Forgetfulness of things past
Copyright © 2019 Nat Segaloff
The great songwriter Sammy Cahn wrote a lyric for the movie Robin and the 7 Hoods: “Some people dress ‘cause they dress when they dress, but he gets dressed ‘to get dressed.’” The song, “Style,” was sung about a fellow who simply threw on clothes rather than taking the time to outfit himself “like the swellest of swells.”
I can relate. I can’t dress for shit. It’s not news, it’s something I have reconciled ever since I got a note from my first boss, Harvey Appell, who wrote, “Professor Higgins says shine your shoes.”
I was notably reminded of this tragic character flaw the other day when my nephew Adam said to me, in that way children have of being innocently judgmental, “Is that the way you’re dressing to go out to dinner?”
I consider it unbecoming to be defensive around young people, but this is a young man who takes twenty minutes in the morning to do his hair, has just started wearing as suit to dinner, and had me teach him how to tie a Windsor knot to make the neckties look shorter that he borrows from me. That’s right; I am the uncle of a nine-year-old fashion plate.
I may not be Mrs. Astor’s pet horse, but I do have a closet full of nice duds that I purchased when I was younger and thinner. Trouble is, I’ve gained so much weight over the last two years that I can’t fit into most of them any more. Because of this, I have adopted the modern informal style of wearing an open sports shirt over a T-shirt, which is fine for casual wear but not, obviously, if the dress of the day is professional. This gives me three alternatives:
1. Buy new clothes
2. Lose weight
3. Never leave the house
I do not need any prompting to drive the uselessness of those three suggestions home. Nevertheless, last night, when I tried to leave the house wearing blue jeans and a “Family Guy” T-shirt that my friend Emily gave me for my birthday, I was merely thinking about going out with friends for Chinese food. It wasn’t the Cotillion.
Adam thought better. Although he is gentleman enough not to comment on my girth, he does enjoy being the style maven of the family. “You can’t wear that,” he insisted, heading into my bedroom. “Let me choose something better for you.” I followed him in as he was just beginning to sort through my hanging dress shirts.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
“I’m trying to find you something to wear,” he threw back over his shoulder.
“Stop it. Get your hands off my things. You’ll get them soon enough when I die.”
Ignoring me, he said, “I think this might work,” and started to pull a blue-and-white shirt off the hanger.
“Do you mind?” I said, stopping him. “I can’t button it any more. Which reminds me to hit the store and get some new shirts.”
Not to be mollified by such a promise, Adam moved over to the suit section. “How about this blazer?” he suggested.
“For Chinese food?”
“What about this?” he said, running his hand along the sleeve of a charcoal grey suit. “How long since you’ve been able to get into it?”
“I outgrew it even before I got fat,” I said. “When you grow up, you naturally fill out.”
“Then why did you save it?”
“To inspire me,” I said. “Besides, see where the painters dropped white paint on it?” A white streak on the upper sleeve looked like Sherwin-Williams bird poop.
“I bet a drycleaner could get it off,” Adam said.
“Forget it,” I told him. “As soon as you’ve grown enough to wear these, they’re yours. By then I’ll be so old, I’ll be like one of those men who wears his trousers pulled up to his armpits.”
By this time he was stroking an expensive camel hair jacket.
“Too heavy,” I said, “and too warm outside. Besides, it doesn’t fit either.”
At that, Adam gave up and went to watch TV, leaving me to stare at my wardrobe. “Well, fellas,” I told them, “I guess we have to do something save face.”
Five minutes later I stopped by the main house to say goodnight to Adam, Ami, JB, and Ivanna. I had changed out of my “Family Guy” T-shirt into a medium-blue one and found a long-sleeve tan sport shirt that still fit, wearing it draped and unbuttoned to show off the blue-tan contrast. When he saw me, Adam could barely be torn away from the TV screen, but, as I began to leave, he did manage to say, “That’s much better.”
I may not get defensive around children, but a compliment from someone of any age, even a nine-year-old, is still highly desirable.
I don't write on spec, but every now and then something gets me fired up and I can't stop my fingers from hitting the keyboard.