Under my clothes, I’m naked.

October 24, 2008

I’ve just returned from buying clothes, a chore I liken to having my back waxed: It hurts like hell and I can’t see that it’s made any difference.

The worst part about buying clothes, other than forking out money better spent on Starbucks coffee and nearly anything else you’d care to name, is the fitting room. I’m standing there, stuffed inside a new pair of hiking shorts, various sharp tags poking into various tender bits, and my first thought is: “Why on earth would someone put a funhouse mirror in a fitting room?”

Because that person staring back at me is no one I know. I am toned and sleek and rugged, while this other someone looks so, well, squishy. So, oh I don’t know, spherical. Kinda blobby, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

What my mother calls “big-boned” and my father calls “husky” and my brother calls “you fat bastard.”

There is a reason why the inhabitants of Planet Man ban full-length mirrors from their abodes and it’s so we never have to face the entire scope of ourselves. Having to deal with the big picture tends to send us screaming back to our beds, under the covers, lights off, don’t bother me until Survivor: Gabon starts. Just slip the lattes under the door.

It’s my belief humans are not meant to see all of themselves at the same time. The mind is just too limited to digest that amount of information. Bits and pieces? Fine. Here’s my face. Oh, look, a foot. This is my head — and we’ll just skip past that thin spot on the crown, shall we.

But your entire body? In one view? It’s what’s known on Planet Man as sensory overload. Although, in reality, it’s basically just overload.

I have an indifferent relationship with clothes — I don’t much care for them. It’s not that I want to suddenly become a naturist or anything. Even in New Zealand — where you can say “bugger” in TV ads, and print ads feature a fellow dressed as a super hero clutching himself — public nudity is discouraged.

It’s more like I don’t care to deal with clothes. There’s an old joke about how men decide what to wear: They grab whatever smells the least offensive from the pile on the floor. I’m not that bad — I may live on Planet Man but I do know how to operate a clothes hanger — but I still tend to don whatever is at hand.

Which pretty much explains how I ended up wearing that orange T-shirt under a red sweater. On the bright side — quite literally — they were clean.

I have never been a dedicated follower of fashion (although I do still have fond memories of what I like to call The Mullet Years), and have no idea which colors or styles are in or out or hot or cold. For me, if it’s got a big hole in the crotch, it’s out. If it catches on fire while I’m operating the barbecue, it’s hot.

Which is why I insist Viking Woman accompany me on those rare occasions when I am finally persuaded to abandon the magazine aisle in favor of the menswear section. And I’m very adamant about her standing right outside the fitting room so she’s immediately available to tell me, a) I look wonderful, or, b) hoisting the waistline of your pants to your nipples is so last-season.

Unfortunately, Viking Woman is easily distracted by small things, primarily small things that fit on her feet. She tends to wander off, following some kind of womanly radar-instinct-thingee, so that, when I open the door to the fitting room and step out into the store’s harsh light, wearing nothing but the hiking shorts, I am by myself.

And by that I mean surrounded by other shoppers, absolute and utter strangers who glance over and avert their eyes and quickly turn their children’s heads away. I know exactly what they’re thinking and it’s not “What a hunk!” Or even, “Hey, I’ve been looking for shorts just like those ones.”

I witness this reaction and it suddenly occurs to me there isn’t a funhouse mirror in that fitting room after all. I realize the squishy, spherical blob staring into my eyes looks so familiar because it’s me.

Which is why I’ve now decided to grow out my body hair, slick it down across the bare parts, and never buy clothes again. I’m calling it The Full Body Combover.

I know what you’re thinking: Holy crap, this guy is frickin’ brilliant!

Yup, you don’t need to be a genius to live on Planet Man, but it sure helps.

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