I’ll be brief

The other night I attended a talk by Richard Wolff, who did a decent job of delivering the “lucid economics and caustic wit” promised by the event’s organizers. After describing the circumstances that led U.S. businesses to send jobs overseas, he said, “And that is why all of you are sitting there in foreign underwear.” (Or words to that effect.)

At the time I was indeed wearing cotton briefs made in China. Over the last decade I have bought at least a dozen units of similar quality. They stay in good condition for at most two years; after another two they’ve become so holey and shapeless that even I wouldn’t be caught dead or injured in them. However, I do own two pairs of made-in-USA underpants, and after 17 years they show no sign of failing.

I know it’s been 17 years, because I bought these briefs at Lamonts in Port Angeles, and Lamonts went out of business in 2000. I remember that shopping experience very well. After noticing that a style of microfiber brief came in two versions, foreign and domestic, I spent about 20 minutes pawing through hangers, finding the briefs in my size that weren’t foreign-made. Eventually I found three pairs, two beige and one light blue (one of the beige briefs got lost somewhere a few years ago; I mourn it still).

At that time I don’t think I knew that “Made in the USA” can mean made in a sweatshop in the Northern Mariana Islands (though I certainly should have known). Nor had my consciousness been raised about the pollution caused by microfibers. Despite the downsides that I’m now aware of, I’m still happy with that purchase. I just wish that the briefs and my memory hadn’t faded to the point that I no longer know the brand or style.

Speaking of keeping stuff around for decades, I’ve been listening to a book about compulsion. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • The point of all compulsions is to relieve some sort of anxiety.
  • In the 19th century there was an epidemic of people (mostly men) wandering off for parts unknown, often unknowingly.
  • Hoarding is actually more common among men than women.
  • My husband, who I thought was the healthiest person on the planet, probably has obsessive compulsive personality disorder. But then so probably do I.
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