The word “fierce” is the perfect fit for Délani Valin’s personal style and her writing. She just won the Malahat Review’s prize for best long poem. You can read her interview about that well-deserved award here . You should also pick up a copy of Exile Edition’s Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories and read Délani’s story “The Rugaru”, which was singled out in the Globe and Mail for special notice.
I asked Délani, a creative writing student at VIU, to contribute to This Old Thing (That I Love) not just because she’s a superb writer, but also because she has a terrific style. If she decided to give up writing (perish the horrifying thought!), she could easily become a makeup artist. And her choices in clothing, particularly the textures and colours, are always dazzling. So here, to my complete delight, is Délani writing about her t-shirt. I think Unmeasured: The Movement has tremendous potential.
The Plants are Friends T-Shirt
Behold this stretched out, pit-stained, and aggressively humble t-shirt. I first glimpsed this rag in a window display on Rue St-Catherine, Montreal, in 2015. Potted plant doodles and a cheesy slogan on a white t-shirt. It couldn’t be less inviting, unless of course, the back boasted a bold #BLESSED in glitter font. And yet, as I muttered ‘scuse moi and pardon to fellow pedestrians, I fixated on the shirt.
At the end of a winter so cold I cried genuine tears into my itchy dollar-store scarf, I was hungry for some hopeful summer imagery. Rebirth, growth, a sweaty upper lip—anything.
I had also just gone vegan. This process forced me to learn how to cook all over again, and like many young adults, I discovered that vegetables are actually legit—it’s just that produce that’s green and orange in origin shouldn’t be boiled to beige. Hmm, plants are friends, I speculated.
To top it off, the shirt hung in the window of an elitist, overpriced, one-size-fits-extra-small shop in which even the mannequins appeared to hulk out of their tank tops. Meanwhile, I cast myself as some kind of fashion revolutionary: if I could wear a shirt from a company that spat at my proportions, the masses would follow. Unmeasured: the Movement, as I suddenly coined it, could change entire demographics. Never mind that my scheme would put money directly into the miniscule pockets of a corporation I loathed. I needed to stretch that shirt out for politics.
Linen and denim were yet my undefeated fabric opponents, but a soft cotton blend? I could tug on a few centimeters and make a onesie fit for a family of three and their geriatric beagle. Just watch me, I said to exactly no one.
I dropped fifty dollars on a white t-shirt that day. Unsurprisingly, the cotton shaped itself around my demands. Also unsurprisingly, there were no riots in the streets to back up Unmeasured: the Movement. I settled on wearing the shirt during some of my daily seventeen-kilometer walks through the city, walks I took for the sheer, breathless thrill of walking. In between depressive episodes and in the glow of a promising weather forecast, I became a relentlessly positive sprite that delighted in everything. Even in the sensual shape of a curbed bag of refuse. I was a chronically grinning pixie that un-ironically wore t-shirts with slogans. It was ghoulish.
Now that I’m back to my regular brooding self, my wardrobe of white-collared black dresses, and four thousand kilometers from Montreal, the shirt’s become a nice throw-on for laundry day. It still fits right. Cotton blends are unassuming friends.