Strange shirt circles and sea otter effects |

Strange shirt circles and sea otter effects

Alex Miller

We’ve all heard of crop circles ” well, I’ve got shirt circles. They’re mysterious rings that appear on my shirts that have my wife and I utterly mystified as to their origin. It looks like someone has been using the area around my sternum as a coaster.

I’ve looked at places where I sit, places where I might be leaning forward into a counter or desk. I’ve tried to think about times when I might have fallen asleep with a glass on top of me, or if the 4-year-old has been playing practical jokes on me with a sippy cup or a toy squid tentacle.

But while the shirt circles are inexplicable, the phenomenon behind them is not. Married men ” especially ones with small children ” don’t have the same ability to be immaculately groomed as when we were single. And even if most of us weren’t immaculately groomed then, we at least knew we had to look somewhat presentable were we ever to have a chance at getting married. That way, we could then have kids and thus an excuse for not looking so presentable and having shirt circles or baby barf on our pants.

I remember looking at my own father, who used to lie on the couch with a pile of nuts or candy on his voluminous belly, looking for all the world like one of those sea otters that float on their back and use their bellies as a table to eat shellfish. Would that one day be me, I wondered? Would I ever be so unconcerned with my appearance that I’d wear burgundy sweat suits or Dockers shorts with dark socks and mustard-colored K-Swiss sneakers?

I’m not there yet, but I’m eyeing the curve that starts on one end with me actually ironing my shirts once a week and some time in the future, where my wardrobe ” at least at home ” is reduced to one-piece, zip-up suits: flannel in winter, cotton for summer.

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I’ve been double-plaiding this winter already, so I feel like I’m halfway there. This occurs when I come home from work and pull on a pair of “happy pants” (our family’s name for those flannel sleep pants), forgetting or not caring that the plaid happy pants are clashing ” with all the force and cacophony of a middle-school brass band ” with the plaid shirt I had on all day.

The 13-year-old girl will grimace and make a vague hand gesture, which I interpret as a yellow penalty flag directed at the plaid foul. I feel her pain, but I’m already downstairs, far from the sartorial cornucopia that is my closet. I can’t even remember the last time I bought myself a new shirt ” and I remember the days when I used to have a Brooks Brothers charge card. If it wasn’t for my wife remembering such things at Christmas time, I’d be fashioning new boxers from those ubiquitous canvas tote bags that seem to accumulate in the house like school papers.

So, no, I’m no longer a fashion plate. I can clean up OK if need be, and somehow, on the rare occasions that I need to, I can remember how to tie a tie. I’m a lucky man in that my wife thinks I look fine no matter what ” double plaid, shirt circles and all. Since she’s the only woman whose opinion counts, it takes a lot of the burden off ” especially since getting colors to coordinate is not my strong suit.

I am worried about my influence on the children, though. The 14-year-old went off this morning in shorts with black shoes and socks, and the girl is perhaps at risk for social death if her friends see me looking like Forrest Gump. But that’s for them to figure out.

As for these shirt circles, I’m leaning towards the “aliens-are-removing-DNA-from-my-body-at-night” theory. In their stealth, they forget that their DNA sucker leaves marks on cotton.

My wife says Tide with bleach will take them out.

Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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