Thursday, December 11, 2014
Just in time for Christmas...
Maybe people do change after all.
I would have sworn otherwise. "As I was at 5," Tolstoy said, "so am I now."
Ditto for me. The same kid then, 50 years ago, off in a corner by himself, on his knees, balancing one block upon another, constructing an elaborate castle the entire afternoon, the same adult now, off in a corner in a chair in front of a computer, building his little block castles, only with words.
But maybe some people change, in more subtle ways.
Tuesday I was strolling back from an appointment at the Pittsfield Building. I could have Divvied—I rode the Divvy bike down, parked in front of the Cultural Center. But it was lunchtime, and why not stroll to a different station? Why not cut through Macy's and see what people who don't do all their shopping at Kohl's are buying for themselves?
My attention was caught by a blue Nautica button down Oxford shirt. "Ocean washed" Really? What could that mean? I pictured big sloshing vats of seawater, with bales of shirts being dumped into them, floating around, agitated by hatchet-faced New England salts wearing yellow Nor'easter slickers, wielding row boat oars....
They can't do that. It has to be mere puffery.*
I was almost out of the store, clutching my new shirt ("Ocean washed." It sounds so breezy) about to project through the revolving doors at the north end, when this display for fleece zippered jumpsuits caught me short.
Once upon a time ...
When the boys were small, in their terry cloth zip front rompers. I remember thinking: "That looks really comfortable. They should make those for adults. I'd buy one of those."
Or maybe it was even earlier. In my early 20s, when I drank martinis out of a Hello Kitty sippy cup and thought of myself as louche yet maintaining a certain childlike wonder toward the world. Remembering the feet pajamas of my youth, that last pair, before I grew out of them. I would have snapped up one of these adult versions back then, grateful.
Now Macy has got them. My private nostalgic yearning made real. Here's my chance. Snap up one of these puppies because, really, how often do you get the chance? Never. And on sale, half off: only 35 bucks. I wasn't crazy about the cow pattern, or the Super Man pattern—sorta strange. Okay, really strange. But the one with the skulls? Or the fish skeletons? Kinda cool. A blend of babyish and edgy.
That thought crumbled at a touch. No, not even tempted. And I realized: that guy, the one who may have once wanted this outfit, had vanished. Utterly. I didn't want these at all. Not a bit. In fact, they seemed really stupid. A uniform for morons. I had changed.
Or had I? Maybe because the culture had wrecked this sort of thing, by overuse. That blanket with the arms they sell on TV? The Snuggie? As repulsive an item of clothing ever created. This wasn't unusual anymore, but too similar, too familiar: couch potato fashion, fashion for people with no waists.
For a moment I wondered if this topic was beyond the pale; too embarrassing to address here, to admit ever having theoretically wanted something like this, even notionally, decades ago. But then I thought: Shit, they make them. They sell them. So somebody must buy the things. It can't be a line of clothing designed and manufactured based on something I mused about long ago. I can't be alone here.
Heck, forget jump suits. Remember the convention last week in Rosemont? There are "furries," people who make a lifestyle out of dressing like low rent college football mascots, mingling, dancing, hooking up and, well, best not to follow that line of thinking any further.
Here I'm worried about seeming strange, about admitting to fleeting thoughts about feet pajamas when I was 30; meanwhile people are dressing as Willie the Wildcat and trolling Rosemont for that special Winnie the Pooh. I'm dogpaddling tentatively on the surface of dull conventionality, and there's six miles of deepening weird under me, plus a Mariana Trench of the truly strange under that.
Then again, strange is relative. My wife believes that everyone is odd, if you shine a life into their lives, and the closer you look, the odder they are. That makes sense to me.
My colleague Dan Savage sneers at those of us living in what he calls "vanilla" lifestyles. I don't know. There is a blessing to normality, to being able to find happiness without props and special equipment. It's hard enough to find that special someone without requiring that he or she be wearing a particular costume. I don't think I'd have been happier than I am now if I had the opportunity to lounge around in a yellow terry one piece jumpsuit, with a big yellow duck embroidered over my heart, wearing a red fez and drinking a tankard of frozen lemonade and vodka. I like to think that, even then, some part of me would look upon the scene from afar and be suitably revolted.
That former wish, that former self, hovered for a moment around the display of this godawful line of merchandise, still in stacks, even at half price. Shoppers not exactly beating down the doors to get at them. Then that thought, that person, vanished, in a puff. I took a few photos and continued on my way, thinking, dodged that bullet.
* Mere puffery it is. To my vast surprise, Nautica replied to my email query ("I purchased a Nautica oxford shirt whose tag said it was 'Ocean washed.' What does that mean? Was it washed in the ocean? What benefits does that impart on the shirt? I was curious. Thank you"): "