There is a time to dress with conformity: as rarely as possible
(Photos: On back-to-back days in El Salvador in December, I had to dress like a so-called “normal” person for a visit to their White House and a fancy gala. I nearly died!)
I made the mistake this past Sunday of wearing a tank top for a walk around the neighborhood and then for working in the backyard. It was typical February summer weather here in Georgia — about 84 degrees with a heat index of roughly 211 degrees.
I wore the tank top to stay comfortable and, of course, to show off my “guns” as some folks refer to their firm arm muscles and as some folks such as myself refer to those little squishy water-balloony things under their skin. It made sense to me. Some say, “Suns out, guns out.” I say, “Hot enough to melt rubber, then check out my blubber.”
The mistake was not including sunscreen in the equation. I’m still not used to the concept of February sunburns. At least, I thought that was the mistake.
My wife snapped a photo of my sunburned, um, “guns” as a warning about the dangers of (a) ignoring the dangers of the sunshine even in winter and (b) marrying idiots who don’t wear sunscreen to protect their squishy guns. She advised me to post it on Facebook since I rarely touch Instagram and my Tik don’t Tok.
I glared at her and prepared to give her a stern lecture about trying to boss me around instead of being subservient as the Bible calls for her to be, but the look in her eyes convinced me that “yes, dear” would be a more advisable strategy for the moment.
An older acquaintance of an acquaintance — or as Facebook calls such a person, a friend — saw the photo and was rather offended that I would wear a tank top, seeing as how I’m a decrepit old man of 52. His comment was simple: “Tank top? At your age?”
Well, that hurt worse than the sunburn. I normally let such comments roll off my back, even the sunburned parts, but I was done working and feeling sporty. “If you have a Conformist’s Age-Appropriate Clothing Guide, please forward along,” I responded.
You know Facebook — it was on after that, and others chimed in as the debate got more serious than Marjorie Taylor Greene arguing with AOC about whether the U.S. should send Jewish Space Lasers to defend Ukraine.
Those who’ve known me a long time and former supervisors — including those who used to post on the bulletin board notes like “Apparently some of you (meaning me) have forgotten the dress code …” — know I’m really not one to conform unnecessarily or to yield to what someone or a whole lot of someones deem “appropriate.” As long as y’all are more worried about it than I am, I’m OK with that.
I’ve reluctantly conformed from time to time. In December, I was in El Salvador, and it was perfect tank-top and flip-flop weather. But I was there on business. I wore a suit to a fancy gala to honor folks making a difference in the country, and the very next morning I put on a coat and tie for a meeting at Casa Presidencial, a.k.a. El Salvador’s White House. The moment these events were over, I flung off the tie and every other piece of conformist clothing. My strip show did cause a few awkward stares on the bus, I admit.
“Y’all ain’t never see a gringo in his drawers?”
The fella criticizing me on Facebook was right in that I’m getting old. Unfortunately for him and others who are concerned about my fashion sense (or lack thereof) that actually makes me less likely to conform and way less likely to care what anyone thinks. I still have responsibilities that require a certain dress. There are still social obligations like weddings and funerals where I must conform to a degree. But, as I get older, the less I care about darn near anything.
And I still think the necktie is perhaps the stupidest piece of “appropriate” conformist clothing ever invented. It has zero function unless you are using it to literally hold your head onto your body. It’s almost as stupid as wearing a sportcoat in the dead of summer — as financial dudes, lawyers, politicians and such often do. Yep, the whole conformist lot of them. That’s why I voted for my financial advisor and personal lawyer, Crazy Larry, for president — because he made it big as a nonconformist and now lives on a beach in Belize … doing business from his hammock while wearing a tank top and flip-flops. That’s the kind of guy I’ll take advice from! That’s the kind of guy who has truly made it.
Unfortunately, it turns out that you’re not eligible to be president of the United States if you live in Belize. Who knew? It also helps if you’re not drunk on daiquiris all the time — or so those conformists say, anyway.
Someday, though, for just one day, all these folks will be asked to conform to my nonconformity. At my memorial celebration, no ties will be allowed. Wear something that matches the tropical theme of Jimmy Buffett music and palm trees. Instead of a tie, wear a lei. Neither really has a function. Swap out those uncomfortable shoes for some flip-flops. Go with shorts, not slacks.
Then again, I really won’t care what you wear then, just like I don’t care what you wear now. Why y’all care what I wear boggles my mind. … Well, it would if I cared.
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