Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tuxedos, James Bond, Yours Truly

All the James Bonds have looked good in a tuxedo.  I think it's part of the audition, wearing a tux.  Just look at that picture: dressed to kill for sure.

I don't look like James Bond, in a tux or out.  I'm sure that's why I've never been asked to audition for the role, because in all other ways, of course, I am 007.  Deadly.  Clever.  Athletic.  Seductive. (Are you laughing yet?)

My dad used to call a tuxedo a monkey suit.  I just checked the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang and learned that monkey suit dates back to 1895.  My dad was born in 1913, so it would have been a fairly new expression for him.  My friends and I always called it a tux, a little friendly word-shortening, abbreviation, truncation.  We do that in English, shorten words.  Not too many people say, "refrigerator," do they?  Fridge is our word.

I was surprised, reading through the novels and stories of John O'Hara not long ago, that he invariably used the word tuck for tuxedo.  I'd never heard/read that one before--but maybe it was something from eastern Pennsylvania, his youthful stomping grounds (drinking grounds would be more accurate for O'Hara, though).

Richman Bros. in Cleveland
I haven't worn a tuxedo a lot in my life.  I can count the occasions, almost, on a single five-fingered hand.  My junior prom, 1961.  My parents had bought me--either at Sears or Richman Brothers--what they called a white dinner jacket for the prom, an event I'd just as soon forget.  The girl I wanted to go with was there--but with my best friend.  Not long after we got there, my date vanished into a flurry of her friends, emerging only to eat and decline my offers of intimacy and ride home in my car, sitting as close to the passenger's side door as physics would allow.  Not my fondest memory.

I wore that same white dinner jacket (with black tie and cummerbund) to my senior prom (1962), a much happier time.  The girl I wanted to go with I did go with, and the moon was high, and the air was soft, the music was slow, and nothing was ever going to change.

I also went to my college prom my senior year (1966), but, oddly, I remember little about it, possibly because my younger brother's high school prom was the same night, and he got the car.  I had to ride with friends.  I don't believe I wore a tux that night--the white dinner jacket had seen better days and was no longer, uh, capacious enough to accommodate my bulging muscles--or whatever.

Thereafter, I rented tuxes for the few occasions I needed them--i.e., weddings, including my own.  And then I went decades without wearing one--or wanting to wear one.  (I hate formal dress; hate neckties--the whole deal.  Teaching at Western Reserve Academy, where faculty and students dress up a bit, was in most every way a delight--but not that way.)

And then--a number of years ago--Hiram College promoted Joyce to full professor, which meant that she would be inducted into Hiram's Garfield Society, an organization that has an annual formal banquet ... formal banquet.  That meant, for me, a monkey suit.

For several years I rented one from one of those mall tux rental places.  That was a pain.  And then in 2007, killing time at Burlington Coat Factory before a movie, I saw a tuxedo on sale--a really nice one (Armani, if you want to know)--and I bought it.  And have worn it ever since, once a year, at the Garfield Society Banquet where I go and sit with people I don't know (for the most part) and watch other people get inducted and eat food I normally eschew rather than chew and wait for it to be over so I can go home and get back into my jeans.

And so--last night--I was in it again, the monkey suit.  And off we went.  I was feeling crummy--not just because I had to get dressed up but because some germs and/or viruses had moved in for the weekend.  I went entirely because an old college friend, Dorothy Munson Steele, who's done a lot of volunteer work for Hiram, was being inducted this year.  Dorothy has had an amazing career (she has a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from U of Mich), and she and her husband, Claude (who is at Stanford), were great friends Back in the Day.

So Joyce and I had a great time with Dorothy. I ate lots of crackers, gave my asparagus to Joyce (somewhere my mother is sighing and rolling her eyes at that move), ate the steak (the first beef I've eaten since last year), ate a few chocolate-dipped strawberries (okay, I ate the canoli, too), listened to the speeches, all the while sitting there looking remarkably like James Bond at a baccarat table.  I'm sure everyone noticed.

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