October 27, 2021
One in a series of 25 first-person narratives of offense, outrage, innocent transgression or principled affront, in attire, display, speech or spectacle.
SUSPENDERS OF DISBELIEF
In eighth grade, suspenders were my sartorial trademark. I had two dozen pairs, from classic black to Mork-from-Ork rainbow. I was a hapless geek rebranding as a willful weirdo — there was eye-rolling, sure, but I was a fast talker, star of the school musical, and as close to popular as I’d ever been.
High school would be different. Two middle schools fed into ninth grade, meaning 150 new people blindsided by my quirks. Suspenders made me an easy target for adolescent rage, along with a simple method for expressing it: the snap. Few could resist the temptation to position themselves behind me, pull back on the X, and let go.
Not for the last time in my life, I endured through sheer persistence. I wore suspenders Every. Single. Day. For most people, it became part of the wallpaper — and that’s when the real nutjobs came out.
By far the worst were two metalhead meatballs I’ll call Shane and Mike — ostensible non-conformists driven to white-knuckled rage by my refusal to conform. One day, they staged a cafeteria scene in which each grabbed a strap and ran in opposite directions. I think they expected it to end in spectacular injury, but the suspenders just detached and left them hanging.
Months later, they tried again. They ambushed me in front of the school post-dismissal, this time pulling from the front, dragging me along on a kind of double leash. This got humiliating pretty quickly, so I decided to stop short and let them detach again. But the straps tore apart instead, and the boys ran off high-fiving as I unclipped the tattered remains and walked home clutching them in mourning.
Well, my mom saw this, and I made the mistake of naming the guys who did it. I didn’t realize she’d acted on it until Shane confronted me in a stairwell. He was by far the spookier of the two — Mike was a petulant brat, but Shane’s anger seemed to be fueled by poverty and unaddressed mental issues. He showed me a knife and said, “Thanks to your mom I’m on final probation. If one more thing happens, they’re kicking me out. And then I’m coming for you.”
But it got even scarier. A few weeks later, I was unlocking the door to my house after school when someone called out “Hey asshole!” Shane was on his bike in the street. “Now I know where you live!” he cackled before speeding off. This gave me pause — I had two little sisters, and this guy was clearly a psychopath. What was he capable of?
By then, I was mostly finished with suspenders anyway. I’d begun feeling pretty self-conscious — what had started as a gesture of plucky self-expression was beginning to feel silly and contrived. Maybe there were more sophisticated ways to gain attention — and not risk my life in the process. Shane must have approved, wherever he was — I assume he got expelled, because I never saw him again.
PROJECT:OBJECTIONABLE: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Adrienne Crew on MAKIN’ BACON | Lynn Peril on BABY’S FIRST ASHTRAY | Lisa Levy on TOILETTE-À-TÊTE | Maria Swisher on STEALING GENIUS | Oliver Baer on CTHULHU SEX MAGAZINE | Yelena Tylkina on A DRINK TO DEATH | Elke Claus on URINAL SHRINE | Jeff Lewonczyk on SUSPENDERS OF DISBELIEF | Jenn Mehm on TWIN SKIN | Marlon Stern Lopez on SOUVENIR OF THE LAPD | Lauren Curtis on NAILED IT! | Josh Glenn on K-TEL TRUCKER TAPE | Fran Pado on THE BRIEF LIFE OF FRANCES POTTER | Nikhil Singh on HASHTAG FASHIONPOLICEPROBLEMS | Adam McGovern on PERSONA NON GRATA | Crystal Durant on LICENSE TO SHOCK | Dean Haspiel on DIRTY DOORKNOB | Justin J Bowen on UNKLE KRAMPUS | Annie Nocenti on STICKY FINGERS | Michele Carlo on THE MANY HATS OF CARMEN MOFONGO | Alice Meichi Li on BEDTIME FOR CATWOMAN | Whitney Matheson on GYNECOLOGICAL GOODFELLA | Ran Xia on PROJECT GREENCARD | Mimi Lipson on MEIN KITSCH | Art Wallace on ELECTRIC KOCH.
SEMIO OBJECTS: Lucia Laurent-Neva on SPONGEBOB BUS | Samuel Grange on SALT & PEPPER HOLDER| Ximena Tobi on VASALISA | Sónia Marques on CABBAGE TUREEN | Thierry Mortier on BICYCLE BELL | & 20 MORE.
MOVIE OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Ramona Lyons on EYE OF THE SERPENT (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) | Faythe Levine on BEDKNOB (BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS) | Gerald Peary on CUP OF COFFEE (THE BIG HEAT) | Christopher Orr on TOM’S HAT (MILLER’S CROSSING) | Lynn Peril on TRANSISTOR RADIO (DR. STRANGELOVE) | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 2): INTRODUCTION | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | & 20 MORE.
FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.
FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.
FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Allison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.
ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.
TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.
POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.
ALSO SEE: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | POLITICAL OBJECTS (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 (4Q2017) | FLAIR (2Q2018) | FOSSILS (4Q2018) | FETISHES (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS (2Q2020) | SEMIO OBJECTS (2Q2021) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (cross-posted from Significant Objects website). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | LOST OBJECTS (Hat & Beard Press, 2022) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.
What do you think?
I used to wear a tie on Tuesdays and Thursdays, without fail, specifically to provoke a reaction from my high school classmates. This was not high fashion — I wore the tie loosened slightly with the top button open, somehow convincing myself I looked liked Robert Redford in Barefoot in the park or one of the guys in The Tubes (Probably not.) I had been bullied since 3rd grade, but by my Junior year, I was bigger than most of guys on the football team and suckering for fights. It was amazing how a piece of fabric could stir p such harsh emotions.
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