How to Tell You're a Dog
It occurred me the other day, rather startlingly, that I'm rapidly becoming a dog. Or at least a young dog. Maybe a dog-in-training.
A dog is short for "Dorky Old Guy."
The other day, I stepped into a Target store to buy toothpaste and happened down an aisle where men's canvas sneakers were on sale for 10 bucks. They seemed to call my name.
Ever since we rejoined a very fancy gym in order to turn ourselves into sleek and fit 50-somethings, my wife has been on a campaign to convince me to buy some appropriate exercise shoes.
I've resisted primarily because:
Most modern exercise shoes are laughably expensive, and I've grown incredibly cheap.
Most modern exercise shoes look like something the cast of a bad space movie would wear in their exercise pod, and and I hate space movies of any kind. (Not to mention exercising.)
All the above.
As a kid, I wore black high-top Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers until they disintegrated from my feet, usually accompanied by my mother directing a professional fumigation crew to my bedroom. As a trim and fit young guy in Atlanta, I favored New Balance running shoes that identified me as a groovy young modern in a hurry to conquer the world, impress the gals and live forever.
These days, if I need to run in order to get there, I simply don't go there.
Conquering the world, for what it's worth, is also overrated. Just ask Moammar Gadhafi.
And now that I've realized that I probably won't live forever, I dress purely for comfort and economy. Did I happen to mention that I've grown incredibly cheap?
These are leading social characteristics of "dogs" everywhere - aka Dorky Old Guys.
As a rule, "dogs" have no sense of style and couldn't care less if our rear ends look fat. We like shirts that have big useful pockets, with plenty of room for stuff, not little guys playing polo on the breast.
There are plenty of other identifying traits of "dogs," of course. We loathe waiting in any line that has more than two people in it. We can remember exactly how we played a hole in a golf outing six months ago but can't remember what our wives asked us to pick up at the grocery store on the way home.
We would rather stick toothpicks in our eyes than watch most reality shows. Life's tough enough without watching people do really stupid things just to get on TV.
Movie houses showing phone commercials and 3-D films really burn up our undershorts.
Speaking of undershorts, they should always be roomy and white, as should toilet paper, golf balls and, if possible, Christmas.
"Dogs" miss drive-in theaters, where you can unbuckle your pants if you eat too much junk food and doze off if the movie gets boring.
Last Drive-In on Earth?
A couple of weeks ago on a lark, my wife and I drove over to the drive-in theater in Albemarle - one of the last known to exist on planet Earth - and found the place packed with young families and teenage couples.
Admission was cheap - just five bucks a head - making me one happy dog. Up at the concession stand, I wasn't even bothered by the fact that 20 people were already in line, most of them teenagers madly texting their friends back in the car.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks, the saying goes, for good reason - or at least to properly text a message. The last time I sent my daughter a text, some guy claiming to be Moammar Gadhafi texted back wondering if I thought his new military uniform made his butt look fat on CNN.
As I was walking back to our car, it was great to see all these young people getting some wholesome fresh air at an old-fashioned drive-in theater, even if most of them were lying on air mattresses in the back of pickup trucks and were not actually visible.
Only little kids and "dogs" like me were actually watching the movie. When I suggested to my wife that we get a little frisky for old times' sake, she told me to keep my hands off her Milk Duds.
"Dogs" quietly miss the old days, when courtship was based on mutual respect and reaching to certain bases before you struck out. These days there seems to be no mystery whatsoever involved with taking one's gal to the drive-in, assuming you can find one, not much to modern romance except for blowing up the air mattress.
No New Tricks, Please
Anyway, there I was in a crowded Target, looking at a pair of cheap canvas sneakers just like the ones my grandfather used to wear around the house when he was doing odd jobs and later sat on the porch with his pants unbuttoned from eating too much bean casserole at lunch, shortly before he dozed off. His shirts, believe you me, all had roomy pockets.
A decade ago, I wouldn't have given those shoes a second look. But now they were calling my name.
"Hey, Gramps, try me on! I walk. I don't run. I don't go to 3-D movies or wait in long lines! And best of all, I'm cheap."
So just for fun, I put them on and looked at myself in the mirror. Sure enough, before my very eyes, I became my grandfather, a true Dorky Old Guy. It was all I could do not to grab a pair of black socks to wear with my plain canvas sneakers.
Back at the office after lunch, I showed them to a stylish young colleague, who actually smiled when she saw them.
"You know," she said, "I have a confession to make. I love shoes like that. They're so nerdy they're cool. I think guys who wear shoes like that are really cute."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This made me one happy dog.
Before unbuttoning my pants to take a short nap, I texted Moammar to let him know he might want to pick up some cheap canvas shoes for when his fat butt is shown fleeing on CNN.
"Dad," my exasperated daughter texted back, "what on earth are you talking about? I don't think this was meant for me!"
"Sorry," I wrote back. "Can't teach an old dog new tricks."
Jim Dodon, Sunday essayist for The Pilot and editor of PineStraw magazine, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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