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born ready

In certain situations, I get intense immigrant anxiety. For example, at national borders. I’ve been a U.S. citizen for three decades, but crossing the U.S. border is still a harrowing experience, and I can always hear choppers overhead and feel the heat of a spotlight on the back of my sweaty neck. It doesn’t matter that the border we’re talking about is the one that gets me into the U.S. from Canada, and that the only thing I’m likely to be smuggling into the country is a trunkload of Luon and maybe some cold ha gow.

Being at a border makes me remember how my family fought to get into this country. I’m scared that if I leave, they won’t let me back in.

Now I’m married to a white dude, and that helps. When they want my passport at the border, I have Tom sitting next to me, looking as Midwestern as it is possible to look without being a platter of fried walleye and squeaky cheese. Having a white person around makes me feel better at times like that. Also, when I’m camping. Also, when I’m at rodeos. Also, when I’m at a Cracker Barrel. I imagine that feeling of security, of belonging, is how Tom feels when he’s with me at a Panda Express.

For years I’ve felt immigrant anxiety that I’ve never been called up for jury duty. I have friends who have been called up five, six times. But never me. I laughed it off but secretly assumed that it had something to do with my immigrant status. So when I got called up a month ago, I had the opposite reaction of whatever you likely felt when you got your letter. I. Was. PSYCHED. Jury duty! YEe-HAW!!! I was bona fide.

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I’m a lawyer, but I’ve never been inside that jury box, and I want in. Yesterday, on my first day of service, I chose my outfit with care. A prim cardigan over my least wrinkly striped tank. After clawing my way through security, I pulled my hair off my face and chose a seat in the front row of the jury assembly room. I put down my bag and sat up straight. Show time.

I needn’t have bothered. It turns out jurors are picked for a panel at random by a computer. What a waste. And in any event, my cardigan was no match for the Courthouse Effect. I don’t care how normal you look or how nice your suit is. As soon as you get within 100 feet of a state courthouse, you will start to look crazy.

Now it’s my second day of waiting for my name to be called. They’ve already called five 30-name panels without saying my name, but I’m still hopeful that I’ll get my chance to serve. The irony is that I appear to be the only person in this entire room who is eager to be a juror. Everyone else looks like Sgt. Brody in Homeland—as if they expect to die here, laying against a wall, after long hours of torture. One guy, James H., was called for almost every panel. The last time he was called, the whole room laughed. But not James H. “It’s not funny!” he shouted, to no one in particular.

No shit it isn’t funny. Sitting in this room for two days, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to be part of a jury. And I’m starting to get the sinking feeling that I’ll be sent home without setting foot in a courtroom. Pick me! Pick me! I have so much to give! I want to sit in voir dire and have someone ask me, in a grave voice, if I have any strong opinions about pleated pants. I want to debate legal terms with laymen around a big table. I want to be jury foreman. I want to read aloud the jury verdict. I want to fulfill my civic duty.

I want to be American.

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the puffy shirt

When I first started dating Tom, I immediately began trying to expand his fashion horizons, but I shot out too fast from the gate. My first gift was an oxford shirt. It was a normal oxford shirt, in blue cotton, unremarkable in all aspects except that it had a ruffly tuxedo panel on the front. It sounds bad but take my word for it that it was cool—a casual tuxedo shirt, meant to be worn with sleeves rolled up and khakis or whatever guys were wearing on their legs back in 1999.

Our relationship was nascent, and Tom was eager to please. So he feigned awe/delight at the shirt, and then shoved it deep into the back of his closet where it rested against his pile of bootleg Phish cassette tapes.

I think what really stuck in my craw about the tuxedo shirt is that I could have returned it. I have written before about my talent—nay, GIFT—for returning things. I would have returned the tuxedo shirt, albeit pissily. But he said he’d wear it, and never did. Eventually, the shirt became more than a shirt. It became a sign of my generous willingness to help guide Tom’s fashion choices, and his ungrateful rejection of my benevolence. To this day, any time I try to get Tom to try wearing anything different, he drags out the dead carcass that is the Memory of the Tuxedo Shirt. “Yoona, I can’t wear this! It’s like that tuxedo shirt.” Or, “Yoona, remember the tuxedo shirt. I never wore the tuxedo shirt. And I’m sure as hell not wearing THIS.”

You’d think I was trying to convince him to wear, like, a cape. Or ass chaps. But it’s usually something completely innocuous, like a t-shirt in a smaller size, a size that fits. I just want him to try something outside of his normal casual wardrobe, which is either jeans and button down, or shorts and a too-large v-neck t-shirt. He always looks good. But he could look GREAT if he’d just push the envelope a bit.

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linds. and tom, in standard tom dress

Last week I saw a blue and white striped boatneck shirt at H&M. You know, the type sailors wear. I’d been trying to get Tom to try one, for years. The last time, we’d been at American Apparel and I knew it was pointless to even ask, because it was hanging between some men’s v-necks cut to the navel and a rack of neon banana hammocks.

But this time, I felt like I had a shot. After an initial struggle, Tom had recently worn a t-shirt with a wide scoopneck that showed off a mantastic amount of chest hair. With that victory in my mind’s eye, I paid for the sailor top and drove home, considering my approach. I couldn’t make a huge production of it. Best to go lo-fi. Under the radar. To present the shirt as if he had twelve other striped boatnecks sitting in his closet.

“Hey babe,” I said, passing him in the doorway. “Oh,” I said, tossing him the yellow bag. “I picked this up for you today.” And then I went to the kitchen to start making dinner. But he followed me, agitated. He held the shirt away from his body as if it was a lace thong. “What’s this? I can’t wear this. It’s a girl shirt.” I began talking, fast. “Tom. It’s not a girl’s shirt. It’s a sailor shirt. Male sailors have worn them for years!!” Tom looked unconvinced, but confused. Confusion is always the first sign that Tom’s resistance is weakening. So I went for the jugular. “I mean, Tom, do you want to look like everyone else?”

Tom, like most men, has a streak of vanity, and I could tell by the set of his jaw that by God, Tom didn’t want to look like everyone else. When victory is imminent, you have to just leave it alone. Press too hard, and they can turn on you, like some feral animal. I walked out of the kitchen and went to water the plants at the front of the house.

Next thing I knew, Tom was on the front lawn, looking mouth-wateringly good in his striped sailor top. He looked like a Kennedy. A hot Kennedy, not a puffy one. Even better, he had a sheepish, tentative smile, as if he was getting comfortable with the notion of looking that fine.

And then my damn six-year old ruined everything. Finn ran over from a lawn two neighbors down as if his hair was on fire. He screeched to a halt right under Tom’s chin. “DADDY.” Finn’s expression was alarmed. “Why are you wearing Mommy’s shirt??”

Tom swore under his breath and turned back for the house, already pulling the shirt off his torso. I resisted the urge to kick my own son in the shins and ran after Tom. “TOM!! Don’t listen to him!! He’s SIX for godsake. Look how HE dresses!!” I heard Tom run up the stairs, likely in search of one of his boring too-big t-shirts. And then I heard another voice, hammering the nail into the coffin. My three-year old, Tate, stopping as he passed Daddy on his way down the stairs. “Daddy! Why you wear Mommy’s shirt?”

Tom stormed the rest of the way up to our closet. When Tate got to the bottom of the stairs clutching his Pokemon binder, I observed that his penis was dangling out the bottom of his Gangnam Style t-shirt. I couldn’t believe Tom was listening to this pantless freak, instead of me.

I eventually got Tom to wear the sailor shirt out of the house, but I had to use some serious emotional blackmail. In all, the process was very exhausting, for a shirt that cost $24.95. He says that he’s never wearing the shirt again, now that I’ve written about it here. He wouldn’t wear his calculator watch for months after I wrote about it. But time heals all.

And he WILL wear the shirt again. You can help by not commenting on this blog post if he does.

clothes in my house that refuse to die

1. Finn’s Detroit Lions t-shirt

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I have a small to medium-sized phobia of black cotton t-shirts. Even the best black cotton shirts are bound to fade, and once your black t-shirt fades, you might as well cut the sleeves off that bitch and pull on some jorts. Needless to say, Finn loves this shirt. He likes to pair it with his too-short sweatpants and a pair of striped knee socks from H&M, and the whole ensemble cuts me like a knife, every time. If this shirt had cost money, I would have burned it long ago. But unfortunately, it was free, as Tom likes to remind me. It came with Finn’s Sports Illustrated Kids subscription, and Tom carefully checked the box for the Detroit Lions, and the rest is history.

I’ve actually tried to throw this shirt away. Finn found it in his trash can and lovingly folded it back into his drawer.

2. Tate’s Gangnam Style t-shirt

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I’ll take any opportunity to inject a little Korean flavor into my kids’ lives, which basically means that we eat a lot of Korean bbq and that I get mad when my kids ask to take Karate lessons and say they want to be goddamn ninjas. Gangnam Style is Finn’s favorite song and has been for a good six months. Finn learned the Korean word “yuh-ja” from that song, which means “woman.” He has taken to greeting me with “What up, yuh-ja,” which is technically not incorrect, as I am a woman, but sounds very rude. Whatever. Even I have to admit that the song is catchy.

But there is a big difference between the song and this shirt, which, let’s be frank, is racist. I can’t even really point to what’s racist about it, but it feels racist. Does Psy look that pig-like in real life?? I can’t be sure. I understand that Koreans designed and manufactured this shirt, because it was procured in Seoul, which makes it worse. Also, my mom bought it, which confuses me further. I mean, she’s more Korean than I am. Am I not getting the joke? I want to get the joke.

3. This shirt

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Tom and I turned on the TV the other day and caught ten minutes of the Walking Dead. I know everyone loves that show but if you’ve never watched it before and then you watch ten minutes of it, you might be forgiven for having the reaction that Tom and I did, which was to look at each other and laugh hysterically. I only mention that show because this t-shirt looks like something a zombie would wear. But it’s not. It’s actually something that my husband wears.

Whenever I complain about it, he leers at me, lifts up his arm, and asks if I find the direct access to his armpit sexy. He doesn’t use those words, but that’s the gist. I like his armpit, as much as I like the rest of him, but I don’t want direct access to his armpit. I just don’t.

4. Tate’s AC Milan shorts

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These shorts are fresh out of the wash. I have no idea what those stains are, but they aren’t coming out. I’ve tried. These look like they were worn by a guy manning the deep fryer at KFC. But when would my three-year old have been around a deep fryer?

Every morning, Tate wakes up and wants to put on a “soccer shirt” and these “sport shorts.” Tate’s actual interest in soccer or sports is arguably less extant than even mine, but his brother wears sports clothes, and he wants to be like his brother in a very bad way. Speaking of brothers, these were part of a complete kit bought for Tate by my brother Mike, a huge AC Milan fan. And I guess that’s why I can’t bear to throw them away.

5. Go Blue

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There’s a whole lot of maize and blue in my house. I don’t buy it, but still, it arrives, via Tom and his relatives.

Here’s the thing about the color maize. No one looks good in it. Especially not Asians (me, my kids) and extremely fair people (Tom). Sometimes the designers like to keep things fresh by replacing the maize with a lighter shade of yellow that you might call “cornflower” but which I call “pancake batter.” No one looks good in that either.

Anyway, we get a fresh influx of Michigan clothes anytime Michigan wins something or, in this case, gets close to winning something. Michigan made it to the NCAA finals this year, and it was a great run. I would never destroy this shirt even though it is intensely ugly. Because I love Michigan. And because it would only replicate itself if I tried to destroy it.

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**Tom said I could only use the photos of his t-shirts if I also provided this link. Enjoy.

6. Tom’s pick

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Tom got annoyed when he saw me taking pictures of his ugly clothes. So I told him to pick the thing he hated most from my wardrobe. So here it is. This offensive J.Crew cardigan, which I’ve had for eight years. Tom says it’s “Talbotty.” Meow.

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what’s in my bag, tate edition

Man, there’s nothing better than watching a kid pack his vacation bag. At the first hint of a trip, my three year old Tate will drag out his huge duffel bag into the hallway, and start filling it with his essentials. This week, in preparation for a week-long trip to Central Oregon, he packed the following.

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1. Robin (his older brother was Batman) costume from Halloween 2011

2. Gangnam Style t-shirt (more on this in my next post)

3. Envelopes, for correspondence

4. Maraca

5. Highlighter. Like mother like son. Other assorted pens.

6. Journal. For journaling. He can’t write.

7. Pastels. They melt, mark anything they graze, and oh yeah, the box has no real closure.

8. Blanket.

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Tate kept packing while I snapped these photos. He, like his dad (a master packer), works in stages. Also like his dad, Tate knows the importance of packing within packing. So he likes to put his toys in boxes before he puts them in the bag. Like so.

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Bon voyage, Tate.