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Secondhand word cloud

Filed Under , on December 29th, 2018

Editor’s Note–TFF Issue #20

By Seth Kabala

Some vehicles bring lackluster competitive spirit to dancing competitions. Despite their nimble construction, most compact models lack the energy to stick it out in the most heated scenarios. Then you’ve got the ones who were made for dancing. Made for not just cruising down the road, but for grooving.

Along these lines, I ask you: what is Disco Very? Is it a ratings system to decide the intensity of commitment of contestants in a retro dancing competition? Is it a fan club for The Bee Gees? Is it a club for fans of John Travolta and Grease, this club’s statement of purpose being to show dominance over the losers and posers in The Bee Gees fan club?

Or is it a brain arc that separates the first two syllables from the last syllable of a Land Rover Discovery? Sadly, separated syllables is the answer. Or perhaps not so sadly.

Think about your first impression. Of anything. Maybe it’s a colleague you couldn’t initially stand, but who now makes you want to look up the statute of limitations on murder to see how long you’d need to be on the run before you could set foot in the United States again. (Hint: there’s generally no statute of limitations on murder, so if you go the route of re-purposing your stapler as a deconstructed switch blade, pack a lot of underwear, and also look into getting an intergalactic ride from Han and Chewie.)

Maybe it’s a show that your wife likes but you couldn’t stand. Or, truth be told, a show that you couldn’t admit you liked until you were safely out of earshot of crowd-sourced toxic masculinity.

Maybe it’s a career that looked promising, is promising still, will continue to be promising, but that makes you feel like performing a third-rail whole body electrolysis cleansing. Making money, even a lot of money, is a poor excuse for whoring your soul every day for years.

I get it. Few of us have the good fortune to make a living doing what we love day in and day out. Even if we are in that select few, love is not mutually exclusive with ease, nor with happiness, nor with self-assurance.

That’s why I believe in the power of second impressions.

This Christmas, my wife and I made our annual trek around to the Quad Cities’ Goodwill stores. We hit up Moline, IL, crossed the Mississippi to Bettendorf, IA (bridge is looking good, IA/IL DOT!), and retraced our steps to finish in Rock Island, IL.

We got a haul. Between the two of us, we spent about $230 on 65 articles of clothing. We got brands like Sonoma, Old Navy, American Eagle, Banana Republic, Roxy, and A.N.A. Assuming an average of $20 – $40 per article retail, we would have spent between $1,300 and $2,600 had we bought all this stuff new. Few things capture my interest like my wife’s breasts, but Goodwill deals come close.

While trying on clothes, we typically winnow our selections from a ratio of 3 to 1, and since we don’t want to be accused of illicit activity in the changing rooms, we try on at speed. Despite rushing through the try-ons, I saw no holes, ripped seams, or any other defects in any of the items I selected.

Then we took everything home.

After washing, I selected a Sonoma, fitted sweater. Although it was equally as comfortable as before, hugging my body in all the right places, I immediately discovered—while flexing in the mirror, of course—two small holes on the left biceps brachiallis. Not a big deal, fixable. Still, I wondered how I had overlooked these obvious flaws.

The next day, I tried on another new article, an American Eagle, Henley-style, long-sleeved shirt. Same result. Though the holes were in a different place (just under the sternum) they were there, plain as day. Yet, somehow, I had missed them.

What am I going to do about this? I intend to enlist the expert seamstress services of my awesome wife, Amy, and continue enjoying the benefits of these sweaters. They have flaws, yes, but more importantly, they have utility. I don’t care that my first impression was wrong. I’m going to get years of comfort out of these second-hand items.

Who knows? I might even leave some of these known imperfections (and the ones sure to be discovered upon further inspection) alone. Have you taken a look at what they’re selling in stores these days? Half the material in a pair of pants for twice the price. I think they’re going for the mauled-by-a-tiger look. I could plausibly claim to have paid hundreds of dollars for a shirt with imperfections, raising my social status, artificially inflating my sense of self-worth. What’s more American than that?

Ethically questionable bragging aside, I think most things are worthy of a second look. Checked out our fiction this quarter and thought it sucked? Give it another try. Thought our ideas for pop-culture were dated and rancid and less tasty than a yogurt left on the counter for a week and used as a repository for cigarette butts? Give it another try.

I make no guarantees that you’ll come away with a different impression, either positive or negative, but I do guarantee your perspective will be more measured, balanced, and true.

Given enough time, you, too, may unlock your love for joining The Bee Gees fan club (or Grease’s Travolta) as you cruise down the highway of the now toward the next.

Happy New Year, friends.



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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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