Should My Boyfriend Throw Away His Frayed T-Shirts?

When my boyfriend Tyler and I were first dating and I’d sleep over at his apartment, I’d often reach for what we called a “pee shirt”: A top of his that I could throw on for nighttime bathroom visits, when I might run into one of his roommates. The only requirement of a pee shirt was that it provide coverage—it had to be in one piece. It shouldn’t have, say, a gaping hole across the neckline.

But more often than not, when I plunged my hand into my boyfriend’s dresser in the dark of night, I’d pull out a garment that was a shirt in name only. It was actually just shreds of fabric held together by the memory of a shirt. A shirt that, over years, sustained dramatic wear and tear but, for some reason, remained in his wardrobe rotation.

My boyfriend and I now live together, and while we have no roommates, we are not alone: The shredded shirts came with us. And they’ve been promoted from the drawer to the closet, where they droop, ludicrously, from hangers. They not only take up space in our closet; they make startling appearances on his body, as if they accomplish anything close to their original purpose. We’ve gone through several declutterings—even moved apartments—and these shirts remain. My boyfriend simply cannot, or will not, let them go.

I’ve made my case against these shirts time and time again, to no avail, so I thought it high time we brought this dispute to a public forum. We’ve each been given space to present our arguments for and against throwing away these shirts. I’ll start.

The Case for Trashing the Shredded T-Shirts

Kate: It is ancient yogic wisdom to let go of that which no longer serves you. Only then can you press forward on your path to enlightenment. At this rate, Tyler, you are doomed to a life of eternal darkness. These wretched, disgusting shirts—of which, I just counted, there are at least four—don’t only take up physical space in our home, but spiritual space, as well. Every day they spend in our closet is a blight upon our relationship and our psyche. If we ever break up, these shirts, and the energy they brought into our lives, will be to blame.

More practically, while our cohabitation has eliminated the need of a pee shirt, from time to time I find myself in want of an oversized shirt for reasons to do with style or comfort—during bike short season, for example. Can you imagine my frustration when I spot the perfect color shirt in our closet, nice and soft and with a good, hefty drape to it, only to put it on and find a hole in the armpit and olive oil stains down the front? This has happened twice.

But forget about me—what about you? We accept the love we think we deserve, and that goes for shirts, too. Do you not think yourself worthy of better than a brown Hanes crewneck you bought in 2013? Don’t you think you should be in charge of your own clothes, rather than passively accumulating a wardrobe of almost exclusively shirts you receive for free at sporting events? My God, you pay taxes! You own a car! You are my emergency contact! Is it love that keeps you clinging to these battered garments? Or is it fear—fear of growing up, fear of getting old, fear of, one day, death? Snap yourself out of it, and become the man I know you can be. Reject darkness. Step into the light. Throw away the shirts.

The Case for Keeping the Shredded T-Shirts

Tyler: No. I have a lot of pictures of myself in those shirts and I like them.

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