I was shopping at Target the other day (for, like, the third time in a week—don’t judge) and stopped by their soft t-shirt section (Ian and I are obsessed with soft t-shirts and will wear no others) and saw the one pictured above. (Also: how many sets of parentheses are allowed in one sentence?)
I knew it was related to a comic book character because the tag screamed MARVEL COMICS, but I had to Google to make sure that it was, indeed, Captain America. And here’s where I got weird. Despite the fact that it was the softest soft t-shirt I’d felt, and despite the fact that the star reminded me of the stars on Tennessee’s state flag, I considered not buying it because I was afraid it would look “too patriotic.”
Because lately it seems that the only people who wear “‘merica, fuck yeah!” shirts are assholes who think gays shouldn’t be able to marry, women shouldn’t be able to receive reproductive health benefits with their insurance (despite the fact that Viagra and other boner pills continue to be covered with no qualms) or have any kind of control over their bodies, and we should punish poor people and make life increasingly difficult for immigrants.
So I sat there in Target for a good five minutes trying to decide if I should buy this $10 t-shirt that I really liked, design- and material-wise, because I was afraid that people who wouldn’t recognize the emblem as that of a comic book character would think I was one of “them.” Either with them or against them—I didn’t want to be mistaken for that kind of person. That kind of patriot.
And then, it struck me: I am more worried about being mistaken for a proud American, because of what that means now, than as a comic book nerd.
In the end, I bought the shirt for three reasons:
- It was really, really soft. And as a nerd, I generally like to support other means of nerdery, even if I’m not into comics.
- I don’t give a shit what people think about me. Well, I try like it’s my job to not care, but I’m human so I fail at this occasionally. But really, none of us should care how perfect strangers perceive us, especially those who would judge someone based on a t-shirt.
- I don’t want “patriot” to mean “person who wears American flag paraphernalia to show that he/she hates everyone who is not a middle-aged, white, straight Christian.” So I am going to wear this shirt and love gays, abortion rights and birth control pills. And while we’re at it, I’ll also wear this shirt in support of immigrants, welfare and atheists. Because what’s more American than challenging the opinions of the loud-mouthed majority around you, right?
Ha, but you know what’s really going to happen? Nobody is going to notice or give a god damn about the shirt, because in the end it’s just a t-shirt. And it doesn’t matter.