Thinking of Whoever Sewed My Drawers by Jarid Manos, originally published in The Huffington Post
I have a thing about boxer briefs, especially Premium sport style blends of cotton and spandex that wrap you up good like compression shorts but give a little more breathing room. If you ever see me walking into Target or Sport Authority, you know where I’m probably headed.
Recently, after a day of athletics, as I peeled off a pair of black boxer briefs that fit perfectly, I stopped and studied them. With the catastrophic clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh, I’d read about the question of why making clothes wasn’t more automated, and somebody saying, “Nothing beats human hands.”
Turning my somewhat fragrant drawers inside out, I realized I had never really thought about them. And I think about a lot of things. These were made in Bangladesh. White and silver stitching in the elastic waistband and thigh bands, and double black thread stitching around the pouch. Peering closer I saw the human hands at work inside my drawers — you could see the near perfection but still see they had been handcrafted.
For somebody who needed his son to teach him how to use the toaster oven, I became fascinated with such intricate technical skill by a person I would never know, her tactile hands all up inside my drawers, putting together the supple fabric that would take care of me, hold the most intimate parts of my body. All I’d done was scoop a two-pack off the Target rack and whip out my Visa. $14.99 + tax.
I consider myself a progressive, fair-minded person who is pretty conscious of everything around me. And without driving myself crazy I’ve tried to vote with my dollar. In fact, since reading a column in 1996 by former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert about Nike sweatshops in Vietnam (reprinted in the free Colorado Springs Independent, of all places), I haven’t bought Nike. (My son’s mother laughed and said “You just gave it to God, huh?” when I came back just once with a pair of Nike football cleats after being unable to find any other brand of the kind he needed.)
And one time, in California, as I was driving through Oxnard on my way to visit Patagonia, Inc.’s foundation in Ventura further up the coast, I saw all these Mexican workers with eyes so red it almost looked like they were bleeding as they bent over, their bare hands picking the pesticide-soaked strawberry fields. To this day I won’t buy non-organic strawberries, not even in a Jamba Juice smoothie.
I know this is all selective in a world of impacts everywhere.
But whose touch is on what we bring into our lives so intimately?
And how are we touched by words? Remembering Mr. Herbert’s column, and that it has reverberated in me all these years, makes me think the word might actually be more powerful than the sword. My non-profit’s board chair has chastised me, saying, “One writer is worth several activists.” As an American writer who is also founder of an Ecological Health organization, I’ve simply been too overwhelmed to write more.
Like boxer briefs, I guess I’ve got a thing about body integrity, words, hands, intimacy. The placing of hands on others is such an intimate act.
I keep things close, and won’t let just anybody touch me. This extends outward too, in my own touch, to being a longtime vegan. I would feel like a zombie if I ate meat.
Which brings me to my own death. What am I going to do when the time comes? I viciously cannot stand the thought of someone putting their hands on me against my will or outside my control. What am I going to do when people are pulling my dead body somewhere with their live hands and looking into my dead face and touching me and undressing me and all that and I can’t defend myself, keep them away, be in control? Jeez. And God forbid, an autopsy would be worse than rape!
I don’t feel the spirit is separate from the flesh.
I’m sorry for those who have been crushed.