Archive for January, 2012

Never Thirst Again

Painting by Garnet Goldman

When I was young, I didn’t understand how a man could go out in public wearing shorts and shoes with black socks. The dictates of fashion were clear. With shorts, the acceptable options included sandals with no socks and casual shoes with white socks. Black crew socks were a definite misstep, and regular shoes worn with over-the-calf black socks were an absolute affront. How could a grown man commit such a fashion transgression?

Did he simply not know any better? Did he have no self-respect? And what about the wives of husbands who gallivanted about in public like that? Were they perturbed? Were they suffering in silence? Or had they grabbed their husbands by the ankles and begged them not to bring shame on the family by sallying forth thus attired?

Getting married gave me a sense of where at least one wife stands in such matters. Garnet regularly lets attire that someone less charitable might call too casual go unremarked. She says nothing when I head out to such places as the hardware store dressed in sweatpants and a ratty T-shirt bought in 1987. Only when I’m going somewhere a tad more formal will she gently suggest corrective action.

“You know, you look really good in your green shirt,” she may say. “Have you thought about wearing it?” Or perhaps, “You do know that T-shirt that has holes under the arms, don’t you?” Ever helpful, Doobins may say, “Yeah, they remind me of the Grand Canyon.”

Because I considered the shorts-and-black-socks combination beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior, I had no notion of where Garnet might stand on that particular issue. And then came the day this past summer when I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed with a pair of black crew socks in hand and my sandals on the floor. When I realized what I was on the verge of doing, I stopped, momentarily aghast. As I thought about it, though, it came to me: “You know, I don’t care anymore.”

At long last, I saw that I might have been wrong about those men. It had nothing to do with a lack of self-respect. While I had been wondering how they could trample over the fashion sensibilities of countless others, they may have simply been living free from the constraints of fashion rules they didn’t care about. Exhilarated by a sense of newfound freedom, I slipped on the black socks and sandals and headed out into the world.

Garnet said nothing about me joining the Shorts with Black Socks Club. The only time she has brought up socks at all was the morning I came home from a yard sale wearing shorts and sandals with a black sock on one foot and no sock on the other. When she asked what was going on, I told her that one sock that had gotten wet and that I had taken it off but that taking off the remaining sock seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

“You were out in public with one sock on and one sock off?” she said. “I’m impressed.”

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