Sunday, April 7, 2013

Suits, Weddings, and Funerals

Picture of G. Clooney impressed with his attire courtesy of

As a general rule, most of us prefer to be plussed, rather than nonplussed, the term "plussed" meaning the most opposite of "nonplussed," relevant for purposes discussed here to circumstances in which plussing may yield respect, and established as a word exclusively for the purposes of this article. In other words, Mandy Patinkin's character, Inigo Montoya, put it best in The Princess Bride when he said, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

My father always said that I should have two suits: one for weddings and one for funerals, the former by far more practical as it doubles for interviews, the latter a darker commentary on the nature of "dressing to kill." I managed to pick up a couple suits before my wife and I left New York for Maine. The Men's Warehouse was having a two-for-one sale and, at the time, I remember thinking it would be rather difficult to find a tailor in Maine. I have never had less of a need for suits.

When I was in high school my father came home after buying two suits totaling three-thousand dollars. He was a garmento in the garment distict of the City -for anyone from Boston, "City" does not refer to you. Every night he would come off the Metro-North Railroad and the garage door would go up at exactly 7:42 p.m. One particular night, he walked in two suits richer and three-thousand dollars poorer. My mother was nonplussed.

I did not acquire the fashion sensibility exhibited by my father in this anecdote and instead took to nappy shoulder-length hair, denim overalls, and flannel shirts. It was the nineties and I had no qualm about expressing the real me: a Grateful-Dead-with-all-the-assumed-connotations-listening, My So Called Life-loving, wannabe-hippie, counter-culture, sex-crazed kid. Again, my mother was nonplussed.

I was plussed.

I was so plussed that in all my nonconformity, I did not notice my conformity, the same conformity for which I was so disdainful of my father's suit-wearing conformity.

It was not until college that I began to acquire a more tidy style, though my shorter hair was due more to my thinning hair. These days I keep my sideburns long for that nonconformist edge but I have entered the age of daddy-casual: collared shirt, a v-neck sweater, jeans. Even then, I feel out of place in Maine. I went to a funeral here where most wore black t-shirts. I thought I would be out of place without a blazer. That's Maine for you. My father would disagree and say that it is about respect.

Regardless, this is the real me: daddy-cas'. Smooth. Maybe not three-thousand dollars smooth, but the garmentos might at least like my shoes. I keep my suits covered in the closet and pull them out for weddings or a funeral, the former being far more frequent for now. They are good suits, too, good for plussing people. That might not be the most important thing but it is fun to pluss people. I like to pluss if for no other reason than, when strangers see me with my kids, they might think, "That guy looks like he's got a lot of respect for fatherhood. He doesn't look like a bum. I'm plussed by that dad."

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