How Cheap Labor in Asia Harms American Families (!)

by Retta Fontana

My husband is no cheapskate, really. However, after ten years of prompting by me, he decided to go out and buy new underwear. For several days afterwards he was terribly grumpy. When he started complaining about the elastic in his new undies being too tight, I suddenly understood his bad attitude. He was indignant when I implied it was due to the tight underwear.

At first, I tolerated his carrying on about them and his following me around ranting, pulling the elastic in and out, demonstrating the defective elastic. It’s a good thing I’ve perfected the art of feigning interest while stealthily combating the desire to roll my eyes. It’s the same far away look I’ve seen in his eyes when I’m leaving instructions for starting dinner while I’m out and the game is on. “Yep, got it babe.” Followed later by, “Ooooh, did you tell me to turn the oven on?”

Can you tell we’ve been married a while? 25 years is a long time to carry the cross, I’ll tell you. By the third morning I’d heard enough about the underwear elastic. He started with, “Retta, how can they sell crap like this?” That was it.

“Are ya kidding me? Some guy in China made those underwear for two cents an hour. What does he care? He used elastic that was made by another guy from China who also makes two cents an hour. What does he care?”

“I’m taking them back.”

“Oh, really? First of all, as soon as you ask some unsuspecting woman behind the service desk to look at your underwear, what do ya think she’s going to do? Examine them? No, after recoiling in horror she’s going to call security. It might take 30 seconds for an armed guard to appear and put you in a chokehold. That’s just enough time for you to cry, ‘but the elastic is too tight on my underwear!’ Any men standing in line behind you will certainly understand, but they’re not going to try to save your ass, any more than you would try to save theirs. Once you’re singled out in this country, you’re a dead man walking the green mile and you know it!”

His shoulders began to sag.

“You’ll be arrested, lose your job and your volunteer soccer coach position, and be forever marked as a sex offender. I’ll have to put a big red ‘U’ on all your shirts and our front door.” This is how cheap labor in China harms American families. I wasn’t through though. “All this over an $8 package of underwear? Are ya kidding me? $8 is coffee money for you, Mister ‘I-can’t-go-to-work-without-Starbucks!’” His eyes dropped.

“Do you know why you don’t hear me bitch about underwear that fits badly? I’ll tell you why. It’s because if they fit badly, they won’t for long. When you have a period for a week out of every month for forty years, you can’t get that attached to any particular pair. They’ll be gone before you know it.” (Life is messy for women. I know men don’t want to hear this, but women have to live with it.)

“If you want to complain about underwear, try shopping for a bra that lifts and separates. You’re going to have to do better than a simple elastic problem if you want sympathy around here and this is your home.”

“You’re right,” he whispers, beaten. “Even if they didn’t arrest me, they’d tell me exactly what I would tell them, ‘go get a bigger size, fatty.’”

 published at Endervidualism on 7/26/2006

Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, homeschooler, potter, parenting teacher and a student of Forex. Children are her favorite people. She lives in Metro Detroit.