The Story of the Tiny T-shirt from Myanmar

Jared has this theory that I shrink his shirts. It’s misguided; for one, we don’t use a dryer and two, we both do the laundry.

My theory is that some of his shirts must be defective, but I guess neither of us has concrete proof.

To be fair, this shirt of his was a normal size when we first met but now it leans more towards child-sized:

Saqsaywaman, Cusco, Peru
At the Saqsaywaman ruins overlooking Cusco.

Also that photo was taken over three years ago and we both still rock those clothes on a semi-regular basis. To flip through our photos over the years, you would think that we operate with a very limited wardrobe. The truth is Jared has about six billion t-shirts, including two identical wombles shirts and four white shirts that say ‘Dash to Christmas’ which he wears year-round under his work shirt. Nearly all of these t-shirts are normal sized, and collectively are the reason I don’t buy him clothes.

That, and the fact that he’s a grown adult and can buy his own clothes though apparently he doesn’t need to because these random t-shirts keep reproducing in the closet.

Anyway, I broke my rule during my last work trip and bought him a t-shirt, which completely backfired.

To provide some context, my husband likes to tease me about bringing back presents when I go away without him.

“Don’t forget my present,” he will say over Skype.

“PS Don’t forget my present,” he will tack onto the bottom of an email.

Inevitably I bring him nothing which can be a bit awkward because I usually do buy something for myself. This is because I am easy to shop for, and he is not. If he carried handbags or wore jewelry then there wouldn’t be a problem but I suppose we might need to have some other conversations if that were the case.

In Myanmar I was determined to get him a souvenir, but it had to be something useful that wouldn’t wind up collecting dust in a cabinet. I delayed and delayed, eventually winding up at the airport with empty hands and 30 minutes to spare.

Market street in Yangong
So many missed present-buying opportunities while I was in Yangon.

There were several small kiosks in the center of the airport selling wall hangings, carvings, and other various knick knacks, and I spotted a t-shirt that was up his alley. It was red, with the symbol of the National League for Democracy on the front and Aung San Suu Kyi’s face on the back.

“How much for the t-shirt?” I asked.

“Five dollars.”

“Do you take kyat?”

“Five thousand kyat.”

I had just over 2,000 kyat left plus 100 Thai baht and there was a currency exchange booth in the corner. When I asked to change the baht (less than $3USD) I had to beg because it was such a small amount. The guy was fairly irritated with me but agreed; with the poor exchange rate I was still 300 kyat short.

It was time to bargain.

“Will you take 4,700 kyat?”

“Five dollars.”

“Please? It’s all I have.”

“Five dollars, five thousand kyat.”

This is when I stopped caring about the t-shirt itself and was sucked in by my competitive desire to win.

“Okay,” I said. “Can I do a mix? Two dollars and 3,000 kyat?”

She agreed, and I pulled out my super secret backup plan: a two dollar bill. I had been carrying it in my wallet as a lucky charm since 2011, when I received it as change for an ice cream in Siem Reap. It was a token, a thing, and I was sort of prepared to part with it.

“Wait!” I cried, before handing it over. “I want to photograph it. This is special money.”

The woman thought I was batshit crazy. I didn’t even take a proper picture of the bill; in my haste, I put it on snapchat and the image disappeared 24 hours later.

Lauren two dollar bill
The last remaining evidence: a screengrab of a downloaded snap story.

In return, though, I got this t-shirt. When she held it up, it looked a little bit small despite its claims of being a large size.

“Do you have a bigger one?” I asked.

“It will fit,” she said.

“It’s for my husband! He’s tall.”

Still, she insisted it would fit a person she had never seen. The only other shirt she had was an XXXL that said ‘I ♥ Myanmar’ on it so I took the red one and hoped for the best.

I arrived home about 17 hours later, minus my luggage.

“I suppose my present was in your bag,” Jared said, not missing this golden opportunity to wind me up.

“Nope,” I announced, triumphant. “It’s right here in my carry on!”

I handed him the tiny parcel, secure in its plastic bag.

“It smells like petrol,” Jared said.

It did smell like petrol, a feature I hadn’t noticed before. The t-shirt had probably spent its life on the back of a truck prior to arriving in the airport. In fact, it reeked of petrol.

Jared unfurled the t-shirt and it looked tinier than ever. Undeterred, he pulled it over his head and it suctioned to his torso immediately. We laughed and he joked about breaking out into a rash and I thought that would be the end of it.

“Maybe we’ll just frame it and display it on the wall as a historical token,” I said.

“No way! I’m wearing it to your work Christmas party,” he said.

And, several washes later, he did.

NLD tshirt

The End

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  1. This really made me laugh because the same things happens to so many of Dan’s things too. He bought this nice fleece for our travels that will be mine for sure when we get home.

    How many washes did it take for the gas smell to come out??

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