I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to a point where I think I look better unclothed than I do clothed. For all intents and purposes that ship has sailed and probably didn’t set off anytime recently either. It was probably somewhere around my mid-twenties and even then I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it myself although I do seem to remember a coterie of willing companions who must have been.
Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.Joseph Roux
But it’s not just about being physically or sexually desirable, but whether or not this vessel is ever again going to catch someone’s eye, presented unadorned. I don’t think I’m bad looking mind you, I just think I make a much better presentation with a good deal more fabric than one usually finds at the beach.
There is a perfect calculus in my mind’s eye. A tipping point between too little, where too much is exposed, and too much, where you cease looking textured and sufficiently wrapped and turn into Randy from A Christmas Story unable to move let alone get back up having once fallen down.
It is probably a fair guess that most of us don’t work out religiously at the temple of kettle bells, or maintain the spartan diet of a buddhist monk, but would nonetheless be a bit happier if only we were to weigh a few pounds less. In my case, I’d like to be about 30-40 pounds lighter. This would be closer to what I sometimes refer to as my “fighting weight.” Heavier than I was in my twenties, but something more akin to what one might expect a man of my advancing years, though still what one might consider to be in good shape. Frankly the weight is irrelevant of course. I would prefer it if my midsection was not defined by an outcropping of sorts but more in line with the rest of my body and merely resting comfortably in between my chest and my ass.
I quit drinking seven months ago, and in that time I have committed to little in the way of exercise, having lost my initiative after my Fitbit died and I became overwhelmed by the prospect of replacing it, upgrading to an Apple Watch, reverting to the pocket watches I’ve always loved. Like many things, after spending a few useless hours on the internet, I tired of the whole affair and decided I didn’t need anything. My goal of 10,000 steps a day has suffered because of it, but I’m not looking at my wrist while you’re trying to talk to me.
Since the cessation of alcoholic beverages and the excess caloric intake I was achieving on a daily basis, I have indeed lost 30lbs or so, which has brought me back from the brink of obesity. Where I was on my way to uncomfortably large, I am now merely overweight. The thing is, I have lost this weight before through extreme measures, but I know what it’s like to go from 230 to 200lbs. It’s a wonderful feeling, but at the time it was not sustainable.
The weight did not just fall off me the minute I quit drinking, as I might have once hoped, but it did come off eventually and without my realizing it, so I have an inkling of hope that if I gave even the slightest effort, I might be able to in fact see 200 pounds as well my toes again without straining my neck or lifting my leg.
I did begin mowing my own lawn again this year after allowing landscapers to maul it mercilessly for the past two decades. It’s been both gratifying, as well as slightly frustrating, as I was once only marginally annoyed by the stray weed or bare patch in my closely monitored backyard monoculture, whereas I now know every patch of earth and blade of grass intimately and the only person I can blame for its inadequacies is myself.
The point is I have been getting in between 8-10k steps at least one day a week, something I hope to transfer forward to walks in the woods with my wife once the grass stops growing and the flies stop biting. If I could add a few mornings to this regimen I feel confident I could get the old body back into some sort of workable shape. Maybe not anything resembling a beach body, but nothing a few layers of clothing couldn’t disguise as passably fit.
I have a style that I have stretched to encompass my expanding girth but which is more conducive to a leaner frame. It’s a sort of gay, lumberjack chic complete with Red Wing boots, Levi’s 501 button fly jeans, Filson tin cloth outwear and when I can fit into them, waist coats. My jackets are currently a mishmosh of thrift store field jackets and pea coats, with a vast collection of scarves and hats that both flummoxes and dismays my wife.
The hats aren’t really the problem as they fall into two groups, either slouchy knit beanies or classic working flat caps. But the scarves are all over the place. Literally, they’re sort of all over the house, especially during the cold weather months.
I definitely sympathize with a woman’s understanding that footwear operates outside of body image. Nobody gives a shit about fat feet, so as long as we can wear them comfortably, a good pair of shoes is fashion everyone can pull off. I am partial to Doc Martens as my daily footwear of choice as they are supremely comfortable and completely utilitarian, but when I want to add a little flair I’ll break out leather dress shoes or the Red Wings.
I gave up on wearing anything other than jeans several years ago. I finally hit an age, weight, level of experience and lack of interest in following any sartorial norms where decided I would no longer wear a suit, or even a pair of khakis for any occasion. I don’t own dress pants of any kind and have two options for showing up for your business meeting, wedding or funeral. Jeans or cargo shorts. I’ll dress it up with vests and sport coats. Pocket watch with chain. Fine leather shoes when called for. I can pull off quite the dapper look when needed, but there will always be faded blue jeans in there somewhere.
My pièce de résistance has been for some years a scarf of some sort. It’s not likely that anyone else is taken aback or swayed by my addition of a scarf my ensemble, but it makes me feel dressed in a way that seems elevated, at least to me. As I often have no need for a coat, a scarf, hat and gloves is usually all I need to get by for all but the coldest weather. They range from large caliber knit monstrosities to light as a feather shemaghs and all manner of sections of fabric in between. I often collect them in my travels and my closets and trunks have versions from Paris and Prague, Afghanistan and Norway. Some have a story, and some I can’t remember where I acquired them. My wife’s biggest complaint I’m sure is that despite the large selection of scarves I own, I tend to only wear a few of them at a time, so to her it’s a big waste of space, but to me their are endless options.
In addition to my collection of fabric squares, runners and infinite loops, I am the proud of owner of a dozen or so bags that could generously be called messenger bags, but what you might more accurately call handbags. That’s right, I carry a purse, but they tend to be very masculine in design and designed to be worn across the chest. They are collection of greens and browns, made of canvas and leather and feature many pockets, zippers, snaps and buckles. They’re a cross between English finery, road warrior battle dress and steam punk excess. They house my notebooks and pencils, iPad and headphones, a spare Kindle and portable charger. I am never without something to read, some way to write down my thoughts, sketch an idea, doodle a subject or converse with the world. I am never not entertained, or entertaining someone else and my bags are a studio on foot.
My wife calls me Mr. Bundles.
As I work towards a little less of me, I am hopeful that I may once again get to a place when I might consider tucking my shirt into my pants, not necessarily a look I enjoy but one that works better with a waste coat and jeans, all the better show off your fine leather belt.
In the meantime, I will allow myself to enjoy my meals and my grandchildren will continue to be more than happy to imagine me as their very own, slightly less jolly Santa Claus. I have a new vest in the mail and a new pocket watch to wind. Before Christmas is over I may have dropped a size or two and added a few more scarves.
If you ever see me again, which given my abstinence from alcoholic beverages combined with my distain for all things social and an unfortunate but not altogether unpleasant global health crisis, is highly unlikely. But if you do, I may be a tad thinner beneath my mask and scarf than last you saw me. Rest assured I am just as irritated by the world and its endless disappointments as you remember, simply a little quicker of mind, body and spirit. I wear the scarf to remind myself that there are pleasures that exist purely for me and me alone, that need not please another soul. I wear the scarf to ward off the evil spirits and protect myself from dreadful conversations. I wear the scarf because I am not yet at my fighting weight.
Someday, I may wear less. But not today.
Today I wear the scarf.