14 Days of Reflection: Episode 4 – What Goes Around Comes Around, One Level Higher

meandhavnehSitting in my desk chair, a voice called my name and I turned and froze: a former student had showed up for our run. A run I’d completely forgotten about.  He was dressed in tank-top, shorts and running shoes.

Ten minutes later, I was wearing an outfit cobbled together from the lost-and-found: a sweatshirt two sizes too small, running shorts, and a baseball cap with the school’s logo.

On that run, we talked about the same thing we used to talk about when he was my student and I was his teacher: reaching your goals, overcoming fear, being true to yourself. And it was the same running route, too: Scott Street. Presidio. Marina. The hill.

That hill, stretching from the bay to the Pacific Heights, 3 excruciating blocks, used to be a major topic of conversation on our runs. It was the central symbol in our talks about life.

“Keep your eyes on what you’re doing now. Don’t get discouraged by how far away the goal may seem. Promise that you will only climb for the count of 10. When you’re done, recommit to another 10. True victory comes when you’re no longer counting.”

Here we were, two years later, and each of us had grown so much, the same running loop, the same scenery, the same running loop.

Maybe a level higher, maybe a level deeper.

Seersucker Phase 1

Seersucker Phase 1: 7 Years Ago

Moving topics, from the Fillmore Street hill to Capitol Hill:

In less than 24 hours, Washington DC will honor Seersucker Thursday.

Former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott inaugurated this day in the 1990s to revive this storied fabric. Once, it was the only thing a Senator could wear on a pre-air conditioned, muggy June day.

In my closet, I have three seersucker jackets.

The first is from Urban Outiftters, and I bought it seven years ago, with the remainder of a gift certificate. It’s essentially an unstructured blazer, without the actual pucker that seersucker is known for. (Incidentally, the word Seersucker means milk-and-sugar in Persian, referring to the color of the stripes)

The second two are from Brooks Brothers, and I bought them two years apart.

Seersucker Phase 2 departs from the norm, in that the pattern is the same, but the jacket and trousers are actually a different color.

Phase 2

Seersucker Phase 2 : Three Y ears Ago

I had to get used to Phase 1 to do Phase 2.

Then came along Phase 3. The stripes in the jacket are a different width from the pants, and since Gabi and I were at a festive (and blazing hot) outdoor wedding, I went gangbusters and yanked a parasol from a parasol-pile to keep us in the shade. And to add to the outfit-awesome.

Seersucker: Phase 3

Seersucker Phase 3: One Year Ago

Seersucker never went away, but I moved on.

Old rules, like “Don’t match your tie and jacket” and “you can’t wear seersucker after Labor Day” went out the door. (For a list of Trent Lott’s other Seersucker taboos I also advise ignoring, click here).

I was finding my own voice, and pushing the rules as far as I cared to.

Here, on the cusp of my 41st birthday, many of the challenges in my life (most of them in my head) are no different than the challenges I faced when I was 31. But I’m better able to handle them. I can climb a much bigger hill.

Same hill. Same material. Same style. Different me.

One level deeper. One level higher.

Got a Style-Criticism? Good. Keep it to yourself: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 20/30]

helmetThis is day 20 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.

Back in February, blogger Howie Chong wrote a post on bike helmets that blew my mind. So to speak.

It was not about how helmets save lives. It was partially about how helmets may increase injuries.

But that’s not what struck me.

What I found fascinating was, as Chong points out, how quickly people criticize, even ridicule non-helmet wearers. And way out proportion to the need for the criticism.

Truth is, as a scooter rider, I’ve experienced the way people will hurl a “get a helmet” at you if you so much as pull fifteen feet up the street for a better parking space, without your helmet on.

I’d like to suggest that we live in a world where there is not enough good communication, not enough listening, and where people feel like their opinions don’t matter. So when they see someone with a helmet off, it’s their big chance to be heard.

I may, in my day, have yelled the same thing, myself.

Found in a thrift store in Austin. Still fresh after 3000 years.

Found in a thrift store in Austin. Still fresh after 3000 years.

I want to pull back a second and say, of course – there are times when people need to be told what’s what. There’s a great quote from the Mishna – I’m getting Jewish nerdy here – which is a 2000 year old instruction manual in the form of a series of arguments.

Q: “From where do we derive that one who sees something wrong about his friend should rebuke him? A: It is said (in the Torah), ‘One should surely rebuke.’

Q: How do we know that one should continue to rebuke [if his first attempt does not achieve the desired results]? A: We are taught this from the [odd grammar that one is to rebuke] no matter what.

So, yes. When it’s important, rebuke. But what if it’s some unimportant, antiquated fashion faux pas?

Picture taken in OCTOBER! Oooooh. Risky!

Picture taken in OCTOBER! Oooooh. Risky!

In style, I would maintain, there are a few rules which need to be thrown out. And yet, when I break one of them, the same guy who yells, “get a helmet” also tells me which sartorial rule I’m breaking, as if rebuking me for some moral flaw.

I take umbrage with this. So here are my top five rules you shouldn’t worry about breaking.

And what’s more…you shouldn’t worry about others breaking ’em, either.

1. White pants should not be worn after labor day or before Memorial Day.

Baloney. On a sunny winter day in California? Put ’em on.

So much matchy-matchy! Off to "style-jail?" Are you gonna narc on me?

So much matchy-matchy! Off to “style-jail?”
Are you gonna narc on me?

2. Seersucker: same.

Baloney. Okay, maybe not when it’s raining or snowing, but on a hot autumn day? Wear the damn seersucker.

3. Don’t wear Blue and Black together.

Baloney. Different shades of blue look great with black. Even navy-blue and black can look fetching.

 4. Don’t match your jacket and tie / jacket and shirt / etc.

Baloney. If it looks good, do it. Intentional overmatching is a way to raise your flair. Just, you know… get a second opinion.

Bottom button is buttoned. The earth keeps spinning.

Bottom button is buttoned.
The earth keeps spinning.

5. Don’t button the bottom button.

Baloney. If the sportcoat has a high button-stance and the bottom button keeps the jacket hugging your torso? Go for it.

In short: don’t be afraid to break the rules.

And furthermore, if you see someone else doing it? For God’s sake, keep your rules to your self.

And wear a helmet.