Ghost of Fathers Past
Posted by Dirck on 16 September, 2014
In past entries, which I’ll leave you to track down if you want proof, I’ve mentioned the reactions of people to my preferred mode of dress. That remains, for those who don’t want to look back for clues, things that would pass muster in the mid- to late 1940s. I wear three piece suits without being made to. I wear non-ironic fedoras. I regularly shine my shoes.
Past reports of response to this sort of get-up have mainly regarded people my age and younger, more usually the latter (because we’re all mouthy when we’re kids). Lately, though, I’ve noticed another demographic which seems to have two specific responses to me. That demographic is white males, 60 to 75. The responses are jolly interesting.
Response the first is stink-eye. I had initially assumed that this was part of an understandable enmity towards hipsters and their damn scanty-brim straw hats. I’m starting to re-think that estimate, though, because of the other response. Response the second we might characterize as jaw-dropped disbelief. The usual manifestation is ill-bred staring, although in a profound example the fellow was so amazed that he became mesmerized, his path as we walked towards one another bending until I either stepped off the sidewalk or shoulder-checked him.
I asked my wife about this extremist, since she was (coincidentally, not for reasons of policy) walking a few paces behind me at the time. She confirmed the danger of collision. It was very like he thought that there was no more to me than an image, and that in continuing on, I’d pass right through him. And this is when we hit on what is probably behind both forms of reaction.
I’m dear old dad come back from the grave.
Obviously I don’t look just like all their specific fathers, but the mode of dress gives me enough of an air of a man of that generation that is upsets their gyroscopes. The baffled ones are struck with the sort of disbelief the seeing of spooks, spectres and haints might be expected to produce, and I can’t fault them for it. I am an unexpected apparition. The stink-eye division is probably not so dragged about by disbelief, but seeing something like me sets up resonance with the past and their own father-son interactions from back when they were on the junior side of the equation.
…which, if my own experience is anything to go by, is years of feeling something short of adequate by whatever measure dear old dad is using at any given time. I don’t blame my own dad in this, and I’ve seen the effect in enough popular media to think it’s a standard element of growing up. Heck, I think there might even be something about the effect in psychological texts. I’m sure that I’m setting my own son up for a similar sort of complex every time I say, “Here, let me help you with that– it’s pretty heavy,” and then lift the that in question with a couple of fingers.
A mere observation, and probably incorrectly interpreted (it may be differing phases of soul-wrenching envy at my natty turn-out). As a relief from the bland progress updates, it serves admirably.