Sleeves- to cut or not to cut? That is the question.

Recently I took my two oldest daughters over to a friend’s house- let’s call him Mike, because that’s actually his name. Mike has two daughters roughly the same ages. Two other dads were also en route- let’s call them J1 and J2- to protect the innocent and because both their names begin with “J.” Both J1 and J2 were bringing their two oldest daughters. So to sum up: four dads and six daughters teaming up for a Sunday Funday- while the mom’s all sat around a pool somewhere drinking and discussing either solutions to the conflict in the Middle East or their husbands deficiencies- not really sure.

What I’m sure about, is that Mike was wearing a Doug Collins basketball camp t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. This was an immediate source of conversation, even more pressing than the scorching temperatures or the game plan for keeping our kids alive.

“How old is it?” (20 years.)

“Have you always had the sleeves off, or did you recently cut them?” (Roughly 19 of the 20 years have been sleeveless.)

“How often do you wear it?”(Now and again on hot days.)

“What kind of ventilation does that thing get?”(Excellent.)

“Do you have other sleeveless shirts?”(One other tank top, that he wears occasionally, purchased for him by one of his daughters, and is not sure how he feels about it.)

Later, after swimming and with the kids watching a movie, while J1 was talking about something or other- likely having to do with either dip or cheese- I interrupted him to say, “You know, that shirt is practically begging to be sleeveless.”

J1 was wearing a white t-shirt with a red, white, and blue picture of Abe Lincoln, wearing sunglasses and a bandana, with the word ‘Murica underneath the portrait.

J1 is not the type to take a suggestion like this lightly. He explained that this was his team uniform for a day-long bocce ball/binge drinking tournament for LAST YEAR, that he had ordered two but somehow three had arrived, one for his teammate, and two for him, and that, hell yes, he would cut off the sleeves.

Both J2 and Mike whole-heartedly agreed and supported the project. Mike even supplied the kitchen scissors, which he considered his very best pair. J1 removed his shirt and began cutting, while both J2 and Mike scrutinized and discussed J1’s technique.  He was not cutting on the lines and going with a jagged look. This seemed to cause Mike’s respiratory rate to increase, and J1 relayed a story about how his retired fire fighter chief father-in-law came home from work early on in the marriage to a living room freshly vacuumed by his wife- with lines not straight- so that he re-vacuumed the whole room. One can imagine this story has been told many times.

“I would do something like that,” Mike said.

We discussed lawn-mowing and how he would likely enjoy the job of mowing the outfield at Petco park.

“That would be deeply satisfying,” he said.

“You know what’s not deeply satisfying,” J1 said. “These scissors. They’re just not sharp enough. Literally not cutting it.”

He was having problems right around the lightly stained armpit.

“What? My kitchen scissors? They’re the sharpest ones I got,” Mike said.

What followed is a peeved Mike producing about five or six different pairs of scissors and a discussion of whether you can hear the sharpness of a scissor by snipping it in mid-air.

“Of course you can,” J1 said. He snipped a blue-handled pair as if in evidence. “Can’t you hear that?”

Everyone seemed to agree. J2 had an almost puppy-like expression of gratitude for being around both the conversation and the sleeve-cutting operation. J1 regarded my doubt in a curious fashion, like I had revealed that I didn’t know how to do something basic that everyone knows, like swimming or riding a bike. Mike was still in disbelief about J1’s opinion of his kitchen scissors.

“What are you guys, scissor whisperers?” I said. “Have you had your ears classically trained in scissors?”

“They’ve been sharpened for cutting food,” Mike said. “I use them on steak, chicken, all kinds of meat…”

“Yeah, but you’re not eating t-shirts,” J1 countered. He was onto the next sleeve, now with a red-handled pair.

J1 got the job done. Both amputated sleeves I believe ended up in the garbage. He put on his sleeveless shirt and everyone could easily agree that the shirt had been improved, even with the jagged, not on the lines, cut.

“I’d say a B-” J2 said, for an overall sleeve cut grade.

“Yeah,” Mike said, “C+ or B-, I could go either way.”

In response, J1 took a drink of beer and slid the five or six scissors into a little pile.

Later we were out drinking on the patio. We were keeping score as our kids came out asking for stuff. Like in golf, the lowest score wins. J1’s daughter wanted a band-aid. This would count as two points since not only was she asking him something, but he would have to get up.

“Mr. Mike doesn’t have any,” J1 said.

The three-year-old made a face like smelling a dead fish. “Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaase!”

“Maybe you could use one of your daddy’s sleeves?” I said, which drew laughter from the dads and a blank, almost angry stare from the three-year-old.

While she persistently begged, J1 showed us a picture of this year’s bocce ball/binge drinking tournament shirt. It had a question across the top, “Are you drunk?” With a box for Yes and No under each nipple. Far from the boxes, somewhere near the floating rib, was an “X”

But the real questions, in my my mind, are: Will that shirt end up sleeveless as well? Why don’t we cut off sleeves from t-shirts anymore- something we did in college all the time? Shouldn’t we all have at least two or three readily available sleeveless shirts? When does a shirt qualify for sleeve removal? In short- to cut or not to cut?

J1 had moved on- back to the scissor issue. He was ordering Mike a new pair of scissors on Amazon.

“What about your shirt?” I asked J2. He might as well have been wearing a shirt that said, “Please, convince my owner to remove my sleeves.” He wore a lime green shirt from a Disney camp- probably at least a teenager in shirt years. He appeared ready for the question.

“I would cut it but it’s part of my rotation,” J2 said.

“That’s my reasoning,” I said.

“Oh, feel that breeze,” J1 said.


Later, the following stream of texts appeared on my phone:

J1: My wife seems overly concerned about where my sleeves went and why they came off.

J2: Tell her it would’ve been a smoother cut if the scissors sounded better.

Mike: It’s confirmed. We own fabric scissors. No idea where or what that is

J1: Haha

J2: My wife’s exact words: “Are all of his shirts sleeveless now?”

J1: So much breeze.





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