Dressing Your Station
Cobb talks of aging, respect, and knowing where you are:
It hit me almost at once that I was in America. The America I remember from before 9/11 when I used to think about the wonderment of fancy restaurants. In any fancy American restaurant, the guy two tables away from you just might be a multimillionaire. Of course that truth remained after 9/11 but we started getting all dysfunctional about what America meant. I’m talking about the open society that we still are. Free parking on the street in Carmel.
One of the things I remember most about that book I read about the rich, the wealthy and the super wealthy was that a lot of the wealthy are pretty peculiar folks, meaning that they are the guy who spent 20 years perfecting goat cheese, or ball bearings. If you were the guy who invented the Maglite, you started off with a dream to have a really good flashlight and then one day everybody in law enforcement wanted one. Four years later, you’re a regular old guy with time and millions to burn in Carmel. You go to all the Red Sox games. You buy the wife a new Benz. Yeah the watch costs 6 thousand, but whatever. You just buy stuff that works, not all that flash. You can find things out if you really want to know. You have time. You have money. You have patience. You’re not under pressure to make a whole lot of mistakes. You appreciate a good meal. You realize you have been blessed, and you take your freedom seriously. By my reckoning, a reasonable man, once rich, will get over the hump and mellow out or wreck his life within 5 years.
Separately, he wrote this:
A bucket list is not a good way to think of maturity. Adding adventure is for young men. For old men it’s about subtracting the useless. It’s about not being restless for action for it’s own sake. It’s about not letting desire to prove something get in the way of just doing something. For me, being this age is about your ability to know the truth of your life’s experience and always tell that truth. But also being prepared if everybody else does that or if nobody else does that.
Being still relatively young, I don’t have a whole lot to say on the meat of his post except that I am going to really, really try to remember that paragraph from the second post. But while I am relatively young, I am passing the point where I am young.
I have something of an egalitarian streak. And I have a preference for the casual. I don’t like pretension. Yet at the same time, I do have relatively inegalitarian and more rigid views on self-presentation. At some point, I am going to need to go through and cull my wardrobe. With the exception of things that don’t fit, one of the things I am going to be looking at more closely are those things that are age-appropriate. Once upon a time, I found the perfect clubbing shirt. I didn’t wear it clubbing, because I rarely went clubbing, but I still wore it around. But that is a shirt for a man in his twenties, which I am not anymore in body or spirit. A few years ago I tried to grow my hair out. It wasn’t successful, but that was just as well because I was already too old for long hair.
There’s something about the agebending that Rufus talked about here that I am not sure I will ever be comfortable with. This is true of how we behave and how we dress. For some reason, it’s the latter that bothers me more. I mean, if you’re in your thirties or forties and you enjoy video games or superhero movies, well that’s what you enjoy. There is something tragic about being expected not to. Life is too short. But appearance? That strikes me as a place where it’s quite easy to conform. To avoid being that fifty year old guy with the ear-ring. But the expectation is lost.
Cobb also talks quite a bit about class. In addition to abandoning my night-club shirt, I also find myself becoming more particular when it comes to certain things in part because it feels wrong for myself, the husband of a doctor, a father, and a degreed individual, to dress a way that I am not. When I can come up with a utilitarian reason for it, such as my famous steel-toed boots, I do it without shame. But other than that, I feel like one of the minimal obligations of my fortunate life is to at least nominally live up to it. My twenty year old self would have called it elitism or snobbery. But in a way, it’s the other way around. It’s not a disrespect of myself to downgrade my appearance with holey jeans or gas station shirts. Rather, it’s a disrespect to the people for whom these things are authentic. For me, it is not. It feels like pretending not to acknowledge this.