This column first appeared in The Platte County Landmark on December 9, 2015.
Today’s column is a tale of sadness and woe. It is a tale of aching and suffering. It is a tale of sorrow, and angst, and immeasurable pain. Dear reader, today’s column is a tale about a thirteen year old boy forced to wear a necktie to a four hour event.
We begin with Stage One… Denial:
“Dad, are you kidding me?” The young man cried out. “I can’t find it.”
“It’s right here, son,” I had made sure to know where his one single necktie was before I asked. I was 13 once. I knew the tricks. “I’ve already tied it for you, too. You just need to put it around your neck.”
“But it’s too short.”
“Here. I’ll fix that. It’s simple.” He wasn’t getting out of it, no matter what.
Stage Two… Anger:
“Nobody else is wearing one! It’s scratching my neck! I’m going to chaff!! I could choke and die!”
And then he stormed off to the other side of the room. I made sure to keep an eye on him to make sure that necktie stayed tied around his neck. The glare from his narrowed eyes could’ve cut glass. I’m not completely certain as I am not a trained lip reader, but it seems that Middle School has also enhanced his vocabulary as well.
He lumbered back over to my side of the room looking like Rodney Dangerfield telling jokes on the Tonight Show and grasping for air. “Dad, this is ridiculous. Nobody else is wearing a tie except you and I.”
“I know. And don’t we look great? This is how gentlemen look.”
And then he began to mumble even more new vocabulary words under his breath.
Stage Three… Bargaining:
“Dad, how long until I can take this off? I think it’s cutting off the circulation in my throat?”
Looking down on him, I could easily see that there was nearly an inch of breathing room between his skin and the collar of his button-up shirt. He’s full of it. “As long as it takes. That tie stays on until we get into the car.”
“What if I wear it for another 30 minutes, and then I can take it off?”
“How about unbuttoning the top button?”
“YOU ARE THE WORST FATHER EVER.”
Stage Four… Depression:
The words “WORST. FATHER. EVER.” hung in the air for a moment and I was certain that I could hear those same words with my voice banging around in my inner ear. My dad was the worst father ever approximately 493 times and each time, he seemed to be emboldened by it. Like he would actively search for number 494. Now I knew how he felt. It’s just a necktie. It’s only for a few hours. How is this boy going to go on a job interview and move out of my house if he can’t wear a damn necktie??
Sulk all you want, kid. That tie is staying on.
Stage Five… Acceptance:
I never wanted to brush my teeth as a kid. I hated it. I would complain and moan for hours at bed time trying to get out of this five minute activity. Finally, my face lost its willpower and I brushed my teeth knowing I missed out on an hour of sleep.
That same look finally fell across my son’s face after stretching out his neck like a giraffe trying to squeeze through a chain link fence. All of the fight left his body and he just looked at me (careful to not actually turn his neck because OH MY GOD HOW BAD THIS SHIRT SCRATCHES MY NECK) and said, “Fine, Dad. It’s fine.”
Acceptance. Peace. Yes, it took three and a half hours into a four hour event. Yes, only Olympic runners have been clocked at faster speeds than when he took that tie off in the car. Yes, I’ll have to go through this all over again at the next wedding or funeral. But for one brief, fleeting moment, he looked almost presentable. Almost grown up. You saw him showing up to his first day of college or his first job interview. You saw him standing at his wedding or accepting the Cy Young award. For a brief moment, he was an adult.
It was at that same moment that I wanted him to lose the tie and turn right back into a child starting the cycle of denial all over again.