There were so many things I could’ve written about this week, like the fantastic new Bookmarks bookstore in downtown Winston-Salem or about the woman at Sephora who asked if I was there “to do something about my eyebrows” (I was not) or about how much profanity one can use when your upstairs neighbor aggressively vacuums before breakfast. (REALLY, TODD? REALLY?!)

But then I saw a Facebook post from Noel and Shane Pauley, a Georgia couple who have gone viral because of their dopey hashtagged date night, one that made me raise one of my massive, tangled eyebrows and shout “Really?” for the first time since the dude upstairs stopped Dyson-ing each individual carpet fiber.

Last Friday, the Pauleys posted a picture of themselves grinning in front of their local Goodwill after deciding that they’d do something “hysterical” — Noel’s word — and buy clothes for each other in the store. The couple said they’d each spend $10 bucks, then go out in public in their new outfits and “act like it was completely normal!” After they selected each other’s casual separates, they went to Longhorn Steakhouse and probably both ripped their rotator cuffs trying to pat themselves on the back, because OMG THEY WOULDN’T EVER REALLY BUY CLOTHING AT GOODWILL, THAT’S THE JOKE!

I’m not one of the 290,000 people who gave them a virtual thumbs up on Facebook, because I don’t think this is cute or clever or adorable. Their toothy selfies should be distributed as a cautionary tale for what white privilege looks like: It’s playing dress-up in second-hand clothes before you cut into a ribeye, giggling to yourself about how you’d never really wear something like that, and there’s no way you’d ever reduce yourself to wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs, ugh!

“We were hoping someone might think we were pitiful and buy our dinner, but no such luck,” Noel commented on her own blog post about their night out, which couldn’t have been more insensitive if she’d just written “Someone might’ve mistaken us for one of the poors!” LOL, LOL, LOL, amirite?!

“It just seems like, to do this, you’ve never had your options so limited that you could only shop at Goodwill,” Sarah Howell, the associate minister of worship and missions at Centenary United Methodist, told me. “They can’t relate to people who are seen by and ridiculed by broader society, because they can change out of those outfits when they get home. Other people have external markers of their poverty and their social status that they can’t just take off.”

In one of the previous paragraphs, Pauley said that people “snickered” at them as they walked into the restaurant and, although some of the other diners might’ve glanced toward their table between bites of overcooked calamari, “NO ONE said a word to us about our outfits.” That clearly says more about the other Longhorn customers than it says about the Pauleys themselves — and it also sort of implies that if Noel and Shane saw a couple wearing similarly unfashionable or outdated outfits, they’d lock eyes, lean across the smudged wooden table and say something like, “Well somebody had a big day at Goodwill.”

What the Pauleys don’t seem to understand is that a lot of people do the Goodwill Challenge every day, without the hashtags or the smug sense of superiority. Their LIVES are an effing Goodwill challenge — and it’s not for laughs, to entertain each other, or a cute idea for going viral on the internet.

According to the 2015 US Census, there are some 43.1 million Americans who live below the poverty line, millions of people whose lives involve trying to find something for themselves or for their kids to wear for 10 bucks — the equivalent of 90 minutes worth of minimum wage work — and they aren’t stopping for steaks on their way home either.

“We only have a great marriage because we put our relationship with Jesus Christ first and let Him tell us how to live and love,” Pauley wrote as a disclaimer at the end of her blog post. Oh, right. I’ve skipped Sunday School since about 1992, but I totally remember that time Jesus and the disciples went to Outback while they all slummed it in last season’s shrouds. (Jesus does love a Bloomin’ Onion.)

Yes, the Pauleys are outspoken Christians whose blog header says they’ve been “called to follow Jesus,” and apparently He only shops at the Gap. “John the Baptist wore camel hair and probably got the same weird looks that these kids got,” Howell said. “But he wasn’t wearing it ironically. It was a sign of being separated from high society and a sign of poverty. He was showing his solidarity and prophetic witness. That’s a very different approach.”

Again, my religious beliefs are limited to the Eternal Church of David Bowie, but even I understand the disconnect between their #GoodwillDateNight and all of those neatly typed New Testament allegories.

If you’ve seen the Pauleys’ posts and want to have a date night that involves secondhand clothes, maybe you could volunteer at a local clothing closet and meet some of the real people who benefit from those services in your community. Or if you feel like you know a thing or two about fashion, then maybe challenge yourselves to pick four or five items out of each other’s closets to donate, possibly to one of the organizations that provide clothing to those who need something nice to wear for their job interviews. (Surprisingly, Noel Pauley’s Facebook page has a section where she’s selling some of her old clothes, and that sound you just heard was both of my eyeballs ricocheting off the back of my own skull). If you want to enjoy dinner together, the two of you can help serve a meal at a homeless shelter. It seems like volunteering to help those who are less fortunate would feel better than chewing a chain-restaurant steak and spending two hours pretending to be “pitiful.”

You might not go viral — and you’re not going to have a cutesy hashtag — but you’ll be better for it. And people like me can get back to writing about that new bookstore and our own overgrown eyebrows. You’re welcome.


  1. Meh. Two people want to go out dressed in super tacky clothes for a laugh. Goodwill only came into it b/c its the cheapest way to get clothes you will never weae again. I’m not feeling the outrage here.

    • Yes Janice! Yes! Are you the only human being on this thread? White privilege would be, here let me blow crazy money at Nordstrom’s bc I’m so privileged to buy a tacky outfit I am going to wear once as a gag. Then I’m going to donate said tacky garments to the goodwill, bc even if they are hideous I feel like I doing a great thing to help the less fortunate. I am blown away by the lost and confused people on this thread. I know lots of poor and needy people and if these people on this thread think they would be caught dead in the clothing this couple adorned then I would seriously like them all to reflect on their own judgemental ways.

  2. Here’s the point

    And here’s you. The point went right over your head. The point wasn’t they shopped at goodwill, the point is they picked out the ugliest clothes they could find. I shop at goodwill a couple times a week for good clothes for cheap, and I see TONS of ugly outdated clothes for just as much or more as the things I buy. The point was to dress ridiculous and act like it was totally normal. It wasn’t a white power play 🙄 It was literally dressing funny and acting like it wad normal.

    The original couple did a say few odd things, like thinking someone would pay for their food. But assuming everyone who shops at goodwill looks like that is so wrong it’s boarding just plain stupid. I could barely get through your article with all the huge conclusions you jumped too. I’ll make sure you take some pictures from my goodwill double date this weekend!

    • I tried to read your comment, but the bad grammar and superciliousness made it impossible. I hope your goodwill date night is as tacky and clueless as you are.

    • Wrong, they would not have made such a big deal about the clothes coming from Goodwill. It would be dress crazy and go out night, not GOODWILL date night.
      Why don’t you guys get this? The whole idea was to dress like they WERE POOR FOR LAUGHS, the guy even stated he was waiting for someone to pay for their food out of pity. Why would he expect that if their clothes were just in bad design?

  3. If you think that they’re wearing last year’s style, then you have a lot more wrong with you than your eyebrows! Obviously, you completely missed the point of their joke in your outrage. They picked out the ugliest, decades-old clothes they could find. Remove the stick from where you left it and try to enjoy something without getting offended.

  4. I didn’t miss the point. On the surface, their date night has the appearance of a fun time. But beneath that Christian exterior lies more. It was their attitude toward the ridiculous clothes they were wearing and the reaction they have received with the snickering and hoping for a free meal. By the way, many would not think her outfit that ridiculous even though it’s overdone with the floral print.

    This article hits on so many points.

  5. If Mrs. Pauley is such a fan of Goodwill, she should consider donating her gently used items instead of profiting from them. I’ve said it elsewhere, but this is perfection. It articulates perfectly why I just couldn’t quite laugh or enjoy their post in the way that all of my friends who shared it so obviously did. Thank you.

    • She did not “profit” from Goodwill. She actually purchased $20 worth of clothing that would otherwise have been eventually thrown out because no one would have purchased otherwise.

    • Me too. It made me genuinely sad that so many loved the idea. I’m glad to see that others feel the same way.

  6. I am simply stunned. I kept thinking it was an article from The Onion. What kid of mindset do you have to have to do something like that? I would say unbelievable, but…

    • I’m with you on this. I really can’t believe she wrote this ridiculous article either. What was she thinking? She must have had serious writers block to write this junk.

      • Oops, sorry but I agree with what she was saying! When I said I thought it was from the onion, I meant the way the couple was acting, not this particular article.

  7. This response article is ridiculous. I don’t think the joke was wearing secondhand clothes out in public but rather wearing bizarrely out of date, mismatched, alien-from-another-planet outfits. There’s plenty of awesome finds, including both designer brands and trendy mall brands to be found at Goodwill. I know because o buy about half of my and my kids’ stuff secondhand. There’s also a lot of ugly clothes to be found there, and these folks made a game out of finding the ugliest outfits they could for each other. Lighten up and get off your high horse.

      • Women love when random dudes tell them how they should think and feel. I’m sure she’ll take your advice to heart.

          • Still random, still telling women how they should think and respond instead of presenting any kind of point or counterpoint.

          • I can help you. My “point”, before you pulled me into this silly back and forth, was that I agreed with the OP by Lorna. That’s why I said “Agree 100%”. You then called me out as sexist because I’m a man and I was talking about a female (very weak argument, btw). As it turns out, about half the time I’m talking about an individual they are women but 100% of the time I’m talking about an individual I’m not sexist. For instance, the reason I don’t like you is not because you are a woman, but instead because you made a snide comment and then struggled to understand my “point (if you already forgot, my point was to agree with the OP).” And again, I’m definitely not random and it tells me a lot about you if you still don’t know me.

          • Sorry that I was unaware of the faceless, semi-anonymous, one-named celebrity named Robby. I clearly need to read Vanity Fair more often.

          • I guess you ignored my point and focused on my silly last sentence to avoid saying that you were wrong and I was right. That’s ok. I know what you meant. Good day.

    • Thank you. I agree completely. The author misses the point that they picked the ugliest outfit they could for their partner. The idea was to look ridiculous, not “poor”.

    • Than they would not have made such a big deal about the clothes coming from Goodwill. It would be dress crazy and go out night, not GOODWILL date night.

  8. “Lighten up and get off your high horse.”

    You epitomize sneering, sanctimonious, judgmental white privilege.

    • Right because the author is the one who’s claiming to be a Christian while essentially mocking and belittling the ones that they’re supposedly advocating for. Wrong. Try harder, troll.

  9. Man, you’re a friggin idiot, Jelisa.
    Are you also offended by ugly Christmas sweaters and the parties people throw? Because most of those sweaters ARE from thrift stores. The Goodwill/Salvation Army is a great resource for low income families to get used or gently used clothing. But most people know that they also carry insanely outdated clothes from the 80’s, 90’s, etc. I’m sure that their intention was not to poke fun at the poor or belittle people who shop at secondhand stores. Jeeeeeze, pull the stick out of your ass and focus on your own relationships and not putting these people on blast.

    • Most people who shop at thrift stores (like me most of the time) don’t go out and say they look so pitiful that people should buy their meals. How is that anything but elitist and detramental to people who rely on second hand stores for all of their new-to-them purchases? I have been in that position and it’s bad enough feeling like everyone is quietly judging you based on what you’re wearing or what you can afford. People like this couple just confirm it. (Also if the author throws that stick, maybe you’ll chase it.)

      • I guess I’m just different and try not to care what other people think of me or what other people do to have fun. Hey, I’m on food stamps right now raising my 4 month old while finishing my last semester of college and could give two shits what people think about it. I need food, just like people who shop at thrift stores need to clothes.

  10. From the looks of those faces it would not matter what they wore. I mean come on people you can dress anyway you please when your face causes barn doors to close ! But when you’re halfway attractive you can dress anyway you please too and still look good . And if you are good on the inside it will show on the outside but it will not show for this couple because they are obviously focused on something ugly and it is reflected outwardly in their very visage..
    Homely is as homely does but in this case they live homely day-in-and-day-out as they look in the mirror- and inside their vacuous empty souls.. it sounds as if they have too much time on those “supposed Christian hands” of theirs and not a great deal of intelligence to boot and if indeed they walked the walk they would never have thought of doing something so frivolous and silly and useless and dare to even think they would write about it in public as if they had done something worthwhile. and yes I am actually speaking now of some sort of Public Service to occupy their empty hours. Though I do balk at the word white privilege because from the sound of it the choice of a meal in that chain restaurant dooming you to a heart attack eventually is not exactly what I would call the epitome of good taste. I think they are more fitting the moniker of white trash.
    I have found wonderful items of clothing over the years in Goodwill and it is one of my favorite places to shop.

    that being said if this is not a satirical post and these people are for real hopefully they will read this and look in the mirror and again realize it would never matter what they wore. because their genetics inside and out are all out there for everyone to see. Perhaps they should pray on it and on themselves. Because their path thus far it seems is leading them straight on a road to perdition.

  11. Thank you! Equally distasteful, was the fact that any criticism of the idea was met with derision and labeled as hatred. I’ve seen children get made fun of at school for wearing “Goodwill.” I do have to say though that the idea has inspired me to occasionally use the money my husband and I would spend on a “date night,” to buy some new clothes for some kids who might not otherwise ever have anything new. Won’t be posting when we do it or telling who we donated to, either. Just between us and yes, Jesus.

  12. I think you’re making a lot of unfair assumptions about these people. You might want to check your own judgment at the door. They never said anything bad about goodwill items. You can go anywhere and purchase a terrible outfit, this would just be the most cost effective way to get the job done. So the next time I go to goodwill to buy an ugly Christmas sweater or a Halloween costume I’m looking down on people?! Really?

    • Than they would not have made such a big deal about the clothes coming from Goodwill. That is where your “logic” falls apart, it would be dress crazy and go out night, not GOODWILL date night.

      • Just because you put “logic” in scare quotes doesn’t magically make your argument more rational than Sara’s. The fact is that thrift stores are the only places you can walk into and know that you’re going to find bizarre, outdated clothing. And, the point that seems to have been lost somewhere along the way, is that by spending money at Goodwill they were supporting a non-profit organization; the idea of somehow spinning that into a bad deed is hilarious in itself.

  13. Yes, yes, yes!!!!!! Thank you for writing this!!!! I was nodding and clapping during the entire thing. 🙌🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 It may not have been intentionally malicious but wow–it’s sad how out of touch so many people are.
    Btw, you’re an extremely talented writer, even all things aside. 👍🏽

  14. I think it would be fun to dress up in silly clothes. But you lost me with all the religious nonsense

  15. I grew up in poverty the first 12 years of my life. As an adult, I’ve lived abounding and in budgets where even Goodwill was out of reach. Today, I can shop at Sax, Dillard’s, Target, Macy’s, or, Goodwill. And I do all of them, and take bags and bags of donations to thrift shops yearly. Yet, I am not offended in the slightest at this idea. think this date idea is a fun one. I don’t think it has anything to do with what has been inferred. I think it’s a couple simply having a creative date.

  16. Manufactroversy at its finest. I spent a number of years working in a charity-affiliated thrift store, and we had people from all walks of life there, both as donors and as shoppers. The point of these types of shops is to raise money for charitable organizations; it doesn’t matter who buys the stuff, any money that comes in helps. And if you’re worried about there being an insufficient amount of cheap clothing in these places to reach people who can’t afford to shop elsewhere, you’d be very wrong. We had way more clothing in the sorting room than could ever fit out on the racks at a given time. The thing about shopping in thrift stores is the allure of never knowing what you’re going to find; when we would sort clothes to choose what went out on the floor, we’d pick stuff that we thought would sell, but sometimes we’d just put stuff out because it was too unique/interesting to discard (most of the clothes that came in were sold by the pound to a third party) and it was interesting to see who’d end up buying it. Stuff ended up on the floor that we knew was tacky/weird, because it makes people happy to come across that kind of stuff. This is in stark contrast to shopping for new clothing at big corporate-run chains; it’s always predictable and boring. If these people thought it would be funny to buy each other wacky outfits, there’s nothing wrong with that; they donated to a charitable cause and nobody was hurt in the process. This article does more to entrench boundaries between classes than anything that this couple did, that’s for sure. Who are you to say who’s allowed to shop at Goodwill, and what kind of attitude you have to have while shopping there?

    • I don’t think the issue is the writers’ attitude, its the attitude of the couple who said they looked pitful in their Goodwill clothes and hoped somebody would buy there dinner. That’s doing more to emphasize the differences between classes and income levels, not writing about it.

      • Did you not see the way they were dressed? They did look pitiful; nobody dresses like that. Implying that Goodwill is for poor people is way more emphatic of class barriers than two people buying hideous outfits there and then laughing about how dumb they look. This type of critique does nothing to better the world, it’s just the next insufferable blip in a sea of cynical faux-outrage.

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