for my brother in law, but figured he might not get the joke.