Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Adventures of ZebraBoy

If you perused my previous post, you now understand that my early years were not banner ones, in the fashion sense. Sadly, this trend would continue.

In my first weeks of high school, I learned that wearing white pants over brown-and-white striped underwear was a questionable call. In time, people stopped calling me ZebraBoy, but my confidence was shaken. In a later phase, my sleeveless kamikaze shirt with a mesh tank overlay, accessorized with a studded armband, was cool to me but intimidating to no one. And my phase of wearing a black half-tee (midriff exposed) with three-quarters sleeves was just wrong; it didn’t even take me long to realize that.

Running shoes served as the year-round footwear choice throughout my childhood. I always wanted North Star running shoes, which were easily double the price of most other offerings. According to my father, it was asinine to pay that kind of money for sneakers you would outgrow or wear out in short order. He may have been right, but his resistance just made him seem out of touch, and it only strengthened my resolve.

I would fight my parents for hours, and drive my father into a near-rage, by debating the merits (and yuckiness) of various types of runners.

“Dad, those shoes suck.” As did everything my parents suggested, by default. “Do you really want your kid to be killed? I will be beaten up the second anyone sees those shoes. You won’t even have a middle child anymore. You can then take the shoes off my cold dead feet and give them to Paul, and then he can be killed, too. Do you really want all those deaths on your conscience?”

Shoes may make the man, but a bad shoe choice could ruin a kid. I have since had these same debates with kids begging for expensive skate shoes, with soles so broad and long that today’s youth look like a society of future giants, expanding from the ground up. Their center of gravity is so low you’d have to hit them at a full run to tip them over.

In my early school years, there were few rules about maintaining hair, except it couldn’t look like you gave a crap, and your eyes should be covered except when you chose to expose them. As a consequence, in many school pictures I could be the blond sibling of the Fry Guys from the McDonald’s ads. One of the biggest mistakes, though, was in starting to care.

Throughout high school, I found nothing unusual in waking my mother each morning to curl and "feather" my shoulder-length hair. My brother had started this tradition a couple of years prior. Coiffed in this fashion, I could cruise in confidence, knowing that as I moved my hair would always stay in its stylish place. My wife has burst blood vessels and gagged on her laughter each time I’ve cracked open this window to my past. To my eternal shame and her endless delight, this story has served as icebreaker for countless parties. She reminds me (and our audience) of just how messed-up it was to have Mommy serve as my personal stylist.

As I recall these memories, and flip through photos of my youth and younger adulthood, I realize that never in my life—not once—have I ever looked in the mirror and liked what stared back at me. My glasses were always too large, or too small. My jeans were always too tight. I mixed terrycloth with satin, and rubber boots with dress slacks. I was a mess. I'm not much better today.

Today, when someone snaps a picture of me, I anticipate the negative reaction I’ll have later on. I still cannot believe the number of photos in which I have something that looks either entirely or somewhat like a mullet. The one exception is a picture of a perm that hints at Peter Frampton worship.

How did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me? And won’t someone keep me from making the same mistakes?


1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm. I never thought much of the shoes I wore in school. Since, though, I even today I walk to a part-time job at the library, and am debating dress shoes or sneakers (more comfortable getting there and more comfortable being on my feet too).


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