You drag your kids clear across the world. You eagerly anticipate conversations about architecture, culture, language, food and somehow you find yourself engaged in a neverending conversation about a t-shirt.
Of course, it wasn't just any old t-shirt that inspired this kind of passion in my children. It was, in fact, a uniquely foul t-shirt.
"Mom," my daughter whispered while we were waiting to board the boat to "James Bond" Island. "Did you see that woman's shirt?"
The shirt in question was all black with the word 'FUCK' emblazoned across it in white. Underneath, in smaller print were the words 'Off', 'You', and 'Me' with a little box in front of each one. Below that bit of verbal fun the t-shirt read 'Choices Choices'.
"What does it mean?" she asked. Her eyes were alight with a fire that our visit to the Emerald Buddha had failed to ignite.
"I think it points out how that particular word can be used in a variety of contexts," I said and turned to rescue my son from the various elderly Thai women who were petting him like a dog and pinching his cheeks.
She followed up with more questions. "If you checked the 'Me' box what would that mean?"
The word sex was all it took to get Child #2's attention. "What? Where? What are you guys talking about??"
It was just the beginning.
We talked about that t-shirt at lunchtime and while we dug a giant hole in the sand on the beach. We talked about it the next morning at breakfast and on and off the whole way to Cambodia.
We talked about what it might mean if you selected the 'Off' or 'You' boxes. We discussed how the F-bomb plays multiple grammatical roles and how some people have limited vocabularies.
Child #1 posited that since the girl wearing the shirt was Russian, it was possible she had no idea what the words meant. We Googled pictures of the Russian alphabet to confirm it is, in fact, different than ours. We discussed the worldwide ubiquity of certain words in the English language.
It became a catchphrase of sorts; an off-color, inside joke and my children took delicious pleasure about being in the know.
At night, in restaurants, when we were confronted with long and confusing menus filled with unfamiliar foods, the kids would meet my eyes and say "Choices Choices!"
And of course, we'd all collapse in giggles, which, as it turns out, was every bit as enchanting as all the erudite conversation I'd been eagerly anticipating.