Fair-trade Underwear and Cruelty-free Gussets

This whole “fair-trade” and “cruelty-free” issue has been popping off since last week, when I came back from Neiman-Marcus with a gorgeous, puffy pink chiffon dress still on the hanger.

I could tell Mother was in a right awful mood when she tossed the plate of Baked Alaska at my head. As luck would have it, she missed me and hit the cat.

“There you are,” she growled (mother, not the cat). “Prancing in front of the boys in your stockings while I’m slaving over the stove!”

“Baked Alaska is made in the oven, not over the stove,” I said. “That might be the––”

Another chunk of cake flew across the room and hit the cat, who was still licking the first salvo from his fur.

“Stop talking back!” Mother caught sight of the pink dress over my shoulder. She lunged forward to examine the tags. “What’s this?”

“That’s not the real price, mother. It was on sale.”

She whirled her hand in the air. “No, the other stuff. ‘Made from organic, cruelty-free, fair trade fabric?’ What in the name of Pol Pot is that?”

I sighed. “It just means, you know, the factory treats their workers fairly, pays them a survivable wage, and doesn’t use materials that harm the environment.”

“How’s a pink party dress going to harm the environment? Get caught in the digestive system of a moose?”

“No, not like that. It’s environmental in how it’s made.”

Mother blinked at me for a second, and peered down at the tag. “At least it’s made in America. Madagascar … sounds like a whistle-stop in Texas. Now I remember––that’s where Janet Reno burned up David Koresh and all his wives.”

I pulled the dress away from her hands. “That was Waco, mother. Madagascar is an island off the coast of Africa.”

Mother’s eyes turned as dark and serious as a shoe salesman’s. “It’s not made in America? I didn’t pass your huge cannonball of a head through my body and raise you up all these years to become some kind of Maoist rebel in a pink dress! I don’t know what’s wrong with you. There’s nothing more cruelty-free and fair than buying American. We have laws and unions and minimum wages and everything. Your Aunt Lizbeth would be out of a job and living back here with us if people stopped buying the sustainable organic truck tires she sells down at the market. Is that what you want? Aunt LIzbeth living in your closet again? Buy American––that’s the only fair trade label you need.”

I turned and walked out of the kitchen. “Yes, mother.”

Her muffled voice followed me as I trudged through the summer dining room, the spring dining room, and the foyer.

“The principal called and said to stop loitering on the street during school hours! Prom was three weeks ago, and nobody was going to ask you anyway.”

“Yes, mother,” I hissed through clenched teeth.