It’s always interesting to see how other people perceive you. For example, my daughter used to draw pictures of me that made me resemble a serial killer’s worst nightmare. That’s one of her early drawings up above. If that’s how she saw me, I have no idea how she didn’t have night terrors. Honestly, that’s the kind of guy who haunts the dreams of Charles Manson. Watch out, Charlie, here comes Rick, the happy clown maniac.
For the record, I don’t look anything like that, but as a writer; I’ve always felt that the best tool in my arsenal—besides a pithy sentence—can sometimes be anonymity. With no preconceived notion of who somebody is or what they look like, a reader can more easily get lost in the words. Anonymity can also cover up a lot of mistakes and moments of hyperbole. On the latter, my wife will occasionally remind me that something didn’t happen quite as I told it, so she keeps me on my non-fiction toes. I’ve also come to realize that I’m uncomfortable with the combination of people reading what I’ve done and knowing who I am. If I run into somebody and they say something like, “Oh, I read your column on eye snot and it was funny,” that’s always kind of awkward for me. Are they trying to make me feel good or do they really like reading about eye snot?
While I was sorting out pictures for another project I was working on, I ended up scrolling through some stuff I’ve saved. I found a caricature that my daughter had made of me years ago. As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but think that everything a person is can be summed up in a few characteristics. If someone was given a vague description of me—something like, “the tall guy with the beard and glasses” that would probably be enough to find me in a grocery store. In the case of my caricature, I’m the guy with the plaid shirt, long legs, boots, a cup of coffee, stubble and glasses. I had to admit that this pretty much summed it up, although, in that representation, I look as if I’m wearing barrettes. I think those represent my eyebrows, and as I get older, isn’t that far off.
I was somewhat dismayed when I realized that other than some subtle refinements, the humorous effects of age, and several new pairs of glasses, I’ve looked the same for all of my adult life. Is this how I’ll be remembered when I’m gone? “Rick? Oh yeah, I remember him. He looked like a homeless lumberjack or perhaps a homicidal clown.”
As men, we like to think we are above making conscious fashion choices. Things like that are better left to the dandies inside Esquire magazine—the men who wear $1200 alpaca sweaters and $300.00 jeans to a picnic. I wish that were true, but we have all made choices—they simply aren’t magazine worthy choices. On most days, I feel like one of those advertised wristwatches that are permanently stuck at ten minutes after ten. I probably look OK, but I always look the same.
We have a walk-in closet in our bedroom with two sides, one side is mine and the other side is Mrs. G’s. The little section of shelving in the center of the back wall belongs to Mrs. G only because she got to it first when we moved in. The floor belongs to the dust bunnies, slippers, shoes, loose change, sneakers, and whatever has fallen off hangers.
The shelving on both sides are split into an upper and lower layer, and there are also a series of storage shelves along with one long shelf that is too high to reach without the benefit of a ladder. By all accounts, there is a lot of space to hang stuff, stack folded stuff and store stuff that has nowhere else to be stored. It’s a stuff magnet.
I took inventory of my side after seeing my caricature, and the top half—the shirt half, because that makes sense—is at least fifty percent plaid. Who am I? The Brawny paper towel man? I have more plaid than a room full of Catholic schoolgirls. I have no idea when this affectation for plaid came about, but I’m apparently addicted.
This is when it hit me like a ton of checkered bricks. I really was that caricature. Most of us are. When you discount the flamboyant dressers of the world, most of us settle into a fashion groove and stay there until we die. Even millionaire actor Johnny Depp, who dresses as if he stole a bag of clothes from one of those donation boxes in a parking lot, carefully cultivated that bohemian image. As thrown on as it looks, it’s a well-thought-out plan before he leaves the house, right down to the two-dozen bangle bracelets and the threadbare fedora.
My wife and I always refer to this phenomenon as Rose Marie’s Bow. No matter what, you can always count on that bow being right there, stuck to the side of her head, where it’s been pinned for ninety plus years. I’m sure there’s a scientific name for this sort of behavior, but Rose Marie’s Bow covers it perfectly. Plaid shirts, jeans and khaki’s are my Rose Marie’s Bow, and if you can believe my daughter’s childhood drawing of me, a perfectly round head, a Hitler mustache and hair that looks like one of Snoopy’s ears. All in all, it could be worse, I suppose. I could be addicted to polka dots.