The Ugly Shirt.

This, dear readers, is that magical time of year when the world falls in love, the air smells like cinnamon and peppermint, and I storm wildly around my house wondering where the fuck I put all the cardboard boxes, because how the hell else am I going to wrap up any of that shit I bought at that craft fair.

There’s this pile of nonsense that’s lived under my basement steps since we moved in three years ago, and as I’m wildly tearing through the piles of crap that I swore last year I was totally going to organize, I see it, perched atop my old VCR: a cheerful red and green cardboard box beckoning to me. From an incredibly inconvenient corner that requires I move my entire desk out the way and no, I definitely didn’t accidentally shatter the mug that holds all my pens when I moved it hastily because I was kind of in a hurry, why do you ask?

And so I grab this box, thinking, hallelujah, the world’s lamest Christmas miracle, and leave to wrap my roommate’s present in it, and —

And I remember.

The box isn’t empty. The box contains the shirt that my mother bought me for Christmas years ago, which I somehow had blacked out of my consciousness and shoved under the basement steps to die.

“Try it on!” my mother urged, smiling brightly as I tore through the paper and ribbon and removed the ugly shirt, consciously aware that I should be twisting my face into a smile.  Come on, Katherine, don’t fuck this up, it’s Christmas and you are going to be fucking pleasant and grateful and try on this shirt that your mother, out of the kindness of her heart, purchased for you. She loves you and she gave birth to you and the very least you can do is smile — smile! there you go! — and thank her for the shirt. 

But I can’t. I can’t with this shirt. I mean, I say something unconvincing about how much I love it, oh, I’ve been looking for one JUST LIKE IT and then quickly say OH HEY WHAT’S JOHN UNWRAPPING OVER THERE HEY GUYS I THINK I SEE SANTA OUTSIDE DOES ANYONE WANT MORE COFFEE?

And, okay, maybe it’s honestly not so bad. I pulled this picture off the ebay to show you how nice it can look when it gets all fancied up! It’s not such a bad shirt, right?


Except it’s terrible and I know I should be grateful because this sounds like the kind of whiny first-world problem that no one wants to listen to and it IS and I AM AWARE OF WHAT A PRIVILEGED ASSHOLE I AM for complaining because I KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD DON’T EVEN HAVE SHIRTS but seriously, this shirt is just really, really bad and there is no way to tell this to my mother, who just loves me and is trying really hard to make a magical Christmas for this family and I AM THE WORST HUMAN ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET BUT I REALLY HATE THIS SHIRT.

It manages to be somehow wrong in every possible way. It’s slightly too long to be a real shirt, slightly too awkward to be a shirt-dress, and too short to be a true nightshirt, though I KNOW that’s what it actually is, but I’ve never understood the concept of the nightshirt and I refuse to believe it’s a real thing. I’m sorry. I just refuse. Aren’t your legs cold?! I feel like you get three options: sexytime sleepwear (special occasions), naked (special occasions/extreme temperatures), or t-shirts and sweatpants (all the time always.) Acceptable bonus nighttime accessories: two pairs of socks, hot water bottle, heating pad, hooded sweatshirt, pizza. (Attention everybody: I’m really good at dating men).

And look, I know that culture has dictated that I’m supposed to find that faux silky satiny fabric incredibly sexy, but frankly, I’ve dated a fair amount of dudes and not a single one has ever said, Listen, honey, what would really get me going tonight is if you could wear that nightshirt with the weird slippery buttons that make it really difficult for me to access your boobies. It’s the exact color that makes pale folks like myself look even paler.

I try it on and look at myself in the mirror. It’s miraculously both too big for me almost everywhere and also too tight in the armpits and the chest. Awesome. I’m a sad beigey-lavendar shiny blob wearing an ill-fitting disco diner waitress uniform. I wonder if my mother just isn’t a crafty genius mastermind and this nightshirt is actually a form of birth control. (Also, I’d totally watch a zombie flick called DISCO DINER WAITRESS. Just FYI). 

And so here I am, three years later, face to face with this shirt and think —

You know.

Maybe it’s not so bad.




I’m every wommann, it’s all in meeeee.

I walk around the room to Britney and Madonna and Rihanna. Maybe a little RuPaul. I AM SASHA FIERCE!

Nope. Shut it down.

Unless I added a belt.


Or belted with a festive cardigan.


Or, just, like, open, like it’s some kind of labcoat that lady scientists wear on special occasions, like to scientist prom. I don’t know any scientists but I’m sure that’s a thing.*


Or maybe if I pair it with a sassy hat.

Everybody loves a sassy hat.


Or maybe like, some kind of faux-Victorian bonnet thing?




Oh, fuck it.


Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.’ – Yves Saint Laurent. 


Damn straight.

Maybe it’s not so bad after all.

*I know one scientist, actually, and I bet she’d be a really fun date to scientist prom.