A Mother Apologizes to Her Son in The Atlantic Monthly

A number of years ago, The Atlantic had a monthly Word Fugitive column. Readers submitted letters describing a situation or phenomena for which no word or phrase existed. Responders offered explanations about new words or phrases that seemed a good fit, and The Atlantic published the best ones.

The following request appeared in one such Word Fugitive column:

“I’m looking for a word for the items of clothing which sit perched in my bedroom, waiting to be reworn. They are not yet ready for the laundry bin (since I plan to rewear them), but they are no longer suitable for the wardrobe (which I reserve for clean clothes). I assume others keep their lightly worn clothes in a similar purgatory?”

My submission to The Atlantic appears below. It included the terms Limbo Wear, Tweener Duds, Himalayers, 2clearn4laundry and 2dirt4closet. I’m certain it would have been published, but the entire column disappeared one month later, and likewise, my Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame disintegrated into thin air.

For you, dear reader, the piece remains, un-famously, here.

A Mother Apologizes Because Her Son is not A Slob

First, this mother apologizes to her son, who, for many years, has been leaving what I mistakenly thought were dirty clothes, in numerous mounds around the house. I am sorry for thinking you were a child slob. Your mother apologizes to you.


Mother apologizes to son, because this is a system

I am sorry for pressuring you with my hope that you would change at college.

I’m sorry that I expressed my disappointment, when upon our first visit, I saw the usual mound in front of the bunk bed, such that both you and your unfortunate roommate had to step on or around Mount Clothing.

I am not sure what finally possessed me to inquire,  “Why do you do this when the clothes hamper is within reach?”

Clothes Strategy

Your answer informed me that you are a young man with a strategy, and one who has systems in place that are well beyond what I imagined.

This mother apologizes for accusing you of making up a lame excuse when you explained that these clothes were “tweener-duds” and therefore:

  1. Not clean enough to be in the company of freshly laundered items, for which you reserve the closet,  but
  2. Not dirty enough to have earned a position in the dirty laundry basket.

I see now these clothing piles consisted of “limbo wear,” and you are among the proud and the few who share a system of fine distinctions between the various stages of dirtiness. Silly me, for having only two categories - clean and dirty.

For the purposes of texting, I suggest we call them 2clean4laundry and 2dirt4closet. The really big piles will simply be called Himalayers.

With love, new found respect, your mother apologizes in a most heart-felt way.



Anne Perschel
Anne Perschel
When she is not consulting; coaching; reading and writing about leadership; or enjoying her work in other ways; Anne can be found:

Listening to ocean waves receding over stones.
Enjoying the spontaneous expressions of young children who haven’t yet learned to hide their emotions.
Taking in the scent of freesias, lilacs or salt water.
Enjoying the great, or not so great, outdoors and all variations of nature’s gifts.
At the gym.

As Seen In:

Mother Apologizes to Her Son - He is Not a Slob