“So what changes do you intend on making to my wardrobe?” I asked Fisch, who had invited me out to the mall for some lunch and a meterosexual shopping-spree. Apparently my current style of dress was insufficient for attracting members of the opposite sex, and renovating my wardrobe would prove the sole cure. Fisch — typically an extremely straight man with a slightly queer edge — revels in shopping for stuff like this.
“Dude, we’re not making a change,” my fashionable friend corrected me, as we weaved through a dense crowd of mall walkers. “We’re beginning a revolution.”
“Hey, you can have style without cost. Or at least that’s the way I roll.”
Fisch rolls in very odd places – cheap though they may be. My compatriot, a lawyer and an economist, strives for the paradoxical job of an honest politician and eventually the elected office of President of the United States.
“I am the best of the best,” Fisch told me once at the gym, while I lay collapsed choking on my lungs. “I choose to do it because no one else can, at least without sacrificing honor, integrity, and their soul.”
Honestly, anyone that seeks out that much responsibility must be a little crazy, which is why we get along rather well. Irishmen – according to Thomas Cahill, my mother, and my own familial observations – possess as much empathy for the insane and drunkards as they relish good humor and jibing authority. Therefore, Fisch and I, the politician and the writer, made for good company.
My Irish ancestors, poor farmers and scholars that they were, believed in retaining more of their money for food and books and less for Ralph Lauren. Thus, as we walked into Macy’s the knot in my stomach eased some. Living in a large family one never worries about having clothes; a simple phone call yields mountains of hand-me-down pants, sweaters, and shirts from various uncles and cousins. Why concern yourself with the latest styles when that same money could be invested in stories, games, or gadgets? Only the truly deranged would ever scribe socks or ties on their Christmas lists.
“We’re here to prove that with enough strategy, even geeks can dress well and still grab the girl in the end. Besides all that dorky stuff you like is cool now. Comic books, video games, anime . . . you wear that shit on your T-shirts, right?”
“I have a few shirts like that, yeah.” A dozen or two.
“Combine your dorky shirts with a wrinkled jacket and some faded jeans, and we’ll get you laid yet, Murphey.”
Somehow all this seemed quite dubious, and Fisch like any skilled salesman and politician, sensed this.
“Look, do you watch G4?” he asked passing through the malodorous air of the perfume department en route to the escalators.
“I’ve seen bits checking around,” I said lifting my dangling shoelaces above the teeth of escalators. “It’s like an MTV for gamers, right?”
“Yeah, well we want you lookin’ like the host of Attack of the Show. Dorky guy with hot girls. We want to stretch your current comfort zone just a bit, extend your boundaries.”
“Okay, sure,” I replied. “. . .extend my boundaries.” Sure, like China into Nepal.
“We’ll prove that you don’t have play lacrosse to get the hot girl, dude. This is going to be awesome.”
Did I mention that I hate shopping for clothes? One of the perks of working in a biochemistry lab – apart from liquid nitrogen and playing God – the informal dress always felt comfortable. Our bosses encouraged tact (i.e. no holes in the jeans or metal dog collars), long pants, and toed shoes, but otherwise Casual Friday lasted year-round. Clothing after all protected us, as much as gloves, goggles, and chemical showers, and experiments routinely got . . . messy. Safety classes advised that much of our clothing may become soiled, stained, or severely burned as a result of day-to-day research experiments. In some cases, such as if a jar of phenol accidentally spilt or soaked into our clothing, caution dictated that we remove our pants and shirt immediately and contact the emergency hotline (Phenol vapor acts an anesthetic as well as corrosive acid, and thus eat away at your skin without inflicting any pain. Retaining phenol-soaked clothes was like rubbing your body in Novacaine and then setting it on fire.). From these experiences, I developed little concern for my personal appearance and greater discretion in my choice of undergarments.
Back in high school, we never had much choice in our apparel either; slacks, dress shirt, tie, and jacket were the rule garnering these young men with the illusion of respectability. Yet except for the occasional joke tie that spun like a propeller or sang old Christmas tunes, no one cared about much less noticed our day-to-day wear. In college, I adopted the same dress, trading in my shirt, tie, and jacket for grey golf polos. It is thus that managed to live one-third of my life without a pair of jeans.
Thus, when Fisch called, I reasoned it was about time I bought a pair and at least to see how I liked them. Patrick bought his first pair just after meeting Tiff. I was buying my first pair with Fisch, discussing the revolution of geekdom and how clothes can secure my breed-ability.
“Videogames, comics and anime are popular and cool now,” Fisch said quickly, splicing through the jean rack. Geeks have accrued greater respect today . . . an attractive eccentricity, if you will, to members of the opposite sex.”
I told him that he had obviously not been to any anime convention.
“Outliers,” he said with a wave. “The point is that in the end, the geek, the dreamer, the visionary will succeed where the jocks and lax players have failed, hindered forever by their steroids and excessive keg stands. Meanwhile we’re ready to make history, much like Spartans against . . . ooo, this looks good. Try it on.”
“Didn’t the Spartans die?” I ask, fitting a white jacket from the sales rack tightly around my shoulders.
“Only in body,” Fisch said. “Nice, now we just have to secure some jeans and shirts then.”
“It looks nice,” I said cautiously. “But judging by these other guys around us. It’s not really everyday wear. I’m not really going to fit in.”
“So you only wear it on your date,” Fisch said. “Though why on earth would you want to blend in like everyone else is beyond me. You need to stand out, not enfold yourself into those ubiquitous banal trends of the masses. Lead for once . . .”
“Okay,” I said, considering if I had ventured outside my normal routine of late. Perhaps it was time for a change . . .
At the end of the day, we bought two stripped shirts, a rumpled white jacket, and a pair of jeans. Leaving the store we walked out to the parking lot and talked about some old classmates and future girlfriends.
“I mean, seriously, dude,” I asked leaning against my car. “What are the chances? Clothes are one thing, but you know me and my odd hobbies . . .”
“Higher than you think, Murph,” Fisch said. “I have a friend, who’s a professional cheerleader. She plays frickin’ Everquest at home, probably into D&D too. A twelth-level elf warrior or some shit.”
“Well, Everquest is quite addictive . . . like crack for gamers.”
“Face it, man. You start dressin’ right, and they’ll be no stopping the mob of hot girls racin’ to tear those clothes off you.”
“Right, well . . . as exciting as that sounds – and it does – these clothes were not that cheap. Just warn the deluge to strip me slowly, ok?”
“Trust me, it works for that guy on G4. Look at the girls he works with. Tina Wood and that Oliva chick are hot!”
I returned home, clothes in tow. Quickly I stretched my jeans, shirts, and jacket across the bed to admire. Not bad, I said to myself. Maybe there is some sense to Fisch’s rantings: a chance to stretch my boundaries without totally sacrificing my identity. His words seemed honeyed with wisdom and audacity. I felt ready to step into a whole new era.
Quickly I strode over to the computer and typed in G4, eager for more ideas, more insights into this ‘cool geek’ persona. The following video flashed on my screen:
As the video ended, I strode over to the bed and threw my clothes unceremoniously into the Macy’s bag. Neither for revolution or girls, would I ever emulate that Kevin twit . . . regardless of his fashion-sense and breed-ability. In the end I just felt embarrassed to be a gamer.
Tossing on some shorts and an old T-shirt, I jumped on my bed with a few books, and my DS. After a few levels of Zelda and a page or two of my latest One Piece manga, I fell asleep, dreaming of princesses, pirates, and Tina Wood