Ties

As a kid, I had to wear a tie almost every Sunday because that’s what a boy needed to do in the Presbyterian Church. Dad taught me how to get the job done. I never really got the hang of the task, however … pulling too tight, I guess, and the result had a strangled look. Oh well. Kids aren’t bankers and executives.

Many years later, I spent a summer backpacking through Rocky Mountain parks. I was a man of the wilderness. In September, I was invited to attend the wedding of an old friend. As the day approached, I had an epiphany: I had forgotten how to tie a tie. I smile now as I remember my fascination around that. It was such a symbol of freedom, of being untethered. I did, however, figure it out before the ceremony.

Many more years later, I looked at my tie job in the mirror and shook my head about the squelched look. The previous man of freedom went online because he wanted to look like guys in fancy clothing commercials. The ties were perfect! I learned that the triangle look was called the Windsor Knot. A video would guide me to the promised land. Boy, it was a lot of twists and turns of fabric but I was determined. And eventually … Voilà! I was a gorgeous dude. My later versions of the Windsor have been less than perfect but still pretty good.

And now there’s today, watching CNN. I have learned that, when making a presentation, handle all the small details so there’s nothing to distract the audience from your message. Anchors and guests were talking about the coronavirus and the racial protests. I was leaning intently into … how their ties looked! Some were crooked, some were too tight, some were big blobs of looseness. And then here comes a fellow sporting a perfect Windsor Knot. I managed to get distracted by his neck as well. (Sigh)

It’s okay, Bruce. Your foibles are showing. I still love you.

Bearded (Or Not)

From Friday till Sunday, I was in an intense retreat online with the Evolutionary Collective.  My brain cells were mightily scattered – in a good way.

I woke up this morning felling pretty darned tired.  It became apparent that my commitment to life amounted to pressing the power button of the TV remote.  I decided to pig out on a few hours of coronavirus coverage.  Some of it was gloomy stuff but heroes of every ilk were also there for the viewing.

I’m fascinated with commercials, with what they say about our “modern” life.  After a run of four or five of them, I had a wee “Ah hah!”  It was about the men.  Some guy was peddling car insurance, looking sporty in his close-cropped beard.  Then a fellow was waxing poetic about dog food “with real meat and veggies” … also bearded.  And how about having a new car delivered to your home with no physical contact needed?  The delivery driver was smiling beneath his ample facial hair.

“Hmm … they all have beards.”  I flashed back to a visit in Alberta with Jody’s brother and his family.  Lance said something like “They’ll spot you as a tourist right away.”  Curious, I piped up with “How?”  >  “No beard.”

This morning, I pulled out a piece of paper and started a tally of men in commercials.  You’ll be happy to know that 92 of them pranced across the screen, trying to sell me something.  And 59 of those souls wore beards and/or moustaches.  64% in favour of facial hair.

I got to thinking: What does it take to be a man?  Clearly, marketers see hairy faces as highly desirable … but I think not.  My occasional days of not shaving just made my face itch.  I don’t need that.  As far as I can tell, the only requirement for manhood is the possession of a penis.  There’s no blueprint.  Not appearance, personality or occupation.  Not height or clothing.

I know I have the basics, and that’s good enough for me.  We men are patches on a coat of many colours.  And the garment shines!  Vive la différence.

Unbearded, I continue my walk in the world.

People Passing By

I love watching people.  And one of the best places to do it is in the seating area by the snack bar at Costco.  A steady stream of consumers roll their carts by me on the way to the exit.  Yesterday I plunked myself down with representatives from three of Canada’s major food groups – hot dog, Diet Coke, and later, a chocolate waffle cone.

I watched my judgments come up as they walked by, and was happy to see the negativity quickly fade.  There really was no one better and no one worse.  The whole topic was irrelevant.  The shoppers were all human beings, each with their hidden story, each worthy of my love.  Here’s a sampling:

1.  A woman in her thirties with a bad patch of acne on her left cheek.  Two little girls, both yammering away, sat in the cart, sticking their legs out at mom.  (I though of my horrible acne in Grade 9, and looks of disgust from a few.)

2.  A young guy with closely cropped hair, shades perched on top of his head, a bouquet of lilies in his left hand, a bag of fertilizer slung over his right shoulder, no cart.  (I never had a girl to bring flowers to when I was his age.)

3.  A former Costco cashier came over to talk.  In his 60s.  Retired in June because he couldn’t stand for his 7.5 hour shifts anymore.  Loves coming back to chat with members and fellow employees.  Thanked me for giving him a hard time at the checkout.  (Gosh, I’m retired too.  Does this mean that we’re both getting O-L-D?)

4.  Three women walking with their almost empty cart, probably in their 70s, small smiles to each other, polyester wardrobes, happy.  (I never go out with the guys.  Doesn’t feel like I have any guys to go out with.)

5.  An elderly gentleman, thinning grey hair slicked back with some goo, more polyester, leaning heavily on his cart as he moves it forward slowly.  (Reminds me of my dad in his last years – the family grocery shopper, determined to be independent, had lost a step or two.)

6.  Middle-aged guy, baseball cap, short grey beard, t-shirt and shorts, driving his cart way too fast.  Has to slam on the brakes as the line slows near the exit.  (I remember the tension I felt as an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired.  Sometimes I raced down the hallway to the next kid.  Too much to do.)

7.  A 20-something hulk of a fellow, really motoring, sunglasses riding high, muscle shirt showing off arms as big as my legs, oriental tattoos on his upper arms and calves.  (I remember being scared of big guys like that.  When I was 15.  Or was it just last year?  Okay, both.)

8.  Two women, perhaps from India, strolling out of the store, garbed in black saris, with colorful scarves covering their heads.  Would you believe another pair of sunglasses adorning another head?  (What would my life be like now if I had been born a Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist in an Asian country?)

9.  A very tall teenager, hair up in a bun (sort of), wearing a black sleeveless top, with a black and golden sparkled purse on her shoulder, arms that didn’t seem to have any biceps, looking calm.  (I love seeing muscle definition in the upper arm, but this woman’s arm was just a straight line.  I wondered what her life was like, and why she felt the need to be so thin.)

10.  A hugely overweight woman in her 30s, bum jiggling in green pants as she pushes her cart, hair shaved close at the back of her neck, and poofing out on top, almost like a nest.  (What must it be like to be so fat?  Wouldn’t every little task cause troubled breathing?  Thank God I don’t have to cope with all this.)

***

All of us
No one left out
The same brightness behind the eyes

Symmetry

I’ve noticed that if there’s a group of people standing around, without drinks in their hands, arms and hands do a lot of different things.  Legs and feet too.  Hands may be thrust into pockets.  Arms folded across the chest.  Hands clasped in front.  Hands clasped in back.  Hands on the hips.  One hand on a hip.  One foot wrapped around the other, in a precarious-looking fashion.  One hand on some supporting object.  Hands balled into fists.  Fingers tightly interlocked.

Rarely do I see anyone standing with their arms dangling loosely at their sides, their hands open.  Or a person standing with their weight balanced evenly on both feet, toes pointing slightly outward in a symmetrical way.

Why are we often so contorted, so skewed, so tight?  Here are a few of the stances I’ve seen that somehow make me sad:

1.  One of the lead singers, a 16-year-old girl, on a “Celtic Woman” DVD.  As she sings, using a mike that reaches around to her mouth, leaving her hands free, her arms are bent at nearly a 90 degree angle.  The voice is lovely, the face serene, but the arms are rigid.

2.  A woman I met at a meditation retreat sometimes walked around the grounds with her arms bent behind her back, with each hand cupping the elbow of her other arm.  A backwards straight jacket, I thought.

3.  An actress selling perfume clasps her forearms over her head, exposing her armpits to the audience, or interlaces her fingers behind her head.  Another presses one hand to the back of her head.  One more crosses her right arm over her stomach and touches the inner elbow of her left arm.  Does anyone ever stand in these ways in real life?

4.  A woman at a party sits with her legs crossed, right over left.  She hooks her right foot behind her left ankle.  Talk about muscle definition!

I love fast dancing, and the freedom of swirling my arms in unknown patterns over my head.  A group I used to be in called it “breakthrough dancing”.

I love allowing my arms to dangle as I stand in line for something.  When I’m really open, it’s as if my fingertips are about to brush the floor.

I love feeling like a mountain, with my feet spread just enough for a sturdy base.

I love looking straight into the camera, with no twist or tilt of the head.

I love spreading my arms wide, allowing the palms of my hands to see the sun.

I love bowing to another person, palms held gently together.

I love symmetry, inward and outward.  Or, better said …

Symmetrical
Balanced
Open to God

Look At Me

Call now and get Miracle Hair for $29.95 … the amazing new hair loss breakthrough that will give you the appearance of a full head of hair in just 60 seconds.

I wonder if I should call now.  I wasn’t planning on it, since my afternoon has been rolling along just fine, thank you.  I look in the mirror and I see … Bruce!  Somewhat untidy nose hairs, a blemish on my left cheek, baggy stuff under the eyes.  But definitely Bruce.

I look a little like David Letterman (George Clooney in my parallel fantasy life) but I certainly don’t want to be a celebrity.  Can you imagine being hounded by all those panzarotti?  Not being able to stroll downtown, chatting with passersby and seeing what’s in all those windows?  No thanks.

I suppose it would be good to be younger, with a six-pack on display, but my three- pack will do nicely.  As for the V-shaped body, what the heck’s wrong with a nice U?  Works for me.  And I can do that Incredible Hulk pose and grimace as well as anyone.  I just don’t take up the amount of space that the original did.

Until I started shaving my head in honour of my lovely wife Jodiette, I had beautiful golden brown curls … sort of.  Actually, I often told people that I had gray highlights put in at the hairstylist.  I’m sure most folks believed me.

As a young human, I had acne that left me with very few true friends and a yearbook photo that was speckled to say the least.  Clearasil treatments made me look even worse.  Somehow adulthood allowed me to grow past that.

I’ve been trying to reach the mythical Jesus height of six feet ever since I was 4’2″, but it’s never worked out for me.  I’m currently 5’10” and heading south, I believe.

For years I tried wearing contacts to invoke a Hollywood persona, but I just couldn’t see anything.  So it was back to a nose-weighing-down apparatus.  I look okay in glasses.

I don’t have the standard pot belly of a 65-year-old, and that makes me happy.  Guess I could work on one to help me fit in better.

I have a gorgeous tan but unfortunately it only extends to my head, forearms and knee caps.  When I was a timid teen, I used to glob on the autotan lotion, but that created a new definition of “streaker”.  The girls politely looked the other way.

Oh my goodness … what if all this stuff doesn’t matter?  Yes, I want to be healthy, but what’s the big deal about the package?  I do believe that I’m just fine, inside and out.  If someone else doesn’t think so … oh well.  On we go.