I own a tuxedo. An authentic black and white James Bond number with a black bow tie (albeit one that hooks on in back instead of tying for real) and a spare pink bow tie to show that I’m comfortable with my masculinity. I have a tuxedo shirt, which is different from a regular dress shirt, I learned. I bought the suit from a Men’s Wearhouse, and I have not worn it in probably two years. The tuxedo is the nicest article of clothing I own, and I’m constantly letting it down.
I bought the suit with the best of intentions. Every guy should own one, I thought. Besides, I reasoned, it’s the kind of purchase that will pay for itself. Why did I think these things? I can’t really say for sure. Deep down, I think I knew I didn’t need the tuxedo. I just wanted to be the kind of guy who owns one. I thought I could handle it.
I imagined the suit would help me live a better life. In my mind, a man with a tuxedo in his closet is sophisticated, urbane, and organized. He regularly attends galas or fights rival spies on the wing of an airplane. He projects an air of confidence and composure. He is nattily attired. He does not drink Natty Ice. That image is what I was aspiring to when I bought the tux. The reality of my life, though, is entirely different. Every time I see the tuxedo in my closet, I feel like I owe it an apology.
When I paid for the suit, the pants were way too long. Instead of getting them professionally tailored, I asked my friend Courtney to hem them for me at the last minute. Since that day five years ago, I have promised myself I would get the pants altered by a professional. I still have not followed through. The last time I put them on, Courtney’s stitching came undone, and I had to hold the hem together with duct
tape. Slacks repaired with construction materials are decidedly unsophisticated. They deserve better. Tuxedo pants merit neatly stitched seams, seams I haven’t been man enough to provide. The cuff of the pants is a convenient excuse for why I never wear the suit out.
The biggest reason I never put the tuxedo on is that the grand ambition of owning such a nice item of clothing gave way to the unflattering reality of my quotidian life. Even the times I’ve worn it were kind of pathetic. So far, I’ve had maybe two justifiable occasions to put on the suit. I’ve also used it a couple of times as a costume. Once I wore it to a wedding, which makes you look like a real a-hole if you’re not a groom or a groomsman, I learned after the fact. (Okay, during the fact.) It’s been a rude awakening. Most of the time, the suit rests on a hanger, pining away for an owner who attends art auctions and wine tastings.
My tuxedo is a metaphor for my entire life. On the outside, it’s reasonably composed. On the inside, sutured together by tiny deceptions and tricks, desperately trying to maintain the façade of functionality. My bedroom is my Dorian Gray portrait. Most of my life hangs together pretty well. I get places on time. I have health insurance.
I trim my beard. If you looked at my apartment, though, you would think that I spent my days tearing through my possessions in search of hidden drugs or money. There are clothes everywhere. Receipts and other paperwork cover nearly every surface. My suitcase lies open in the middle of the floor like I’m about to skip town. Figuratively speaking, whole life is held together by duct tape. My tuxedo deserves
more from me.
I really, sincerely thought that my adult life would be full of tuxedo-worthy occasions. In my heart, I knew that I needed the perfect outfit for impressing the daughters of foreign diplomats and making breathtaking entrances down spiral staircases. In reality, I almost never descend spiral stairways, and I’ve never even been in the room with a diplomat’s daughter. Things are not going according to plan.
I’ve tried to pinpoint the locus of blame for my state of affairs. The smallness of my hometown. My college’s porous alumni network. My parents’ unfancy circles of friends. Ultimately, though, it’s my fault that I’m not living as tuxedoful a life as I’d anticipated. It’s time for me to take responsibility. I need to stop waiting around for tuxedo-ready occasions to spring up. I am the master of my fate and the captain of my wardrobe.
Starting today, I am going to make 2012 the year I live up to my tuxedo. I’m going to make it proud. I am going to get the pants hemmed and get new black dress shoes and stop living a lie. In fact, I’m going to go all out and keep my bedroom clean and put up the artwork that has been sitting in my closet for six months.
I’m going to be the man that my pants say I am.
Also, I’m going to wear pants without duct tape on them. Get ready world.
And diplomats…hide your daughters.