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Peterson: Holes in garments OK, but out, damn spot

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 11:20 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 11:34 p.m. CST

I think I’ve ruined my favorite shirt. And its backup, too.

It’s all because I can’t keep my food on my fork. At least that’s my guess.

I don’t know how long I’ve had this shirt, but it’s been many years. It’s made by Puritan and is basically a long-sleeved T-shirt but made of much heavier fabric than your regular Hanes T-shirts. It’s navy blue although it has faded some, enough to know it’s been around awhile. 

But that’s hardly the first clue. The first clue might be the small holes scattered about the shirt. It’s like moths feasted on it. But I can honestly say that in all my years, I have never had a problem with moths. I’ve never had a need for a mothball.

Yet they sell mothballs at the store, so someone must be afflicted with them. But it seems rather extreme, given how bad mothballs smell. I’ve never been able to reconcile the use of mothballs with the scent they leave behind. Which is worse? The egg or the chicken?

I would think the scent because it lingers heavy in the air, and everyone knows instantaneously what’s up. Someone has a moth infestation. Egad.

But, again, in all my years, I have never seen a moth so much as inside the house, much less in a drawer or closet munching on my clothing. And I’ve never known anyone who has been infested with moths and had the clothing holes to prove it.

The closest moths come to our house is when they are attracted to the outside light, or they fly into the screened window at night, aiming for the light inside. But, as near as I can remember, none has penetrated the screen or gotten past interest in the outside light.

I thought the best use for mothballs was in gardening to keep rabbits and insects away from your plants; they can’t stand the smell, either. But I have come to find out through the National Pesticide Information Center that mothballs are toxic, and one of the last places you want to put them is in your garden. The only safe place for them is in an airtight container to kill moths.

But I’ve never had a problem with moths, so I am the wrong person to go to for testimonials. I can tell you about fleas, however, and how much determination they have to live. We had a flea infestation, and I can’t tell you how many months it took to kill them off. I think it was actually the frigid winter more than anything we did that killed them.

The holes in my shirt are not caused by fleas, but – and I’m only guessing – by being washed innumerable times. Eventually, the fabric wears out somehow.

It’s not just holes in my shirt. Just about every seam shows extreme wear. What would be the left cuff is hanging on by threads. Half of the sewing has been destroyed, leaving gaping holes as the cuff hangs on for dear life. The other cuff is not far behind, but the stitching is holding out, if visibly frayed.

The seam up the left sleeve is punctuated with many holes, but the seam on the right sleeve is holding up marginally better. A breakthrough is about to occur.

The edge of the collar where the fabric is doubled over has come apart almost completely all the way at the neck, but instead of flaying apart, the two pieces of fabric stick together as if nothing is happening, which amazes me. Maybe it’s gravitation.

I haven’t mentioned how soft the shirt is, and despite the holes, how warm it is. If the left cuff falls off, I may have to reassess continuing to wear the shirt, but until then, it is my favorite, although I have to watch where I wear this in public. 

My second favorite shirt is a Jerzees. It’s only a couple of years old, is navy blue and doesn’t have a single hole or frayed seam on it. I bought it as a backup to my favorite shirt; this one I can wear places I can’t wear my favorite. But I can’t see it becoming my favorite shirt. The fabric isn’t nearly as thick. This one is more along the lines of a T-shirt.

When my favorite shirt washes away, I will be left with an armoire of shirts, none of them favorites.

But what concerns me about both navy blue shirts – dark colors to hide coffee dribbles – are the spots. Grease spots, I think. I can’t wash them out.

Now, I can wear a shirt with holes and call it my favorite and not feel ashamed wearing it, but put a grease spot on it, and everything changes. “He can’t keep food in his mouth,” other people will think. “Moron.” “Wear a bib.” It makes me look fat. Or fatter.

The holes are conversation pieces. The spots are embarrassments.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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