The Jasper Chronicles

The Journal of a Cynical Dad

Monday, July 09, 2007

It Seemed Funny At The Time

There's an essay written several years back called "Ticket to the Fair", by one of our favourite authors David Foster Wallace. In the essay, originally published in Harper's Magazine, Wallace chronicles his week at the Illinois State Fair. It's a funny, funny look at the excess of the fairs in general, and the people it attracts. One of our favourite parts of the essay is when Wallace wanders through the fair's Expo building, packed with booths selling handy choppers and everything else "As Seen on TV." As he makes his way around he spots a baby is wearing a t-shirt that reads, "I Go From Zero to Horny in 2.5 Beers".

P and I burst out laughing every time we read that line.

So naturally when P had a chance to design a t-shirt for The Boy at one of her baby-showers, she came home with zero to horny t-shirt just for him. I laughed when I saw it, and we both giggled as she put it away. You have to admit, the absurdity of a shirt like that on a baby The Boy's age is pretty funny; that is until you take him to the park wearing it.

My smug "Aren't I cool because my son is wearing an ironic t-shirt?" demeanour quickly vanished as I realized that, out of context, nobody else gets the joke. Instead of laughs from other parents, I got sideways glances and furrowed brows. Attempts to explain the shirt, or qualify it with "Of course he doesn't drink beer, and yes I know he's not horny." just made it worse. The rest of the time while The Boy ran and jumped, I sat under the darkest tree I could find.

So a lesson here. In this age of Alterna-Parenting, it's not unusual to see kids wearing ironic slogans, but just make sure it isn't too much of an in-joke. I guess I should get rid of the "I Pimp My Teddy Bear to Support My Crack Addiction" t-shirt I bought for his second birthday - now that was a waste of money.