Time to Come Clean About These Shorts
It’s shocking what I’m preparing to send out over Twitter.
But the truth is, if there’s a message to would-be pubic figures in light of Weinergate and the squirrelly behavior of American politicians this summer, it’s clearly this: Just come clean and get it out there. Trying to hide your foolish indiscretions will only make matters worse.
Besides, if you mention how awful you feel to have gravely disappointed your family and ruined your own good name, if you simply ask for forgiveness and public understanding through this difficult time, mentioning that you’ve at least made contact with an agency specializing in your particular kind of mental disorder, well, who knows? Maybe you can save your career, resurrect your reputation, and maybe even wind up with your very own cable talk show.
Yes, it’s true — my case also involves damning documentary evidence I would give a body part to suppress, a photograph of me displayed shockingly from the waist down, taken without my consent by an amused colleague on her iPhone.
Before it gets out there and I find myself nervously sipping bottled water and trying to explain how I could possibly have done such a stupid and embarrassing thing, please let me say my wife is really to blame. She of all people actually encouraged me to do this.
This may be one of those crazy stunts that happen to middle-aged men, but none of this would have happened if she hadn’t insisted that I needed something new and exciting. I’m speaking, of course, of the madras shorts I purchased on a whim last Friday afternoon at Belk. Here’s how the whole embarrassing thing came down.
Recalling a Weird Uncle
It was hot. I was weary from a week on the road, facing a trip down to visit friends at the beach. I had nothing to wear that just says summer.
Actually, to digress for a moment, that’s not true at all. I have plenty to wear that just says summer, but most of my summer clothes are plain and ratty. And my wife, who is anything but, has been urging me for weeks to get some new threads.
“Something with a little color and style for summer would be nice,” is the way she pleasantly put it.
Which really means: Please don’t wear those ratty and worn-out khaki shorts to the beach this summer or you’ll be sitting alone on the sand like weird bachelor uncle Buddy, who smells like Noxema and Four Roses bourbon.
Speaking of weird uncles, I actually blame Uncle Al for my simple tastes in shorts. He wasn’t really my uncle. He was somebody else’s uncle who always seemed to be at the Hanover Seaside Club at Wrightsville Beach whenever my family stayed there in the 1960s.
Uncle Al played the piano and told racy jokes. He was a grinning white-haired Romeo who wore loud madras shorts and tassel loafers and was the life of the party, always devilishly inviting us kids to pull his finger. I never pulled his finger, thank God. But my friend Debbie Moose did and took the whole summer to recover from the appalling consequences.
Anyway, that was the last summer of my life that I owned a pair of real madras shorts. Before Uncle Al asked me to pull his finger, I thought madras shorts were the coolest thing. All the teenage girls liked them, and if you wore real madras shorts swimming they only “bled” and looked cooler.
After Uncle Al invited me to pull his finger, however, I decided madras shorts were a true sign of mental instability. So I switched to wearing plain khaki shorts and have never worn anything else since.
The Real Thing
Jump ahead to last Friday afternoon. I walked into Belk looking to find some stylish new khaki shorts and maybe a colorful shirt that would just say summer. Instead, I walked straight into a display of old-fashioned madras shorts that looked exactly like the ones I wore and loved so much before Uncle Al ruined them for me.
I don’t know what came over me. Call it sudden nostalgia for a simpler time. Fond memories of the good old Seaside Club flooded my brain. I found myself touching them.
“Those are real madras,” a passing clerk pointed out with a knowing smile. “The genuine thing. Impossible to find these days.”
The price was ridiculously high, at least twice what I pay for cheap khaki shorts.
But I bought them anyway. Without thinking. Without even trying them on. I bought them and took them home and tried them on in the privacy of my own home, with all the windows shut. Call it temporary insanity.
I looked at myself in the mirror, hoping to see the scrawny sunburned kid in the artfully faded madras shorts. That kid was long gone. I looked like a man wearing a beach ball.
Or worse, the new Uncle Al.
My wife came home, however, and claimed they looked wonderful. She loved my new madras shorts so much, in fact, she thought I should wear them down at the beach on Saturday. I told her I didn’t have the nerve to wear them out in public yet, but might be persuaded to wear them on our date that night to the drive-in theater over in Albemarle.
You Laughing at Me?
What a perfect place to wear my new colorful shorts, after all — a darkened public place where all the action is on the screen or inside the cars. Unfortunately every row of the drive-in filled up with cars, and we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of families and young people sitting under the stars in folding chairs. I waited until it was totally dark before I went to the concession stand to get popcorn for me and Milk Duds for my wife.
I was horrified to see a huge line, mostly filled with teenagers texting friends.
The human beach ball in me did my best to blend in, but it was hopeless. A certain pair of teenage girls kept glancing over at me, snapping their gum and laughing, texting God knows whom.
I was sure they were sending pictures of me out over the Internet, posting me to Facebook and Twitter, making me a viral laughingstock on YouTube and the Web.
“Listen,” I said to them after I got my popcorn and Milk Duds, “I saw you staring at me. I think you should know that my wife wanted me to get these shorts. I know I look pretty silly in them. But I once had a pair of madras shorts just like these when I was your age. Thank you for understanding. I’m just working up the nerve to wear them in public.”
The shorter one looked at me as if she smelled Noxema and Four Roses bourbon.
The taller one simply shrugged, still texting.
“That’s cool,” she said. “We weren’t looking at you. We were looking at the concession stand menu.”
I still didn’t have the nerve to wear them at the beach.
But I did wear them to work this morning, casual Friday. My new madras shorts went over far better than I could possibly have imagined. Maybe the women in my office were also nostalgic for a simpler time. Or maybe they were just being polite or are mentally ill. One actually said she thought my madras shorts were cool — at least didn’t bust out laughing right away.
Another playfully snapped a picture of them on her iPhone. Which is why I want to get out front of my shocking, unwanted public exposure before it goes viral and I have a lot of explaining to do. The last thing I want is for anyone to think I’m the new Uncle Al.
All the same, just for fun, before Madrasgate goes any further, wouldn’t you like to pull my finger?
Award-winning author Jim Dodson, Sunday essayist with The Pilot and editor of PineStraw magazine, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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