Last summer my sister gave Charlie this t-shirt that she bought at the Paul Frank shop in Chicago:
He loves the shirt. If it were up to him, he’d wear it every day. (On the days when we convince Charlie that his “monkey shirt” is dirty and needs to be washed he usually chooses one of his six other orange shirts to wear. Sometimes he pairs an orange shirt with orange shorts, and sometimes he matches that with his orange shoes.) Charlie’s love of the monkey shirt doesn’t end with just wearing it, he adores washing it too. When it’s time to put it in the washing machine, he brings over a chair to stand on so he can see into the machine and then he insists on placing the shirt on top of all the other clothes, adding the soap gently on top of the shirt, and then watching as the washing machine fills with water and begins spinning around. When the cycle is done, he leans his body into the machine searching through the wet clothes looking for his monkey shirt. Then he pulls it out and gingerly hangs it to dry.
The monkey shirt has recently developed two small holes. Its days are numbered and Charlie will be devastated when it comes time to put the shirt to rest.
I went on the Internet to see if I could buy a replacement shirt, but they weren’t selling them at the Paul Frank store online. They did, however, sell some monkey underpants and I’ll get to those in a second. So I emailed my sister to ask her if she had any plans to go by the Paul Frank store in Chicago anytime soon and, if so, could she get Charlie another orange shirt. Then I told her about this seven-pack underwear that I found online and asked if she could look for it at the store, except ideally we want all orange briefs rather than this multi-colored pack:
And just so you know, the t-shirt is priced at $18 and the underpants are $34. Oh, and just so you know, the underpants are a desperate move on my part. Charlie is still in diapers. I’m going to pause here to let the throwing of stones commence. After all, it’s the parents’ fault when kids aren’t toilet-trained, right? Charlie actually knows how to use the toilet, he just chooses not to most of the time (especially if he thinks we really want him to use the toilet). He also loves diapers. He likes to pick out which one he’ll wear because he has certain favorite designs, and oh mercy, if I could just get him to transfer the same excitement he has about diapers to underpants, well, maybe, just maybe, we could finally kiss the money pit that is disposable diapers goodbye and start to hold our heads high as only parents of toilet-trained children can. So it seemed reasonable to me that if we could get him orange underpants just like his money t-shirt then maybe he’d transfer his obsession to the underwear.
My sister emailed back to say that she went ahead and called the Chicago Paul Frank store and they didn’t have the t-shirt in orange, just heather grey, black, and green. She was smart enough to know that there was no point in asking me if Charlie would accept one of these colors instead. And in the kindest way possible, she added that, essentially, maybe Mark and I should be in charge of buying Charlie some underwear. Point taken.
Shortly thereafter, she sent me this email:
Next week Paula and I go to Los Angeles. I just called the store on Melrose and right now they have a size 4 in the orange. They will only hold for one day unless I pay in advance. Going there is a total pain in the ass but I love my nephew and want him to be happy, so if you want me to go to the Los Angeles store then I totally will. They don’t have a 4T, just a 4, and they swore on the phone it was the right one, but then again it was LA and the guy on the phone sounded like he was stoned.
This little dig at Los Angeles was for my benefit. I lived there for far too many years, never particularly enjoying the place. My sister drove with me across the country when I was apprehensively moving out there and she told me about this Bill Bryson book she’d read recently. The plot was basically that Bill Bryson, an ex-pat living in Britain, had come back to the US to drive around looking at America through the eyes of, well, an ex-pat living in Britain. I think that’s the plot; I didn’t actually read the book. Anyhow, apparently he had a section on Los Angeles and as we drove closer and closer to my new city and my nerves rose, she liked to quote a line from the part about LA that went something like this, “There are a lot of crazy people in America, it’s only right they should have their own city.”
So I called the Paul Frank Los Angeles store myself to see if they could just mail me the shirt and underwear and I clearly spoke to the guy my sister had talked to – I could tell by his utter lack of interest in everything I said. The music was pounding in the background. At first the music was this crazy space age sounding acoustic and then it switched over to “Forever Young” by Alphaville, a song I used to dance to in my high school gymnasium in the late 80s and it occurred to me that this guy on the phone probably wasn’t even alive when this song came out and then that made me wonder how I got to be so old and so obsessed with tracking down a designer orange monkey t-shirt and underwear for a four-year-old and where did the days of slow-dancing to Alphaville go? And that got me sort of sad and feeling a little pathetic. So I did what any self-respecting grown-up would do: I ordered the $18 t-shirt and then made the stoner tell me all about the boys’ underwear they sell too – like what colors they had, did they sell single pairs of orange panties, could he tell me how they were sized — because in my mind the stoned kid on the phone might be a little embarrassed to tell me all the details of boys’ underpants with monkeys on them. He wasn’t. I bought the underwear too even though they didn’t sell single pairs of orange underpants; I had to buy the pack of seven pairs in different colors, only one of which is orange, which means only one of the seven Charlie will actually wear. The total with shipping and tax came to $67. Then I hung up the phone and thought that if I weren’t so old and unhip I’d be spending $67 on designer underwear for myself instead.
Then I emailed my sister and told her that I’d ordered the clothes and thought I’d spoken to the same guy on the phone. She emailed back: “Was the music blaring and was he like, “yeah” “yeah” “yeah”?”
Yeah. Yeah. He was.
Fast forward a week and the monkey shirt and underpants from the Paul Frank store had still not arrived. I called the store. Either all the guys who work at the store sound the same or I spoke to the exact same guy I’d talked to a week before. He sounded like he was still stoned and no more interested in talking with me. He confirmed that he knew I had ordered the shirt and underpants and then casually mentioned that he had my order right there in front of him. Uh, excuse me? He explained that they were having a problem with their Fed Ex pick up so my package had not been mailed. I asked when he expected it to be mailed. Maybe, MAYBE, in a couple of days. So I explained that I was going to see if I could order the shirt and underwear somewhere else and I would call him back the next day to tell him if I wanted him to cancel my order. Then I got off the phone and combed the Internet looking for the shirt and underpants ANYWHERE else. Admitting defeat, I called the store back the next day and said that I still wanted the order and that I was going to send a friend to just pick it up from the store and mail it to me. The guy on the phone cut me off — the package was mailed out the day before. I guess the owner caught wind of the situation and just drove my package to the post office and mailed it (begging the question, of course, why someone hadn’t thought of that LAST week).
The package arrived today and I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: 1) both the shirt and the underpants fit and 2) Charlie insisted on taking his diaper off and putting the orange underpants on right away. Now, the bad news:1) the t-shirt is more of a red-orange than orange and Charlie doesn’t seem particularly enamored with it; 2) as expected, Charlie has no interest in the six other colors of underpants; and 3) Charlie likes the picture of the monkey on the BACK of the orange underpants so much that he’s insisting on wearing the underpants backwards so he can look down and see the monkey (the printed Paul Frank monkey; I don’t mean a euphemism for another “monkey.” Ahem).
Oh, and there’s one more piece of good news that made this crazy, desperate lady smile: the owner of the Paul Frank store ended up paying $26 in shipping to send the package via the US postal service even though I had pre-paid just $10 shipping. You see, I’m old and unhip; I have to take my small pleasures somewhere.