This is sort of a long story with several meandering digressions but today is a Snow/Ice/ReallyFreakin’Cold Day here in the South, so you might as well put your feet up and refresh your coffee and settle in.
First, you have to know that I love clothes. I am obsessed with fashion. This most likely is news to the people who see me every day. But even though on the outside I look like someone who barely has enough time/energy/organizational-skills to brush her hair and find shoes that match, on the inside soars the spirit of a fashionista. Or something. And this desire for style manifests itself — much to my husband’s dismay — by shopping. And by “shopping,” I mean “obsessively stalking online shopping sites for deals and bargains and pouncing on them before somebody else spies the Missoni Sport sweater for $19.99.” Oh, and buying things in actual stores, too. There’s always that. But it’s the Interwebs that are the star of this particular story.
So, I got this pretty khaki-brown pencil skirt in a box from one of the styling services
I subscribe to that seem to send me stuff for no apparent reason. (Note: Portions of this post may be edited for husband-friendly purposes.) It was cute and comfortable and different from any other of the 103 one or two pencil skirts in my closet. So I was interested. And as I looked it over, I noticed that the country-of-origin tag had these alarming words in red cautionary ink: “KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.” Except for children’s sleepwear, which quite correctly comes with tons of warnings, I’ve never seen this suggestion on an item of clothing before. And, really, it’s not even a suggestion. More like a direct order, seems to me. Maybe that’s a China thing. I mean, the fabric is 70 percent polyester, 25 percent viscose and five percent elastane — a common enough blend that up to now never has caused me to rethink my proximity to open flames when wearing it. Obviously, I’ve been teetering on the edge of recklessness. But now I know. See, husband John Pitts — buying clothes onlline is a good thing!
But the whole “Made in China” aspect of this situation reminded me of another unsettling fashion transaction. The thing you should know first about this story is that I love birds — bird jewelry, bird designs, birds on scarves and blouses. I love birds ON THINGS. I’m not particularly fond of actual birds, for these reasons: 1) Poop. 2) If there are millions of birds flying around at any one time, where the heck are all the dead ones? WHAT DO THEY DO WITH THEM? 3) Dinosaurs — Birds evolved from dinosaurs, correct? And dinosaurs are gone but birds still are here. Again I ask, WHAT DID THEY DO WITH THEM? and, finally, 4) Alfred Hitchcock, Truth Teller. But graceful swallows on a scarf? Cute little eggs in a silver basket on a delicate necklace? A raven silhouette on a white cotton pillow? Yes, please. So, since I like bird things, in my online shopping forays I usually hunt for clothes with birds. Now, I am judicious and I don’t go overboard and I do have maybe some level of taste. No parrots, for example. But when I spied this lovely blouse for practically nothing, I couldn’t hit “Buy immediately” fast enough. I didn’t recognize the brand name and there seemed to be not much information about it, but for the pennies it cost — PENNIES! — I wasn’t worried. And I sort of forgot about it, to tell the truth. I had so totally forgotten about it that when a small package arrived at our door close to three months later, covered with official Chinese labels and custom stamps and notifications, I was puzzled. But pleased to see my bird blouse, as cute as anticipated. However, as I inspected it further, I noticed that there was no tag. Of any kind. Zero. Nothing at all. Again (see “Keep Away From Fire” story above), I’d never seen a piece of clothing without a tag. And, as I inspected the package the blouse had come in, I realized I’d never gotten anything that was shipped so completely Chinese and non-English. I started to get uneasy. I started running through friends who read Chinese and work in Huntsville “for the military” in offices you can’t get to, “translating news releases and children’s stories.” I started to imagine Homeland Security or the CIA or B613 getting a Google alert: “Suspicious Chinese interaction in small northeast Mississippi town.” Yikes. With uncharacteristic haste, I got rid of the incriminating evidence (the packaging, of course) and tried to act normal — not like someone who had received a possibly illegal bird blouse from one of the world’s super powers.
So, how’s your day going?