It’s easy to fit in…you have to be bold to step out. I take Lady Macbeth’s advice and screw my courage to the sticking-place.
I’m reading La Rochefoucauld’s maxims. This one catches my interest:
“In every walk of life each man puts on a personality and outward appearance so as to look what he wants to be thought. In fact, one might say that society is entirely made up of assumed personalities.”
I chew on it while thinking about which is better: fitting in or stepping out. How far out can one step before they cross the threshold of becoming one of the deplorables, avoidables or uninviteables? Worth pondering.
Clearly, fitting in can get boring at times, but being ostracized is a serious matter this late in life. You can run out of time trying to make mid-course fashion adjustments before it gets too late. You have to think about such things as who’ll be pall bearers at your funeral.
My daughter comes in, slides an Austen-Heller shoe catalog across the table.
“Dad, check out these shoes. Think how you’d look with the green ones,” she says. “You would really be stepping out on the island.”
“Hmmm, interesting. But what would I be stepping into? The last guy who tried this was Chuck Berry, and he’s dead. Currently it’s safer taking a cue from Basement Joe, making no societal waves and keeping character assassinations at bay. Besides, wearing green shoes won’t add one cubit to my stature.”
“Come on, dad, get a life. Times are changing. Fashion is moving fast. Don’t be left behind. These are cool shoes.”
Maybe she’s right, they will make a statement. But matching them with my current JCrew wardrobe presents a dilemma. I don’t need to buy another round of clothes just to match the whim of green shoes. So I debate.
“Uh, but suppose you are correct. What would people think? Maybe I should avoid being stoned and pitch the White ones, keep the Black and Brown ones. They’re vogue these days.”
“Right. That’s the point. Step out in green leather loafers and you’ll make a fashion statement and offend no one. It would be your own version of the Green New Deal. ”
I push back and take the defensive position of discussing the merits of fitting in. No waves, no discussions, no critiques. Just part of the herd. It’s safe and harmless. It’s a kind of invisible life. You’re in it, but nobody notices. It’s a place where all men look alike, comfortable in conformity, complacent in status quo.
“Get with it, dad,” she says. “Toss the Cole Haan-khaki pant-blue blazer geriatric generation garb and step out. You’ll be noticed again.”
I remind her that fashion is a fickle, wallet-busting frivolity, better suited for the young who are trying to find themselves. At a certain age we have either found ourselves and approved or given up the search as a hopeless endeavor.
“Look, dad, the green ones are on end-of-summer sale, a bargain at $125. Buy them, and I’ll guarantee you’ll get respect. Cachet will be in your future. Overnight you’ll be a trendsetter, an arbiter of style and politically correct to boot. And who knows but what your pals are just waiting for someone to take the lead. Do it, dad.”
“All right, suppose I do. Just what crowd am I fitting into? Anybody over forty? And there’s your mother to consider. What will she think?”
“Well, it may be a shock at first, but I think she’ll come along. I’ll help you soften the shock of a new you.”
I remind her of my past disastrous experience with the Stubbs and Wooten black velvet loafers, the toes emblazoned with red devils, and the Palm Springs pink flowered silk shirts.
“Yes, that was unfortunate,” she says. “But you made those choices on your own. Now I’m going to help you. These green loafers will be your ticket to freedom in individual expression. Trust me. What credit card do you want to use?”
Like a hungry bear out of hibernation, the primal urge for individuality begins to stir again and waves goodbye to the herd.
W.C. Fields once remarked, “There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” Green shoes will soon be arriving.
So I step out, buy the ticket, take the ride. A promise of freedom for $125 seems like a bargain indeed.
July 24, 2020