“What?” the man in shorts, a sloppy tee-shirt and ratty looking sandals that were falling off his feet asked.
“My condolences,” I said again. He gave me a confused look so I continued, “that you think so little of yourself that you’d present yourself to the world looking like that.”
He gave me another confused look and started to speak, but he probably either didn’t know what to say or simply didn’t have the mental wherewithal to assimilate what I’d said so I simply walked away, disgusted, and returned to searching through the men’s department of the major department store for a shirt with a collar, sleeves and buttons down the front.
The salesman, who had heard the exchange and had been stifling his laughter, joined me and asked if he could help me with anything.
“Not really,” I answered. “I’ve got plenty of shirts, but you never know when something’s going to jump out at you that you have to have.”
“Exactly,” he responded and looked over his shoulder at the man who had just walked away. “I don’t know how they do it,” he added conspiratorially.
“What?” I asked.
Now that he believed I was a friend and not a spy for the store who was going to immediately report him he added, “Look like that. I agree with you. I bet they get up in the morning and look in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘how can I make myself look as disgusting as possible today?’”
“Exactly,” I said. “It used to be that boys couldn’t wait to get their first pair of long pants. Until they were twelve they wore shorts because they were children and getting long pants was a sign that they’d become a man – like a Bar Mitzvah.”
The salesman laughed and nodded in agreement before leaving me with a friendly farewell to continue looking around.
While I didn’t find anything interesting enough to add to my wardrobe that day I felt better knowing that I had found a fellow devotee of looking like a civilized adult male. That, at least, made me happier than I’d been when I’d walked in and a little less repulsed by the shorts and tee-shirts surrounding me everywhere I looked.
I smiled to myself as I walked toward the ladies shoe department to meet my wife.