Today I am 24 years old and it is the first time since my 21st birthday that I have celebrated it in the U.S. Appropriately, Milie gave me a t-shirt entitled “Voyage of Discovery” in which a ship, waves, and palm trees rise in paper cutout off the pages of an open book. And also one on which the surface of a cutely rendered cup of coffee looks like a computer power button.
I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, a guy who’s voice strongly reminds me of the comic book sales guy in the Simpsons if that guy were to use words like “deconstruction” when talking about Saved by the Bell. In this book he also addresses the t-shirt as a cultural product that constructs an identity of coolness.
What’s interesting about Threadless and Diesel Sweeties is that their product does not try to be cool by referencing cool things like bands or old TV shows. They’re trying to be artistically cool, and also, the shopper goes to the site looking for a t-shirt that actually, in some way, reflects her identity or personality. The shirt becomes more cool when the right person wears it by virtue of its being descriptive, and, in a way, it becomes an inside joke because only someone who knows the person knows why that particular shirt is so cool on her. I especially enjoy Milie’s “Responsible adult, BETA” t-shirt, which was even contextually cooler when she wore it on her 21st birthday.
Last night she wore the Venn Diagram shirt in which the fields are “music you like,” “music I like,” and in the overlap, “music I used to like,” although for her, I think it would be more appropriate to substitute “art” for “music.” Though that choice probably had more to do with color coordination and the fact that today is laundry day than an actual application to the situation of going out for my birthday.
These two new t-shirts she gave me actually describe four of the most salient facts about me: I read books, I like to travel, I require coffee, and I spend a lot of time on computers. Which is probably more real information than I’ve provided in my Facebook profile.
If it weren’t for the Facebook, I wouldn’t have gone out last night at all. Milie and I would have done our laundry this afternoon at the Lucky Laundromat and gone to Pico where Jeremy would have served us free tequila, and we would have reveled in the fact of my existence by eating rich Mexican food and many, many fresh tortilla chips with salsa, and that would have been all. And also more than enough. We’re still going to do that, incidentally.
But because of the Facebook, the fact of my birthday is public knowledge, and at work we organized an impromptu outing to the South Philly Tap Room. For the last four years at least, I’ve celebrated my birthday with whomever happened to be conveniently on hand. From my bosses who got me plastered on a weeknight for my 21st, to our motley collection of do-gooder white kids studying abroad in Kolkata and the Indian intellectuals who hosted us, to a bar hop in Jeju City with a couple of my fellow foreign teachers whom I hadn’t seen in months, to last night’s collection of people I know from or through work, family, and two total strangers—this has worked out pretty well for me.
As it was, I didn’t even manage to stay out until my birthday. I got home sometime after 11, watched a YouTube video of a middle aged man depicting the evolution of dance on Milie’s new iPod Touch (her birthday gift from our parents) and I think I was passing out 1/4 of the way through Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle when midnight actually rolled around.