I’ve been known to take of my shirt.
I’m not that guy. I’m just a dad of three sneaking up on his mid-40s. I’ve never been a lifeguard. I am, however, up for sharing my pizza, doling advice or tossing you the shirt off my back.
You might have noticed – many of us dudes wear two shirts. The painstakingly skinny and the profusely sweaty both will double-bag themselves. The extra layer adds bulk and absorbs sweat.
It allows a guy to tuck one shirt in. This is handy when a dad has to reach to the top shelf for a box of Frosted Flakes, and can keep his belly covered.
This one time, in Nashville, that double shirt became a story.
A counselor for NOISE! camp – a Muzak creation to show talented teens from around the country how the music biz works – I got double swag. I wore both camp shirts with the cool logo for a morning visit to a Nashville radio station.
Celebrity disc jockey Cody Alan showed us around the CMT studio, interspersing calls of “those are awesome shirts!” every few sentences. As we filed out after the tour, I peeled off my top-layer T-shirt and tossed it at him.
Totally like Mean Joe Greene in that Coke commercial.
No big deal, right?
The shirt was cool – Cardinal red, with the camp name NOISE! across the chest. Amazed and relieved I had another shirt beneath, the camp kids told me how cool that was.
I just gave it away, without expectation of anything in return.
Alan tracked me down in the hall. “Fair trade?” he asked, as he tossed me a shirt from his radio show. Suddenly I’m the kid who gave away the bottle of Coke. Yeah, fair trade, Cody.
So this giving away of shirts – it’s a good thing for a man to do, right? Soccer players exchange their shirts after an important match in a sign of respect for an opponent.
Years later, I’m in my two-shirt glory, in a pizza parlor with my girls. A woman notices my shirt – three little birds, in homage to Bob Marley. She waxes poetic about Marley and love and the meaning of the song and she’s just a happy hippy sharing the memories.
I get to the car, and turn around.
“What are you doing, dad?”
“I should give that woman this shirt,” I say. “It’ll mean something to her.”
“No!” they said and actually lunged toward me, a wall of riot cops with pizza breath. “We picked that for you!” And they had. Straight of a clearance rack at Walmart, a plain black shirt with three birds – three, like them.
If featured the singsong words “Every little thing’s … gonna be all right …”
Our friend might have enjoyed the shirt. My girls loved the meaning. Years later, after my girls gave me other shirts with more meanings and some with maybe not as much, three little birds became yesterday’s news.
And so it was that I still had it when someone else came through my life who took it on a trip to the coast and it meant something then, too.
The shirt went, in my stead. I’m glad it did.
Who knows what would happen in life if you gave every shirt away the first time you could.
I’ve been known to take off my shirt. That’s not a bad thing.
It’s also a good thing to keep it on.
You just might find a place it really belongs.