This Is Why I Can’t Have Nice Things

Breaking expensive stuff is a way of life

Time To Read: 6 mins | June 13, 2017

“You need to go shopping,” says everyone, inevitably, once they’ve known me for an extended period of time.

I just don’t see the point. I haven’t grown an inch since high school, and despite the miniature Buddha belly I’ve sprouted in recent years, everything I own still fits. So why waste money on shirts and pants that could be spent on liquor and fireworks?

This does mean my wardrobe lacks variety. If you were friends with me in 2012 and haven’t seen me since, you’d be surprised and slightly startled to discover that I’m still wearing the same rotation of 10 shirts and five pairs of pants as I was back then. Unbranded t-shirts and slightly stained button-downs don’t go out of style – if they ever were stylish, that is.

On the rare occasions I am forced to upgrade my closet, the women in my life do the decision making. Mom, friends, and a rotating cast of love interests are responsible for choosing a strong 80% of what’s in my closet at the moment. I freely surrender this duty, as it seems to make them happy and I couldn’t care less.

Sometimes though, when they don’t check in with each other, a serious case of overlap occurs. There was one Christmas where I was given four denim button downs by four separate females. Two of them insisted their gifts were ‘chambray’, but upon inspection I discovered that’s just a cutesy French word for thin, weak denim.


So we’ve established that I do not buy clothes. Well, I told you all that to set up the exceptions that prove the rule:

My only two regular garment expenditures are sunglasses and shoes. I’ve mentioned the latter before. While I do have a respectable collection of footwear, I can’t actually travel with any of them per the space restrictions of my bags, so these days I am eternally wearing flip flops. This makes visiting nice restaurants more than a tad embarrassing — I recently forced a date to walk just inches in front of me all the way to our table so as to hide my exposed toes.

But sunglasses are, by design, quite small. And since everything else I brought on my travels is cheap and beat up, I decided to pack my two favorite pairs to infuse a touch of class into the affair.

They lasted less than a month.

The first pair, a set of oversized green and brown Wayfarer-looking things, were stolen. I was standing at a bar in Belize when two local women approached me, one on each side. My shades were sitting on the bartop when one of them started a conversation and plied me with a shots, while her friend patiently waited behind me watching TV. I remember the chatty one leaving extremely suddenly on account of a “phone call;” it took me a full minute to realize my glasses had left with her friend moments before.


I can’t blame losing the second pair on anyone other than myself — and maybe Freddy Mercury.

I was with a friend in Tulum, biking back to our apartment from the beach, when Bohemian Rhapsody came on her Bluetooth speaker. Come the Wayne’s World head banging bit, I of course started head banging, then promptly went off the sidewalk and did a somersault over my handlebars. Never stopped singing though.

In the moment, we were too concerned about the three-inch gash on my forearm to pay any attention to my belongings, so only when we’d gotten home a half-hour later did we realize that my Ray Bans were still roadside. Given how well that bike ride had gone, not to mention the whiskey we’d used to numb my pain, it was decided to simply let the lost glasses lie.

That’s how I lost a few hundred dollars in sunglasses in just four weeks. And now knowing that a swanky replacement pair was a foolish investment, I instead bought a pair of beat-to-shit knock off Carerras for $5 — which of course lasted the next six months. Hell, I only lost those because I gifted them to a complete stranger who complemented them at a house party in NYC. I imagine she sobered up the next day and threw them away, for only a literally-blind drunk person would think those spectacles were spectacular.

Fast forward to May. It’s my birthday and I’ve not had a nice pair of glasses since last 2016. So in the spirit of ‘Treat Yo’ Self,’ I marched into an overpriced strip mall Sunglass Hut and spent too much money on a pair of Ray Ban turtle print thingys. This process took 3 full minutes, which is about sixty more seconds than I usually spend shopping in a calendar year.

But now my eyes and heart were happy once again. And predictably, that bliss didn’t last even a month.

I was in a good mood on my last morning in Essaouira. I’d gotten a proper night’s sleep, had a lovely dream that involved the “Fetch” girl from Mean Girls (who’s now a successful voice actress)(please don’t ask why I know that), and I’d woken up to a half-eaten Crunch bar next to the bed. All was well in the world.

I did, however, have to hustle out the door. Moroccan ATMs are a special kind of evil. Usually, when a foreign cash machine doesn’t want to give me money, it at least has the decency to describe the issue on the screen. “Transaction Error,” “Insufficient Funds,” or “You Forgot To Tell Your Bank You Were Out of The Country Again, Didn’t You?” But in Morocco, the machines just spit out your card without explanation, then carry on with their stationary lives.


And since the kindly Arabic man running my riad was wondering if/when the grungy American was ever going to pay him, I really needed to get the cash situation sorted.

So after throwing on a seven-year old shirt, the only pair of shorts I haven’t yet lost, and placing my fancy new sunglasses on the top of my head, I started walking for the front door.

I had one foot outside before realizing I’d forgotten to brush my teeth. Which I’m not convinced the locals would have noticed, but considering every other aspect of my appearance is constantly questionable, I don’t like adding fuzzy chompers to the list.

My head was busy looking at my phone, trying to pull up One Bourbon, One Shot, One Beer on Spotify. Had I instead been looking properly forward like a normal person, I simply would have cracked my forehead on the 6′ high door jam. Which would have been preferable.

Instead, I smashed my two-week old obnoxiously-expensive glasses between a wooden beam and my skull. The frames fell to the ground, and one lens leapt shot across the room like a coked-up kangaroo with a hot poker in its ass.

I uttered several choice cuss words that likely prompted the devout Muslim caretaker to pray for my soul. I retrieved the pieces and, eventually, managed to get the lens back into place.

Still, as you can see above, popping a bone back into place isn’t the same as healing it. And in this case, unless anyone’s got a contact at a Moroccan sunglass vendor, there’s not remedy in sight.

This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped wearing them — it’s just that, once again, every single aspect of my appearance is shabby.


photo: the victimized glasses. suppose i could have actually cleaned them before taking this…

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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