There were two fairly minor stories in the news last week that caught my fancy. Both involved decorum and both reminded me of my father, one obtusely.
The first was the “flip flop flap”, the story of some young women on the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team who were invited to the White House to meet W and were chastised for wearing flip flops as opposed to shoes, preferably closed-toe shoes. Five of the nine in the first row were wearing this apparently awful apparel.
For some reason, this “lack of propriety” reminded me of a trip my family took from Charlotte to Raleigh, NC some 10 or 20 years ago. My father was complaining that the late Gregory Hines had worn an earring to some black-tie event honoring black Americans, probably an NAACP awards thing, that was televised. Dad complained that Hines was showing disrespect to the organization. My sister Leslie and I argued that he ALWAYS wore an earring, that this was not something he did to dis the event, and for a male actor to wear an earring was no big deal. This conversation went back and forth for about 90 miles, with neither side backing down.
The other story was about Why Knot, a robot that can tie a tie, but only certain types of knots. The link to my father was more obvious. We were having our family portrait taken in 1975, at a time when my relationship with him was in one of those shaky periods. He stood about four feet from my mother and me, and he asked my MOTHER, “Wouldn’t Roger want to wear a tie?” Well, Roger never WANTS to wear a tie, as he finds them noose-like and unnecessary. But if Roger’s father had asked ROGER if Roger WOULD wear a tie, it is likely that Roger would have complied. But since Roger’s dad asked Roger’s mom instead, the answer was: “No way.” And I think of that story every time I see that picture. (Talk about “Every picture tells a story.”)
I wouldn’t wear flip-flops to see the President, but I never expect that I’ll ever be asked to visit the White House. Also, I don’t own any flip-flops, and I don’t think I’d buy some if the occasion did arise. As for Why Knot, do we REALLY need a machine that will help us cut off blood and oxygen to the brain?