This Man Loves America
A friend, a sports columnist for the regional newspaper back up north, recently posted this photo in facebook® with that caption. It was taken outside a football stadium on game day. My own attention immediately focused not on the subject in the foreground but rather on all of those American men wearing short pants in the background. It is odd how your perspective changes so dramatically when you take six steps back, metaphorically speaking. Adult Mexican men do not wear short pants here. The few exceptions are Mexican tourists from Mexico City, chilangos who have embraced what we refer to as—for lack of a better phrase—American culture, including short pants for adult males.
28.7° C. (83.7° F.) and no short pants.
It is impossible to imagine a Tom Brokaw-like figure publishing a book in some forthcoming year lauding the accomplishments of the men in my much discussed generation, the generation whose members began attaining the age of 65 last year. It is that same generation of men that came of age so auspiciously during the 1960's. I speak not only of those who took their grievances to the streets then but also those who fought in Vietnam. Bright young men.
Yet with the onset of the primes of our lives, we sold out to the allure of mammon. For most a lure was all that it turned out to be, the reality a treadmill. We have meekly acquiesced in American war after American war and the waste of vast treasure that entailed in return for the central government's assurance that our own sons and daughters would not fight those wars. We became a fear-ridden lot ever willing to concede the loss of more and more of our civil liberties on the promise that our own personal safety would be better secured, many of us feigning concern for our wives and children as a veil over our own cowardice.
In addition to becoming effete whiners, the signal accomplishment of my generation of American men has been to establish short pants as de rigueur attire for all adult American males in public on any day, all day, and for any occasion. None of us grew up among men who wore short pants in public. Ever. I have recently been trying to recall when it was that I first saw a grown man wearing short pants in public. I am confident that was not until after I graduated from high school and left for the university. As for us, however, we continue to wear short pants in public even unto our old age. I must say that from my own vantage point now, it is the most unfortunate adult male fashion statement in Western Civilization since tights and a codpiece.
San Miguel de Allende has an unjustified reputation in Mexico as a Mexican city dominated by its expatriate community. That is not quite true. The expatriate community, by the way, includes a significant Canadian contingent along with a generous sprinkling of Europeans, although it is admittedly comprised for the most part of retired citizens of the United States of America. But the expatriates tend to flock in their own havens up on the side of the mountain. I can go for days in the neighborhood where I live down here and not see another old gringo. When I encounter one, therefore, I notice.
See the gray-haired guy in the lower right in his short pants?
The old gringo here is invariably clad in short pants and running shoes. He is also commonly strapped to a tiny, worthless dog. Perhaps two tiny, worthless dogs. Running shoes on a man who is charitably recorded in his doctor's chart as moderately obese and who has obviously not run in fifty years is mildly comical. The shorts pants are farcical and worse. They mark him as a man whose existence revolves around the bowel movements of the little creature to which he is strapped. He is a man who with his presentation says, “Yes, I am a softie. Here. Take my entire wallet if you like. I won't even trouble you with any negotiations.” It certainly does not bespeak a man who has, or ever has had, the balls to face down his own government.
My African-American brothers have certainly played their own part in this whole short pants thing. Two things must be noted to their credit, however. First, they seem more readily to abandon short pants as they enter their true maturity. Second, they look considerably better in short pants than white guys do.
St. Paul, Minnestoa. Summer of 2008.
I wish to make clear that I have been right in there with my brothers in everything that I denigrate here. I have been no better than anyone else. In 2008 I went to St. Paul to march in the street outside the Republican National Convention. There I sheepishly submitted to being fenced off, monitored by the riot police, and rendered irrelevant. The futility, the absurdity of it all is embarrassing to me today. My one notable accomplishment in St. Paul? I got my picture taken in front of the state capitol in my short pants and running shoes.
St. Paul, Minnesota. Summer of 2008.
One of the great freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America, but the one least discussed, is the freedom to leave the place. Somewhere in central Texas in 2009 in the midst of my slow retreat in defeat to the south, I wore short pants in public for the last time. Never again.
Luckenbach, Texas. Spring of 2009.
There may come a day when other American men determine to pull on some trousers. If that day comes and if I am still alive, I will hop in the pickup truck, head back north, and rejoin them.