The Winston Box: #review

I don’t usually do disclaimers, but let’s put this front and center: This isn’t any kind of sponsorship/influencer thing. They aren’t paying me, and I bought my clothes like everybody else.

A couple of weeks ago I became aware of The Winston Box. You’ve probably heard of similar services; this is one of those subscription box thingies where every so often at an interval of your choosing they send you what is effectively a blind box with some clothes that they picked out for you. You specify a few options regarding color and style choices and then you’re basically rolling dice. The hook with these guys is that they specialize in big and tall sizes. As someone who has sized himself out of entire stores– more of them than I care to admit, frankly– this was attractive. There’s a Fat Man Store out by the mall where I buy clothes from periodically, and they’ve got nice stuff but they’re expensive as hell— think $25 for a plain T-shirt, $75 for a sweater level– and the idea of a $75 box that would include two or three items that were likely to fit me seemed like it might be worth a shot.

Plus, and I cannot emphasize this enough, coronavirus. I’m pretty sure I just got involved in this because of my seething need for novelty and entertainment. So, fuck it, here’s $75; send me some shit.

This is why I was so mad at FedEx yesterday, by the way.

So that’s my box. It looked a little on the small side at first, until I thought about just how little space clothing takes up when it’s vacuum-packed. As it turned out, there was plenty in there. But hell, let’s open this thing!

Okay, I admit it: a lavender winter hat as the first item out of the box did not excite me, both because we had damn well better be well out of winter hat weather until next November and … yeah, lavender hats aren’t really my thing? But this was my first box, and they let me know there would be some extra stuff in the first box. So okay, Becky can wear the branded winter hat. I mean, it felt soft and warm, and all that. I’m sure it’s a fine hat.

I figured out pretty quickly that taking pictures of stuff in the bags wasn’t very interesting, so everything else is unpacked, in the order it was in the box:

ITEM THE FIRST! This t-shirt, featuring a vaguely phallic, vaguely Mesoamerican dude. I mean, I wear t-shirts. Like, all the time. I’m not over the moon about this one but I’ll wear it.

Now, this item, on the other hand:

homer drool dot gif, y’all. I will wear this. I will wear this a lot. It fits great and it’s super comfortable and it’s absolutely something I would have picked out for myself. I’m actually kind of mad that we’re moving out of hoodie weather for the year right now, but I expect to live in this thing for the rest of the weekend. Thumbs up A+ will wear. Honestly, this all by itself convinced me to stick around for the next box, because this would have been $100 at the fat man store, easy.

And then there’s Item Four:


At first glance, this was a huge no. One, I don’t wear sweatpants. I have one pair of what I think of as Comfy Pants(*) that I sleep in when it’s really cold, but I don’t even wear sweats around the house. Two, and it took my wife pointing this out for me to realize it, but I have very different rules for colors in shirts than I do for pants. I have at least two shirts very similar to this color, and I wear them as often as anything else I own. All of my pants? Jeans, except for the shorts I wear to bed, which are black.

These are sweatpants and they are baby blue. They are never going to get worn outside the house under any circumstances and I’m really not the laze around in sweatpants guy. Even when I’m lazing about the house, I do it in jeans.

Then I touched them, and … yeah, okay, I’ll sleep in these tonight and see how I feel. I’m a little concerned about the size, since I feel like my waist and inseam measurements for jeans are going to be massively oversized for something with an elastic waistband, but I’ll find out tonight, I suppose. Also, they had a $75 price tag on them, which, again, was the cost of the entire box.

So, one thing I’ll wear constantly and already love, one thing I’ll wear but am kind of meh about stylistically, one thing I immediately gave to my wife, and To Be Determined. Fuck it, bring on Box #2 in a couple of months.

(*) What makes them Comfy Pants and not Sweat Pants? No cuffs at the ankles. I dunno why that makes a difference to me but it does.

My most ridiculous review yet, and a site disclosure

Sometime last year, I think, I decided to simplify my life a little bit and threw out nearly all of my socks and bought about three weeks’ worth of new ones, all from the same brand and style. Since then I’ve just been tossing my socks in my sock drawer unpaired, where previously I had to laboriously pair every set of socks while putting my laundry away, a chore I despised. Now, with nearly every sock matching every other sock, that was no longer necessary.

The only exceptions: I kept a few pairs of ankle socks and I couldn’t make myself throw away a certain set of socks that were both pretty new and really comfortable. And, in fact, when I went out to buy a mess of new socks, I went looking for more of that kind, and couldn’t find any. So, whatever, they’re socks; I bought another kind.

And then I discovered something about the new socks that I didn’t think was possible: they were too tight. I’d never had sizing problems with socks before. Sometimes the elastic died and they became too loose, but that was a wear and tear thing. I’d never managed to buy socks that required even a small amount of effort to put on. These felt fine once I was wearing them, but putting them on was more of a pain in the ass than I was willing to tolerate while putting on socks.

(That is, as you may guess, an area where I don’t have a lot of tolerance for being annoyed. Putting on socks should never be even a little annoying.)

Every so often, when I was in a place where I could buy socks, I’d go looking for that white whale style, and I could never find them. Making things worse, I couldn’t identify the logo on them, which seemed ridiculous– helping you identify the brand is literally the only purpose of a logo. And the other day I lost patience with the entire process after yet another trip to Target revealed that Target basically only carries Hanes now, and took a picture of one of the Good Socks and posted it to Twitter, thusly:

It took less than five minutes, because Twitter is awesome; that is Champion’s logo, but of a special no-longer-existing Target-specific Champion brand called C9. I hadn’t been able to find the socks anywhere because that logo only existed for Champion socks sold at Target, which it doesn’t do any longer.

It’s also upside down.

But Champion still makes socks, right? Surely the socks Champion makes under their own name aren’t inferior to the ones they were only making for Target.

I immediately ordered twelve pairs of Champion Men’s Double Dry Moisture Wicking Logo 6-Pack Crew Socks. And I’m about to throw out twelve pairs of the too-tight ones, because these new socks are the shit. If you have the patience to do so, look closely at that picture up top. See how they’re ribbed (for your pleasure, uhuhuhuhuhuh) along the long axis of your foot right along the arch? That shit is genius, and it makes the sock both fit better and feel more comfortable while it’s on, and the fact that the soles are double-padded too is just icing on the sock cake. They’re also double-reinforced at the toe and the heel, and while I suspect they’re a touch more expensive than other socks it’s certainly not bad enough that I’m going to notice it.

(I am not Googling “sock cake,” because that will make one exist.)

So, yeah. Throw out all of your white socks, buy as many as you need of these, and just toss them into your sock drawer with wild abandon, because you don’t need to match them anymore.

Let’s talk about that link for a second. I doubt anyone actually has, but you might have noticed that the frequency with which I’m linking to Amazon has gone up a bit around here recently. I have joined the Amazon affiliates program, so if you purchase something from their site through a link here I get a tiny piece of the sale. For example, someone read my review of Scarlet Odyssey and bought a book through that link. It made me twenty cents!

To be perfectly clear: this isn’t going to change what I think of anything; it’s going to take a hell of a lot of twenty-cent referrals before I hit the $10 threshold where they actually pay me, and I decided to go ahead and take my payment in gift cards, so any money I make from book referrals (which are most of what I review) through this site is going to go right back into buying books. It’s not worth it to me to fake enthusiasm for something I didn’t like in order to make a fiftieth of a gift card. It is worth it to occasionally put a link somewhere I might not have a few weeks ago, which is, for example, why the Monthly Reads post today has some links in it. For that matter, too, I have to make a certain number of sales in the first three months or they cut me out of the program, and that one copy of Scarlet Odyssey hasn’t quite done it yet. I also don’t know if they’re going to get pissy about referral links to my own books, so we’ll see what happens if people start buying books by me through affiliate links.

(See what I did there?)

If y’all think it’s important, I’ll throw a disclaimer at the bottom of any post that includes an affiliate link. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but I’m happy to do it if folks think I should. At any rate, that’s going to be the deal for the next little while, at least until I know whether they’re going to keep me or not.

In which I dress for success

I alluded a couple of weeks ago to a job opportunity that I was looking at that would have represented a substantial raise as well as a responsibility level more in-tune with my current career goals. I am proud to announce that, in keeping with being in week 7 or so of the worst month of my life, I was not even called for an interview for that job despite being literally the only person currently employed by my district who has done it.

I did have a job interview today, though, for my own fucking job, as in the job I have right now and I have been doing for a year. They slightly altered our job descriptions and cut a few of us and so everyone has to re-interview. I spent some time last night thinking carefully about what to wear to the interview, which I had deliberately scheduled for the last half hour of the school day so that I didn’t have to return to my building afterward.

My typical work uniform is a collared shirt, short-sleeved, with jeans and black shoes that pass for dress shoes at a casual glance but are not. I occasionally wear a tie, especially earlier in the year, and during the winter I frequently wear a sweater over the shirt. I despise long sleeves– something about the feeling of cloth on my forearms has always made me skeevy– and even if I’m wearing a dress shirt or a sweater the sleeves will be rolled up, meaning that I don’t often wear a sport jacket (or a blazer, or a suit coat, and frankly I don’t know what the hell the differences are between those things) because I’m not about to unroll my sleeves and struggle with cuffs just to put a jacket on.

Anyway, I ended up going with a dress shirt and a tie and jeans and slightly more formal shoes, because fuck it, I’m interviewing for a job I already have and if my clothes matter then my clothes don’t matter at all, if that makes any sense and just stare at it until it does if not.

I think the interview went okay, but hell if I know. The general rule lately is that if anything can go wrong it will, so I’m sure I fucked this all up somehow. There is one more day of school tomorrow and then a teacher work day and then I will relax for three days and then I’m gonna start writing a goddamn book. I got plans, dammit.

Oh, and when I got home I jumped in the pool for the first time. Which was fucking freezing. I’m not complaining. I’m in the right mood for freezing cold water, and I wasn’t in there for more than 20 minutes or so anyway. But man, it was nice.

On my new face and my stupid brain

IMG_7057I realized a couple of weeks ago that I was out of date for a new prescription for my glasses, both in the strict calendrical sense and in the fact that I can tell my current glasses aren’t quite cutting it any longer.  I’ve been weird about eye doctors since moving back to my hometown; the guy who took over for my original (birth to age 26 or so) eye doctor after he passed away was a bit of a brusque ass; the dude after him was fine personally but his office sucked, and a new optometry practice just opened up a couple of miles away from my house.  So time for a new eye doctor for this visit, and time for a new face, too.  I wanted, in the abstract, a new look, something radically different from the style of my last several pairs of virtually-identical frames.


So here is a thing about me that I hadn’t realized:  despite the fact that I’ve had glasses on my face for damn near every single day since second grade (there were a couple of detours into contact lenses that didn’t stick) I apparently don’t actually want to see glasses when I look at my face.  My preferred style for years now has been to have no frames on the lower part of the lenses, and I found myself quickly gravitating toward “screw-mount,” or frameless, glasses.  The pair I ended up with is in that picture up there; on my face, they’re nearly invisible.

(Don’t ask why I didn’t get a selfie.  I’m not a millennial.  I didn’t think of it.)

And I discovered two other things about myself, one of which kind of alarms me and both of which deserve a bit more personal interrogation:  1) it turns out that I don’t actually have any idea how to distinguish “frames for women” from “frames for men,” beyond obvious considerations of the size of the damn things, and 2) my first thought, upon putting anything more substantial than the frameless or half-frame look on my face, was almost always “Man, these look really gay.”

To be clear, we’re talking about frames like this:

Okay, this whole post just fell apart, because in my attempt just now to find a “not gay” pair of men’s glasses, I initially grabbed a picture of Zachary fucking Quinto, who is actually gay.  


Anyway, point is, under on-someone-else’s-face circumstances, I don’t think these glasses look gay:

84th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

Nor these, and yes, I did deliberately look for a picture of Clark Kent:


..which, goddamn, are those the same glasses?  Has Zachary Quinto played Superman?  Maybe he should.  The point is it is exceedingly rare for me to look another man’s glasses and think that his glasses make him look gay.

But if you take those same glasses and put them on my face, all the sudden what I see is this:


(That’s Leo, from season six of Worst Cooks in America, and probably a bunch of other places but that’s where I first encountered him.  He’s hilarious.  And he can rock whatever look he wants.  I cannot.)

Anyway, point is, that’s weird, right?  I am, under normal circumstances, sufficiently secure in my sexuality, or at least I thought I was, and while my wife will probably be able to come up with a counterexample, I can’t really come up with any other times where I’ve rejected an entire genre of apparel because it “made me look gay.”  But, shit, that was the reaction to every single pair where the frames were actually visible, and it was immediate.  Like, what the hell, brain?  Where did that little bit of internalized homophobia come from, and how do we beat the shit out of it?

I probably ought to just buy the thickest pair of brightly colored glasses I can find and make myself wear them until I don’t give a shit anymore.

On nomenclature


So it hit me the other day that I don’t actually know what the hell a pantsuit is– or, at least, I don’t know why pantsuits are called pantsuits.  I mean, I know what a suit is, but suits always involve pants.  So why, when it’s being worn by a woman, do we refer to them as pantsuits, when the part that is actually different from a suit that a man might wear is not the suit but instead the jacket?

We should call them blousesuits or something, is what I’m saying.  Or maybe just suits.  Also, I want formal wear in all of those colors, goddammit.  Not being able to go out in public in an orange suit is absolutely the worst thing about being a white man.

(Which is to say: being a white man is awesome, because that’s literally our worst problem. Y’all should try it, if you aren’t one already.)

EDIT: Being taken to task over this via text message at the moment.  “Pantsuit,” because until not too long ago women’s suits had to involve skirts and pants were the exception, not the rule.  Got it.   I still say I should be able to go out in public in bright colors, goddammit.

Stand by, I’m trying to come up with a secondary topic that isn’t whiny.