Even as a “soon-to-be 50 year old”, I still like to think of myself as a snappy dresser. It’s really all I have left. The hair on my head is falling out and miraculously reappearing in my ear and my body is morphing into some uncontrollable blob, so anything I can do to cover up with nice clothing is not only sparing me indignity, it also is, I’m certain, appreciated by those who have to look at me.
I have become, in my eyes at least, a fat, bloated hog. I sweat when it’s 55 degrees and my only exercise comes from walking outside to smoke and bending over to try and touch my toes to stretch out my hamstrings.
There are a couple of pieces of wisdom I have garnered over the years though that I feel compelled to share with those who share my affliction. Always wear nice shoes. They will draws the viewer’s eyes downward and away from your whistling nose or your sun-damaged scalp. It’s much better to be complimented on a nice new pair of Allen Edmonds wingtips that you’re sporting, than to have someone staring at your disproportionate head size compared to your giant burgeoning gut. Also, I’ve been wearing a lot of plaid lately. Really, gingham shirts are a Godsend to me. I find it throws off the eye of the viewer and makes me appear thinner. The multi-colored squares confuses their rods and cones making it difficult to get a feel for just how oddly shaped I’ve become. With these shirts, I have become a walking eye-bending optical illusion. A human Mobius strip, if you will.
Why do I need these fishing line like hairs in my nose? It wasn’t thick like this when I was a kid. Is there some pollutant that hovers around the five foot mark that causes this? Is it now protecting me from something? Why didn’t I need them when I was younger?
There aren’t a lot of men’s clothing stores at the mall anymore, if there ever were. Let’s face it, most men my age have their shopping done by their wives but women have stores for every make and model that they come in. There are stores for skinny women, stores for your larger class of women and short women have something called Petite. Mix all those stores together with all of the sizes and lifestyles that go with the aforementioned classifications and you have the definition of disparity. We men have five sizes to pick from. Five. And really, we have only three. There’s Small, Medium, Large, XL and XXL. Men don’t wear small or medium. I call those sizes extra-large boy. You may call it Asian XL or Slim-Fit.
Sure you have your fitted shirts with sizes like 18 ½ – 34 but you have to be measured for that and few men are going to slow down enough to allow for fitting. I’ve been fitted for dress shirts before and I know my size but knowing my size isn’t the dilemma. The problem is finding a shirt that particular size. I have short arms that rival someone genetically damaged by Thalidomide exposure. Picture Cee-Lo Green or if you’re not familiar with him, a T-Rex. Mix that together with that fact that I have eaten myself into looking like one of those Russian onion dolls and voila! I can’t reach the bottom of my pockets anymore.
Anyway, I’m at the mall with my wife recently and she’s popping in and out of one store after another, treating them rather frivolously, as far as I was concerned, but when you have the volume of material available, why not? I, on the other hand, am stuck with the department stores who begrudgingly throw out a smattering of men’s clothes, mostly, I think, just to draw in more women. One store, a major retailor, has a whole level dedicated to women’s wares. The entire second floor is booming with hip music and even has a lighting scheme. Where is the men’s department? In the basement in a tiny little corner surrounded by bedding and kitchen appliances. They had more options of coffee grinders than they did men’s shirts. I’m 49 years old and I do not want to wear team jerseys with some crack head’s name on the back of it! However, according to this store’s demographic research, I do, as that was all they had for sale.
I gathered myself and headed back out into the mall determined to find a store that shared my appreciation for looking good at my age. First stop, Express. I was greeted by Ian and by greeted I mean to say that he looked me up and down and said out of the corner of his mouth, “let me know if you need any help.” Ian was a prissy, glorified bagboy and was not the slightest bit interested in trying to make a sales commission off of me and clearly did not greet me in the style afforded the young, thin and hip. I had the feeling that what he was really saying to me was, “let me know if you need any help with that mess you call a body and please get out of here and by the way, the first step to making a better you is to admit that have a problem and do, indeed, need help.” He looked at me like I was the Elephant Man and the only way I was going to be allowed to buy anything would be to first promise to rip out any tags that connected me with their fine store. Ian was clearly more interested in having my not ruin the “street-cred” of his product than a commission.
Fortunately for Ian, nothing in this store fit me as, apparently, they cater to “men” who wear the aforementioned extra-large boy size. Having told Ian to go fuck himself, I walked out with as much of my self-esteem as I could muster and headed to the next store this one doing business as H&M.
This was not a better experience. The girl who worked in this establishment simply nodded at me upon entry as if to say, “Yeah, right, you fat old fuck.” Much like the department store, the “men’s” apparel was shoved into a corner and most of it sized for a boy. I would need to develop a nasty cocaine habit and start clubbing on Ecstasy before I could fit into any of this gear. In addition, the music in this place is programmed, I think, to drive people like me away. It was some irreverent, hippity-bippity club banging scat played intentionally loud so that if I stayed in there longer than the time it takes to buy a gift card for my daughter or my would-be effeminate son I would be lying on the ground writhing in pain like I was experiencing a full-body neural seizure.
What’s with the smell in Abercrombie? Why is it so dark?
I did not end up buying anything that day. What I did do was stop for Italian on the way home and ate a gigantic meal with a meatball the size of my fist but this kind of behavior is what got me into this predicament in the first place.
Looking good, Billy Ray! Feeling good, Louis!