Friday, March 02, 2007

The Ick Factor

I spent the morning canvassing garage sales and a few local thrift stores for the new little one’s layette. Among the finds: a matched-from-top-to-bootie Hanna Andersson outfit in like new condition. I can already see the ever-higher eBay bids when my unborn one has outgrown it. For some reason, the internet auction community prefers buying Swedish infant’s clothing. I’m as big a sucker for organic cotton and flat-lock seams as any other Mommy, but it was made in Peru, for heaven’s sake. I doubt it has any distinctive terroire.

The inherent weirdness of this obsession with foreign children’s clothing is surpassed only by the attitude of people who turn up their noses at resale completely. I am truly interested in how many people refuse to buy used clothing and household items. I am especially fascinated with the adjectives that this group uses to describe thrift store fare. Grody. Skeevy. Icky. It’s like they lose the ability to speak capably and must revert to a toddler’s lexicon when economics peeks its slimy head into their closet. I don’t care if my budget is blown to smithereens; I must have X or I shall throw myself screaming to the ground.

A bit harsh, but, honestly, isn’t it the truth? Everyone has pet peeves, but most of us reach a point where we accept that we can’t always have exactly what we want. It’s called adulthood. And most of us stop dry heaving and acting faint when faced with perceived unpleasantness some time before age six. The people that balk at thrift stores are selectively grossed out by habits that save money while the obvious germiness of more expensive practices doesn’t bother them at all. They cannot bear to spread used linens on their beds, but hotel bedspreads that go unwashed for months as patron after patron spreads dander and body fluids about them are fine. They’ll have nothing to do with a garage sale coffee mug, but they eat off restaurant plates without a second thought.

Humans are germy sorts by nature, and anything we touch is bound to bear our microbial mark. New items are made with human hands or even grimier factory equipment, then packaged by another set of germs and fluids before being transported in a filthy truck. At their destination, they are unpacked in a filthy back room by a minimum wage employee who may or may not have washed after the last restroom break, then hung in a public area where anyone can touch them and try them on. If you think brand-spanking-new panties have never touched another person’s bottom, you clearly have never worked in a department store fitting room. It’s more sanitary to outfit your family from the local crack house.

That’s why we have soap and hot water, people. That four-year-old in the third world who made your sweater has never heard of toilet paper and probably has no running water with which to wash her hands. And that’s just the beginning of the grossness. So if you refuse to use recycled clothing, you’ll need to some up with a better excuse. I can respect someone who is honest. Just say it: I shop not to acquire useful, high-quality goods, but to fill an emotional void. Or: I am too good for used garments. I deserve the best, regardless of economic or environmental cost.