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June 29, 2004

Life Lessons for Junior Vol. 2

The 1980’s were great but they also have a lot to answer for. The insults to fashion alone are worth putting some people up for crimes against humanity. (“I admit it. I’m guilty. I invented the skinny tie.”) Therein our story, a life lesson for Junior, lies.

In 1985 I was a Junior in High School. At the end of the year the choir I was in was going to be singing at the graduation ceremony. This was one of the big events for the high school choir and the director tried his best to bring it off successfully. (Using the power of his comb over no doubt.)

To top off the week my mother was in town visiting. (My birthday was near at hand.) This was one of her impromptu trips and, as usual, had upset the normal routine of my grandparents.

I got home from school the day of the graduation with enough time to shower, eat and change clothes before having to head back over to the stadium. Walking through the front door my grandmother told me that my mom, who was absent, had bought me a suit and that I was supposed to wear it tonight. It waited for me upstairs on my bed.

Puzzled I walked up to have a look.

What then followed was one of the biggest fights I ever had with my Grandmother. The lines were pretty easy to draw: I refused to wear the suit, she insisted that I did. Voices were more than a little heated. It was then presented to me that if I didn’t wear the suit my summer plans would consist of “being grounded”, topped with more “grounded” and sprinkled liberally with “house arrest” for good measure.


Realizing that there were few choices I ate, showered and got dressed in my new clothes. Once we were dressed the ride in our Malibu Classic station wagon was pretty quiet. My mom was meeting us at the stadium.

What I had forgotten was that I would have to walk down the center and down the course of the field to reach the bleachers where the choir was. This meant that as soon as I reached the bottom of the steps everyone would have a very clear view of yours truly. Fortunately my humiliation didn’t have to wait that long. As soon as I got to the top of the stairs it began.

“Look at that!”

I blame the suit on Michael Jackson. Certainly that was where the inspiration lay. It was dark grey and made out of fake leather. (Pleather? Who knows.) The jacket had a number of gold zippers that crossed it at angles and were truly painful to behold in their shiny splendor. There were matching shoes of the same color grey so that my feet would be properly shod as well. The shirt was white with thin aqua pinstripes that were coordinated with one of those enemic, skinny leather ties in the same shade of aqua. Bow before my leather clad splendor! Ugh.

You can laugh now. It's ok. I won't mind.

Needless to say I was bit more progressively attired than rural North Eastern Kentucky was quite ready to bear. Looking back it is riotously funny. I'm not sure what your most embarassing moment is but this is definitely in my top 5.

The teasing quickly began and was merciless. Most of the comments were ruthless in that manner and style that only high school students can achieve. I remember staring straight ahead as I walked down the stairs and across the field. I can also remember watching out of the corner of my eye as one of the non-graduating vocational students attempting to moonwalk only to fall down. It was small comfort at the time.

When I reached the end of the field one of my friends was waiting with my robe shaking her head. When I explained the situation she just laughed knowing that I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. That's what true friends are for.

The ceremony was a blur but I can remember how hot I was under the choir robe and how I preyed I wouldn’t pass out. I kept imagining a paramedic opening the robe only to say, “Good lord! He’s passed out from shame!” Mercifully I came to no ill.

After the ceremony was over I wore my robe out. (Duh!) I was forgotten as the graduates dominated the minds of the rest of the attendants. When I got to my grandmother she was pretty quiet. (She later apologized for making me wear it.) My mother was gushing about how I looked but most of what she said went in one ear and out the other. I just wanted to go home.

Junior, I promise I’ll never make you wear something you don’t want to just because I think it’s hip or stylish. That being said I will also try to keep you from wearing anything that might be pretty embarrassing later on in your life. That doesn't mean I won't let you make some mistakes. I'll just try to temper the really bad ones.

The suit still lurks in a closet in Kentucky. Fabulous Babe didn’t believe it existed until I showed it to her. Its awfulness is truly a spectacle to behold. I’ll try to get a picture of it at some point. It’s a pain best shared.


Posted by Jim at June 29, 2004 11:35 PM