Life As We Know It; March 25, 2013

          Several years ago comedian Norm Crosby was the master of ceremonies at a beauty pageant. As he introduced one contestant and read her bio, he stopped abruptly. “My God,” he said, “She’s 16 years old. I’ve got shirts older than her.”

          I can relate. So do I.

          I tend to wear clothes until they either wear our or my wife gets so sick of them she tosses them in the trash when my attention is diverted.

          There’s no point in trying to sell them in a garage sale. Been there. Done that. Nobody wanted them. Even Goodwill told us to stop calling.

          I’ll bet a lot of folks are like me. Old clothes, like an old couch or an old recliner, are part of who we are. When I pull on a flannel shirt I wore the day one of my grandchildren was born 11 years ago, I’m in the zone. Comfort zone, that is.

          Only recently did we toss out an old sport jacket I owned for 30 years, and only because it had what appeared to be tire tracks running up the back of it. The color had faded to something not quite brown and not quite yellow. My wife once held it up with her thumb and forefinger like a dirty diaper and coldly observed that “somewhere there’s a Yugo sedan without upholstery.”

          I had to concede the point. If you had a sofa that looked like that, you’d put it out at the curb and pin a sign to it reading “Free.”

          I also finally, and reluctantly, threw out an old lightweight suit that had provided moths with entertainment and nourishment for years. This thing put the “suck” in seersucker.

          Occasionally I discover something hanging in the closet that I have no memory of buying, much less wearing. I found a pair of pants in there that still had S&H green  stamps in the pocket.

          If I’m typical, the average American man accumulates 672 T-shirts during his lifetime, and at any given moment he has roughly 500 of them still around somewhere. Fortunately, my wife has sewing skills that Martha Steward could only envy. She fashions the old shirts into quilts that neatly summarize my life so far.

          My personal favorite: a T-shirt that proclaims, in large letters: “London, Rome, Paris, Toledo.” Not that I’ve been to all those places, but I can tell you that Toledo in the springtime is lovely.

          Somebody should undertake a study to figure out why we hoard old clothes. If a research institute in England can study whether sheep recognize the faces of other sheep – which apparently is a matter of some urgency in British barnyards – then this one is no less necessary.

          New clothes require a trial period of adjustment, aging like a bottle of merlot while the sediments settle. Okay, bad analogy.

          A new sweater is likely to sit folded on a shelf for a while before I venture out in public in it. But a faded sweatshirt bearing the logo of a burger joint that closed 20 years ago? I’m a walking billboard for the place.