Stuffed Shirts

Nov. 6, 2009

The thing about shirts is I’m very particular.
   I’m particular about a lot of things. Just ask the people who know me well. They’ll tell you that there are many things I’m irrationally adamant about. Other things – things that probably should be the things I need to be fastidious about – I couldn’t care less.
   For one thing, I don’t like anything around my neck. I can, in a pinch, wear a necktie long enough to attend a wedding or funeral, but by the end of said service I am ready to tear it off like Bruce Banner becoming the Incredible Hulk. Don’t even think about putting me in a turtle-neck, should such things become fashionable again. It would put me in a padded cell in the long run.
   I don’t like collared shirts that don’t have buttons at the ends of the lapels. Makes me crazy. I hate for a shirt collar to lay down flat. I feel like Herb Tarlek from WKRP In Cincinnati. I try to buy all my shirts with buttons on the collars, but have a couple that don’t, so I starch the daylights out of them until they resemble the general consistency of granite.
   Some cuts of T-shirts have necklines that ride too far up my neck, practically to my adam’s apple. This makes me crazy, and I feel like I’m suffocating. I know which brands have lower necks.
   What I’ve found that I like best, coincidentally enough, are fishing shirts.
   These are wonderful pieces of clothing, and I’ve taken to wearing them almost daily. Fishing shirts, particularly the better ones, have a loose fit, an abundance of pockets and rather than buttons for the collars, a nice little Velcro tab to hold them in the right place.
   Fishing shirts also have a caped back, with a mesh liner inside, presumably for wicking away sweat when you’re out in the field. The caped back lets cool air in. They are an absolute delight to wear, though with winter coming on, I will have to start wearing something with long sleeves and no caped back.
   I hate long sleeves, for the same reasons as I hate high necklines. I guess at some level I’m claustrophobic. I don’t freak out in elevators and have no problems climbing around in my attic, but close fitting clothing makes me batty.
   “You on your way fishing?” people sometimes ask me when I’m wearing my fishing shirts, and most of them are wearing a sly grin because they’re quite aware that I am not.
   Rather than go through the complex explanations cited above regarding fishing shirts, particularly to someone wearing a crisp white shirt, tie and chinos, I usually just reply, “I am, in one way or another, always on my way fishing.”
   They’d take me away in a padded truck if I had to wear a shirt and tie every day. No offense to anyone that does! I just couldn’t stand it. Someone would walk into my office and think I was trying to commit hari kari but in fact the sharp scissors at my throat are poised only to cut the dadgum collar loose before I suffocate. If it wasn’t so difficult to scream when suffocating, I’d let loose a war cry that would peel paint off the walls.
   My ancestors were insultingly called “half-naked savages” but you think about it: Would you rather spend your days dressed like an Indian in a sort of tunic and a loincloth, or like a Conquistador bundled up in layers of clothes thick as the wraps on a mummy? With metal helmets? It’s kinda like the storm troopers in Star Wars who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with their blasters because they were looking through a quarter-inch slit in their helmets.
   In fact, if I had my druthers, I’d live in shorts, a tee and sandals. Except in winter of course, and therein likes my biggest gripe with winter: I have to bundle up to stay warm, and therefore get the sweats, not from being too layered but from anxiety attacks due to being too constricted.
   I probably should put in my will that I want to be buried that way, or in one of my fishing shirts. That way I’ll know my spirit can get free and go to Happy Hunting Ground.
   And all my well-wishers can come by to say the usual things over me:
   “My, don’t he look natural?”
   “Sure didn’t amount to much, did he?”
   “Yeah, he was pretty ambitionless.”
   “Looks like he’s on his way fishing.”
   And on that last note, they’d be correct.