I wear t-shirts. The white kind probably more appropriately called “undershirts” because I am almost always wearing them under some other piece of clothing. Now, not all my undershirts are actually white, but at least for the past decade or more, they have been tagless.
Younger readers won’t even know what I’m talking about when I say “tagless”. A whole generation has grown up without ever having experienced that awkward itching at the nape of the neck when wearing an undershirt. But many will get it or got it.I believe it was hoped (and it may have even been generally true) that after several washings the tag would mellow out. Its rough, pointy edges worn down by the wear and tear of being an undershirt. And truly, the washer looks like a pretty rough experience from my point of view. I don’t think I’d be able to hold onto my crisply poking corners if I was thrust into such an environment. Still, in my experience, the process was generally too slow and unpredictable. Some tags decided they would not “go gentle into that good night”. And they persisted, wash after wash, to be a pain in my neck.
Some genius, frustrated with scratching her/his neck, wondered “Could we make a tagless t-shirt”? At it was so.
Amazing. Revolutionary. Liberating. Transformational.
Unlike many products that boast “new and improved” versions while continuing to peddle the supposedly inferior version of itself, t-shirts are almost always found now sans tag. And good riddance! Some days I wonder if I dreamt the whole thing. An alternate reality where my clothing attacked me every time I put it on.
I’ve recently been having a similar experience with sweetened condensed milk.
If you’re still with me…hold on, this is going somewhere.
When I was a young lad frolicking at the ankles of me ma, I found delight in a few drops of sweetened condensed milk, the remnants left after baking “Hello Dolly Bars”. (Check out this version from Southern Living).
The can tipped towards the heavens, I would wait patiently for the slowly pouring nectar of the gods to fall into my mouth. I’m certain I looked the fool, standing there with my mouth stretched as wide as possible, tongue protruding, so as not to miss a precious drop.
The bars were and remain a cherished holiday treat. In other words, this waiting for the can drippings ritual only took place once a year. A few sweet drops to last throughout the year. After all, no one goes around just opening and guzzling a can of sweetened condensed milk. That would be weird and wrong.
Flash forward to adulthood, just a few short weeks ago really, and I find myself in Russia. And what do I find the Russians putting into their afternoon tea? Sweetened condensed milk….from a bag!
You can buy the stuff in a can (and I did…see the picture), but this would be like having the choice between a t-shirt with a tag and one without. Why do they even package the stuff in cans anymore? There is no reasonable explanation other than for tourists who are told the bags won’t make the trip back to the States (false!).
The bags have little caps and spouts which make it easy to pour. You can squeeze the bag ensuring nearly all the sugary yumminess inside winds up in your mouth. Yes, I wrote that correctly.
At some point, I dispensed with the pleasantries and went for full on milk-to-mouth transfer. No tea needed. Spoon? No thanks! I tipped my head back and was delighted to drink straight from the source. I was a kid again. Instead of settling for a few drops once a year, the floodgates were open. Without intervention, I may have entered a self-induced sugar coma.
Since my discovery of the bags of sweetened condensed milk, I’ve been wondering what else we decide is “good enough”. What else could we be enjoying but don’t because we haven’t imagined anything else?
I mean t-shirts had tags in them for a long time. They itched and scratched and nothing was done to make it any different. And then it was.
Sweetened condensed milk in a can works. It stacks on grocery store shelves and is easy to ship in boxes and containers. But I think the bags represent a better way.
New isn’t always better, but sometimes it is. Sometimes it is required for us to experience more. To enjoy greater possibilities. Sometimes. And sometimes it’s hard for us to think about such things because new doesn’t fit well into old.
And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins. – Mark 2:22 (New International Version)
Oh, how many times have I tried putting the new into the old?! Both wind up ruined. You need new wineskins if you are going to be dealing with new wine. They’ll become old in time, but they can’t start that way.
Try as I might, I can’t squeeze the goodness out of this sweetened condensed milk can. It wasn’t made for squeezing.
I think the same could be said about many of the systems and structures of our lives. But that my friends, will have to wait for another post. I have the last bit of sweetened condensed milk in a bag calling my name.
Life is better together,