I am almost forty years of age, graying- and I still need my father’s help to buy new clothes. I do not know if this is something that I should be openly confessing but for me writing honestly is the way that I deal with the realities of my life. I was in the Gap this afternoon, accompanying a friend who needed to buy some new pants. While she tried them on I browsed around in the men’s section and realized that I could really use some new clothes. My daily wardrobe consists of jeans and t-shirts with an occasionally worn black leather jacket. My shoes are old enough to be eligible for social security and the majority of socks that I wear are inflicted with holes. The last time I shopped was many years ago when my father gave me a check for $500 and said go get your self some new clothes. The mistake that I made then was that I spent a hundred dollars of that money buying clothes at a used clothing shop while the other $400 went towards paying my rent and getting an Asian erotic massage with a hand job that I no longer remember.
Gun shots go off almost every night outside of my home. An eighteen year old pregnant woman was gunned down last night three blocks away. I am living in the wild wild west and my clothes can prove it. As a younger man I wore top of the line clothes. I shopped at Banana Republic for all of my attire because not only were the clothes comfortable, but they fit me like they were made especially for my physique. I was young then and still had unlimited potential, so I could understand why my father insisted on paying for my clothing bills. Some of the better times that the two of us ever had together were on shopping sprees for me. I was getting new clothes and he was getting to dress his son for the success I would never become. In either case, we were both winners. I got new clothes and he got to dream. Now all of the clothes are faded and no longer fit, and besides- in the neighborhood that I live no one dresses like that.
I begin teaching high school in a few days and I thought it would be nice to show up to school not wearing last years clothes. The Teachers that I work around are so under paid that the idea of buying new clothes is so far fetched that I see tears in their eyes whenever we talk about shopping. I know if I showed up for school with a new outfit I would be the envy of not only my class but everyone else in the school. I would be a symbol of hope for my fellow Teachers who have been sentenced and condemned to wearing the same outfits for at least the past five years. America is one of the only countries in the world where Teachers can’t afford to dress well.
As I looked at the fall clothes line that hung on the racks in the Gap I imagined myself dressed in them. New jeans, new pants and socks and shirts and jackets. I saw myself fitted in all of them, standing infront of my classroom looking like the well dressed man that I imagined I would be when I was young. Granted now I am old enough and wise enough to know that what you wear is only a minimal measure of the person inside and that being concerned with fashion is a never ending burden on not only your ego but also your bank account- but deep down inside of me I truly enjoy dressing well. Not only does it satisfy my own expectations for myself, but it makes me feel like I am finally my fathers son. I thought, for a moment, about buying a new pair of $50 dollar jeans but I sunk back in resignation realizing that this would be too much of an economic stretch. Instead I would return home, like all prodigal sons do, and call my dad and ask him if he would not mind sticking a $500 dollar check in the mail for me, his almost 40 year old son, who is ready for the first time in his life, to dress for success.