One of the many benefits of hot weather is the effect it has on dress. When temperatures rise, sensible people peel. Out come halter tops, shorts, gauze dresses, and in select cases the stunning combination of bikini top and faded jeans. Those of us with a high appreciation for that most magnificent of art-forms — the human body, and especially the female variation — suddenly find ourselves in heaven, and one without the tough admissions policy.
Yet this is not the only reaction. Others among us — including some of the most prominent members of society — are horrified by this general dressing down. Indeed, they’re horrified by any dressing down. To them, one’s personal drapery is a reflection of the soul. We shall deal with them presently.
First, however, let us praise the heat and its noble side effect. I was downtown with my chaplain the other day, downing a few wheat beers on the patio of a favorite tavern and taking in the sights. We are middle-aged gents with trained eyes, which is to say we know how to train them on the beautiful women that nature and nature’s God have provided. We were surrounded. As the chaplain rightly observed, a heat wave will get the girls out of their dresses faster than a bottle of plonk and a promise of matrimony.
Flat bellies, many with jewels winking from navels, paraded past. “Much like a harem,” the chaplain observed. Who could disagree? Everything about them looked good, even their tattoos. It seems you can’t find a young woman in these parts who hasn’t got at least one somewhere in plain sight. One waitress bears a set of checkered racing flags, easily a foot long each, crossed just about her posterior cleavage. This has inspired long and deep contemplations as to the meaning: Pit stop below, the chaplain believes, but who knows. Other tattoos are of supernatural creatures, pets, salad ingredients (mushrooms and chili peppers especially), musical notes, fish, various flags, and the occasional waterfowl.
Another waitress bears a tattoo dedicated to her favorite saint, while a cross adorns the ankle of another. What would Buddha do? I ask the Chaplain. “He would have another wheat beer.”
It is true, to be sure, that summer raiment falls on the beautiful and hideous alike, but the trained eye is good at overlooking most violations of taste and decency. One can easily observe, however, that those polls about the number of overweight Americans seem to be fairly accurate, as is the report that human DNA is very similar to that found in trees. This latter becomes apparent on a fairly regular basis, as there are many humans who are clearly first cousins to stumps.
So goes the human comedy. But not everyone’s laughing. The other day, for example, a Washington scribe of some repute took time during a music review to discuss the habit Americans have of dressing down. His view, paraphrased here, was that when he was a young man he understood that clothes didn’t make a difference. But when he got older, he was instructed by a boss that one should “dress one’s age.” He had fully embraced this philosophy, and he is not alone. Countless people, including everyone in Washington, believe the same thing.
Here in the sticks, we recognize this as a Drapery Fetish. Its victims believe that putting on a tie and coat makes them more mature and requires us to take them more seriously. This extends to the wearing of bow ties by young men, which is a more enlightened land would be treated by drowning.
The fact is that any dope can wear a coat and tie. Most do, as have the most highly developed criminals in history, including Hitler and Himmler. We are currently bedeviled by a race of people with their own clothing fetish, the female variation of which leaves the women looking like a flock of black ghosts.
We recognize that many people who embrace this ridiculous code may be suffering from a condition closely related to the Stockholm Syndrome, in which prisoners sympathize with their captors. These victims have been taken captive by The Man, and come to adopt his ways. Eventually they find themselves incapable of laughing at pictures of Richard Nixon wearing knee socks and wing tips on the beach. They see the latest gang of CEOs being marched to the paddy wagons and say: Nice suit.
There is no respite, even during a hot flash. Just yesterday, as we sat beneath the canopy at said tavern, the karma was suddenly cracked by the appearance of an earnest young man wearing a suit — jacket, tie, pants, the entire catastrophe.
“What would Buddha do?”
“Reach for his revolver.”
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