Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Polyborg

By Robert Royal

For decades, I’ve known that I have a problem. Only recently, though, I learned the name of my condition. It is textophobia, the fear of certain fabrics. In my case, that fabric is polyester. My aversion to it probably began in the early 1970s when I was a cocky young teen. Posturing as a cowboy, I hiked up a leg and struck a match on the seat of my houndstooth double-knit polyester pants. Poof! When the match flared up, it instantly melted through the plastic weave leaving a quarter’s size hole with curled-up edges. It also left me with a first-degree burn in a location that I was unable to examine and salve without some humiliation and the clever positioning of a mirror.

At the time, polyester was the fashion rage. I naively participated in that craze, but I was never comfortable in that abominable witch’s brew of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, fearful of course that I was a walking fire hazard. Mainly, though, and borrowing an industry term, it was the hand that repelled me; the polyester had a hideous feel that made me shudder with the willies.

By 1980, I had fully renounced the tacky plastic and had settled very comfortably into khaki, denim, broadcloth, oxford cloth, poplin, seersucker, madras, flannel, corduroy, etc. I was tastefully and comfortably 100% cotton head to toe, and I was mortified by recollections of having ever clad myself in poly. I was smug and complacent that the mad crowd would never again suffer an extraordinary polyester delusion.

Turns out I was wrong, bad wrong. According to a recent chart by marketing consultant Technon Orbichem, world production of polyester has grown 400% since 1980. Seeing the numbers graphically shocked me. In spite of cotton’s overwhelming advantages of comfort, good taste and beauty, it actually became less popular with consumers. How is that possible? Is there an unseen outside force at work here?

It is as if cotton is up against The Borg, the terrifying juggernaut antagonist of Star Trek TNG. They are a pseudo species in a hive collective who increase their already large population of drones not through reproduction, but by forced assimilation of existing beings into their collective. The Borg confront their enemy with the ominous monotonal warning — Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. Then, they take captives, fit them with cybernetic devices and inject them with nanoprobes. While these augmentations give the new drones awesome physical power and defensive capabilities, the cost is the loss of these victims’ personal identities and free will. It is a hellish existence.

I imagine a similar collective today that I call the Polyborg. This pseudo species expands its Polydrone population by insidiously seizing control of the otherwise discerning tastes of good folks and augmenting them not with power-enhancing cybernetic components, but with cheap, ghastly polyester clothing! Instead of remaining in their alcoves aboard a giant space-faring cube hive ship, the Polydrones wander among us, some are even friends and family. They are recognized by their cheap polyester fabric and their vacuous countenances. Their war against cotton is a passive war of attrition; they simply don’t buy cotton. Theirs, too, is a sad existence, suffering in polyester when they could just as easily be thriving happily and comfortably in cotton.

In recent years, Poly-drones’ clothes sometimes appear enough like cotton clothes that it can be difficult to spot them from a distance. Their fabric is definitely poly, though, because up close it stinks, makes the wearer appear common and feels like evil.

Like The Borg collective, The Polyborg has a queen. While Polydrones are harmless, the poly queen is a capricious, manipulative, petty, selfish, deceitful, vindictive she wolf of kitsch. She is immortal and was there when cavemen first wrapped themselves in animal hides. She preys on the human weakness for fad and fashion and has amused herself throughout history by making folks suffer foolishly in various outlandish styles. It is only in recent decades that her collective became the Polyborg. Polyester clothing is her biggest crime against humanity.

Fear can be a good thing; it often protects us. For me, my textophobia has helped protect me from being enslaved as a Polydrone. Those without a strong bias like mine must consciously decide that they deserve the wonderful qualities of cotton. Life is so much better in cotton!     

— Robert Royal
Midnight, Mississippi

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