I spent a fair amount of the 90’s as a touring actor. On my first trip to Europe (which was also my first time overseas), I went souvenir CRAZY. Shot glasses. Key chains. Useless gift shop trinkets with the names of random German cities on them. And tons and tons of t-shirts. “Souvenir”, as I’m sure most people know, in French means “to remember”. And I was convinced that buying all that stuff would help me remember my experiences overseas. Never mind that I was taking pictures, journaling, and traveling with friends who would hold those memories with me. And never mind that I’ve never bought a souvenir keychain that didn’t break within a month of using it, or that I sold my entire shot glass collection for $5 at a yard sale because I couldn’t stand wrapping the damn things in newspaper every time I moved. I spent a ton of money on that stuff, but I no longer own most of what I bought on those trips.
I did, however, hang on to the t-shirts for a while. And when I say “hang on”, I truly mean just…hang on to them. I never wore them. I love clothes, and I do wear t-shirts, but my taste is very basic in terms of colors and and I’m super picky about fit. So a Hanes “Beefy-T” man-cut shirt with a bright graphic screaming “Heidelberg” won’t be in regular rotation for me. But I kept buying and storing t-shirts from my travels, organizations I worked for, and events I participated in until my dresser was so overstuffed that I broke the bottoms out of two of the drawers. When my husband and I moved in together, I finally did purge my t-shirts out of necessity – and even then I bought a Rubbermaid set of rolling drawers that I kept in the garage and stored a bunch of t-shirts in it for “work clothes”. An excellent plan for someone who rarely did yard work and often cleaned the bathroom in a wool “dry clean only” dress and high heels because I was too exhausted to change out of my office clothes.
I am happy to say I am now past the t-shirt collecting phase when I travel. I won’t even take a free one. I know it won’t help me remember anything.
But three nights ago, I got a last minute invite from my friend to go to The Moth. Her husband had a work commitment come up, and she knows I’m a HUGE fan of the storytelling series. I was thrilled to go with her, and since she is affiliated with the organization that sponsored the event, the evening included going backstage before the show and meeting some of the fantastic storytellers, second row seats just behind the storytellers and the host, Ophira Eisenberg (whom I got to meet – so kind, intelligent, and funny), and attending a reception after the event. It was a great, great evening on so many levels – from spending time with my friend to meeting people I’ve admired on the podcast to getting to hear all those incredible stories.
There was a merchandise table in the lobby. Selling t-shirts. To support an organization I LOVE. And they were CUTE. And I WANTED ONE. I even heard a woman working the table say, “they run small” which are magic words to my ears – I have a small build, and if I wear a man-cut t-shirt I look like I am doing the walk of shame, and you can see my whole bra through the sleeve hole every time I lift my arm. They were $20 – which is actually a lot of money to me right now – if I wanted one, I would have to charge it. I felt my hands automatically reaching for my credit card.
And then I stopped myself. When my current show ends, I don’t have another job lined up. I want to be out of debt. I already own a lot of t-shirts, some of which I rarely wear. And I know I will remember the evening, with or without the shirt – it was just that kind of a night.
I didn’t buy it. Do I regret it? Kinda. I’m still pining for it. But I’ve made myself a deal – if I get rid of at least five t-shirts I already own, and if I get my debt down to a point where looking at my credit card statement doesn’t make me want to vomit with anxiety, maybe I will get one. You can get them online – and I should know. I’ve been stalking that page for three days now.