I am at Walgreens – which I always thought of as a ‘drugstore’ – marveling at the denim shirts on sale for $12.99.

I am lost in fashion thought. These look awfully good. The label looks smartly Banana Republic-like. ‘RealGoodDenim,’ it reads, 100% cotton, made in China. It has what you intellectual property lawyers would call a good ‘look and feel.’

I am trying to decide whether I am Medium or Large, on the reasonable assumption that Walgreens has no dressing rooms to try things on (although it does have $9.99 football-size pink piggy banks and $99 four-page-a-minute computer-printers).

My cell phone rings.

‘Hi, where are you?’

It’s Charles. I explain that I am in front of this remarkable display of $12.99 denim shirts at Walgreens (grinning, as I imagine his reaction) and –

‘Do NOT buy clothes at Walgreens,’ Charles instructs.

‘But . . .’

‘Do NOT buy clothes at Walgreens,’ he repeats, a note of panic creeping into his voice. (After all, how I look is, vaguely, a reflection on him.) It is the same note of panic, more or less, coming from a different place, that inflects my voice when Charles shops at Prada. Socks, at Prada, cost thousands of dollars.

I hesitate. I am considering the ethics of the situation.

The shirts are, after all, only $12.99. And they are clearly $39 shirts. This is a powerful tug on my moral compass. But tug enough to risk making Charles angry? And would it really make him angry? And, in any event, can’t I just fib?

Charles senses my hesitation. He is a brilliant fashion designer. He knows style better than I know anything.

‘Promise me,’ he says one more time . . . slowly . . . ‘that you will not buy clothes at Walgreens.’

‘OK,’ I say, taking two shirts off the rack. Tomorrow, I plan to go back for more.

 

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