The Emporer's Clothes
writing naked. Why? Because yesterday, I saw something at the bank that
disturbed me (other than my account balance). One of the tellers showed
up for work wearing a turtleneck and slacks; but before he could say hi,
the manager took him aside, pointed to his sweater, and told him to go
The employee looked at him questioningly, and the man repeated himself: "Look
at your clothes. Go home."
Usually I take pleasure in this kind of confrontation, but today was
different. The manager handed his employee a copy of the dress code
and marched importantly to his office. The kid left the store without
further ado, his shame naked to the world. All I could do was stare
at my sandals.
What a funny thing are clothes!
If I open my blinds right now, it would be an affront to society because
I am not covered in fabric. If I were to walk outside, I could be arrested
for indecent exposure... even if I had a good body! That's a powerful
statement about how we feel about ourselves. On the bright side, it
justified my not exercising: no matter how good I look, my body will
always be indecent.
What if I went to the mall in my PJs? There is no law against it,
but I couldn't walk five paces without a sneer or a laugh. Not all
dress codes are written down, but make no mistake-they are everywhere.
It's "okay" to wear my pajamas in front of the TV, but if
God lifted my house and revealed me to the public, I would be subject
to ridicule. Let's hope that doesn't happen. It would be freaky.
As we speak, there is a woman at Venice Beach wearing dental floss,
but it is overlooked because she is on the beach. It's a bathing suit.
If she we were wearing, say, underwear, she would be subject to prosecution
despite the face that her underwear covers three times the skin. So
Picture God looking down at Earth as we might a child's globe. He
is holding a Barbie Doll wearing a thong bikini, and as he moves her
to different locations, she becomes acceptable, unacceptable, acceptable,
unacceptable. At the beach: okay. At the store, not okay. In Lebanon,
burned at the stake. In Rio de Janeiro, overdressed.
Everything we wear is a statement about who we are, what we are doing,
and where our grandpa sewed his oats. The connotations of clothing
form a Morse Code for my pettiness to communicate with your pettiness.
Executives dress in suits to display their economic profile. Teenagers
wear their pants around their hips to be rebellious (I'm not sure why
plumbers do it). Erin Brokovich dresses to remind us which gender really
holds the power.
Yesterday my wife told me that stripes are "in."
"In style, silly."
"Who decided that?"
"The designers, of course."
Designer: a person appointed to determine what is "in" and
what is "out." Designers are experts in taste, the "they" we
hear so much about. They determine what clothes I should wear, and
they reserve the right to change their mind depending on what they
had for lunch. In the mall, some women are so fashionable that it's
hard to tell the dummies from the mannequins. It makes me long for
the return of the fig leaf.
Even if you have admissible clothes, they still have to match, which
poses a major problem for men. For a man, if the stripe on his tube
sock is the same color as the logo on his shorts, that's a match! When
he sees a well-dressed man, he just figures that the man is gay. Why
do you think men wear tuxedos to formal events -- no decisions to make.
Whereas I appreciate the artistic process of decorating our person,
it is unfair for the rest of us to be judged by the same yardstick.
What difference does it make a hundred years from now what we wore
when we fortunate enough to have a body to wear it on? Yet if I were
to visit the mall in my PJs, I'd be tarred and feathered (a good look
for autumn get-togethers).
I always thought nudists were a little nutty, but you know, they might
be on to something. Perhaps they are trying to divest clothing of its
power. Perhaps they are stripping not just their clothes but its connotations.
Just as a wedding ring has come to be more symbolic of a man's income
than his love, so has the "common thread" come to symbolize
qualities that don't deserve the association.
At the Oscars, a starlet arrived on the red carpet dressed simply.
She was not a glamour queen but a real actress. For years she had worked
odd jobs, auditioned for parts, paid her dues, and finally landed a
role for which she was being recognized. And just when her moment arrived,
right there at the culminating point of her life's work, she was mocked
by Joan Rivers for the gown she was wearing.
So as I sit here in the nude thinking about that kid in the bank (that
didn't sound good), I long for a day when my teller is allowed to wear
whatever he pleases without being shamed by the boss. He should have
the freedom to wear a zoot suit, a top hat, horizontal stripes, or
a Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick uniform if he's bent that way. Hell, I'd stop
by the bank just to see what he's wearing from time to time.
And if you ever find yourself judging someone for the clothes they
wear, remember our friend at the bank and the fact that everyone is
equally naked under their clothes.