WHITE PANTS AFTER LABOR DAY
One of the greatest compliments anyone ever paid me was this: “You show me what rules need to be broken, and how to break them.”
As I got dressed during the last week of August, the last week before Labor Day, I put on a pair of white pants for the second day in a row (I have several pair, no surprise). I thought “I’d better wear these one more time before Monday, because the rule says ‘No white pants after Labor Day.’”
Then, in the time it took to get them off the hanger, I thought “Screw that. I will wear white pants whenever I want to.”
Today, two days after Labor Day, I wore white pants.
My friend and colleague Kristy beat me to the punch. I showed up at her office door Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, to find her dressed in white pants.
“I love it!” I said to her.
“What?” She seemed a bit confused.
“Your white pants. It’s the day after Labor Day, and you are wearing white pants.”
“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those rules. I wear white pants whenever I want to.”
Amen, sister, Amen. Some rules have “break me” written all over them.
I wore yet another pair of my white pants today, and when a dear patient of mine showed up in her white pants, it was the first thing I noticed.
“I love it! We are both wearing white pants after Labor Day!” I said.
“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those rules. I wear white pants whenever I want to.” I wish I could have taken a picture of this amazing woman with me with our white pants on, but privacy laws prevent that. Trust me when I say she continues to be an amazingly strong woman who follows in her own path, even in the face of the life-altering health crisis she found herself in.
I work hard to surround myself with people who see the world the way I do. I have been flanked by them the last few days, and I am grateful.
My patient also added that she likewise doesn’t follow the rule that one should wait until after Memorial Day to wear white pants. I wasn’t aware of the other bookend of this rule, so we looked up the history.
Apparently, according to fashion researchers, this “rule” began in the 1930’s, when only the ultra-rich people wore white in the summer, with light-colored clothing giving a look of leisure. Working-class people wore mostly dark clothing.
Armed with this information, I now want to wear all four pair of my white pants all winter, and stop wearing them after Memorial Day.
In this free country, I am free to do so. No one is the boss of me, fashion or otherwise.
I will continue to choose to wear white pants any day of the year, which, I am sure, will still allow my culture to thrive. It’s simply a suggestion, not a hard-and-fast rule that our civilization hinges upon.
There is a story about a young wife who was baking a ham for the first time with her new husband. She unwrapped the ham, prepared the baking dish and proceeded to cut the ends off the ham before placing it in the dish. Her new husband questioned: “Why do you cut the ends off?”
“Because that’s how you do it. My mother always did it that way,” she responded.
“I’ve never seen it done that way. There has to be a reason,” the husband said.
Not wanting to lose this battle so early on in their marriage, she called her own mother to get the official explanation.
“Because that’s how my mother always did it,” his mother-in-law said.
Wanting to get to the bottom of it to chalk one up for herself, the wife called her grandmother with the same question.
“Because it wouldn’t fit in the pan if I didn’t cut the ends off.”
And there you have it. The reason why it was the “rule” that the ends had to be cut off the ham.
I had the pleasure of seeing an old friend yesterday. This friend didn’t start out as my friend. She started out as my fourth-grade teacher.
At ten years of age, I perceived this “old” 35-year old woman as hip and cool, with a quiet spirit about her that I wanted to possess.
Now, at 52, I perceive this 77-year old woman as hip and cool. She has a quiet spirit that I want to possess.
So, when she comes back to this area to see her son, we plan an annual visit. I looked her up for my 20-year class reunion, because I knew my classmates liked her, too. I found her in California, but she would be visiting her son then—her only child—who lives about an hour from me. It worked out perfectly for her to attend, and she was as much of a hit in 2004 as she was in 1975 with my class of 18.
Since then, we have been able to see each other almost every year when she and her husband visit their son and his family. They have no permanent address now to speak of, they live in an RV most of the year in Arizona. They will, however, be purchasing a home near their son. Not that they will give up their mobile lifestyle; they simply know that someday, they will likely need a house to call home.
I visited her in this small town close to her son’s home. They have found a house here, and will hopefully call it theirs someday soon. Until then, and even after that point, they will continue to practice the two habits I wrote about in an earlier post that describe those patients and their family members who seem to defy age and remain (relatively) healthy: 1: they stay active, and 2: they do what makes them happy.
For them, it is remaining on the go. This takes care of #1 and #2 above, and it shows.
We walked through the downtown street fair/car show, took a walk in the park, and enjoyed a libation at a local hangout. We talked about life, specifically about living the lives we want to live. We talked about the lessons life teaches us through loss. We talked about doing what makes us happy, and how important that is. We talked about following our hearts, even if it means not following certain “rules.”
We shopped at a few small stores, and at her behest, I came home with this:
She remains my teacher. Perhaps even more now than she was in the fourth grade.
Having started this post several days prior to our visit, I laughed out loud when I first saw her: she and I were both wearing white pants.
On so many levels, she remains my teacher.
I was wearing a favorite shirt by one of my favorite brands: Life is good®. If you look closely, you can see the sun, with these words beneath: The sun doesn’t know it’s a star.”
Gail bought this shirt for her daughter Lydia last year on one of our Colorado trips. Knowing I had several dozen of these awesome shirts already, I fought the urge to buy one for myself. I won that battle, but lost the war later when I succumbed and ordered one for myself online.
Lydia was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes shortly after that Colorado trip. She doesn’t know she is a star to me. Her courageous daily fight against this lifelong enemy inspires me.
Gail and Suzanne don’t know they are stars to me, either. They simply do their thing, shed their light, and warm the world with their presence. Their rays may be clouded over some days, but they are always there, soon to break out and shine again after the clouds clear.
My teacher gave me permission to call her by her first name years ago, but that didn’t feel right. We met in the middle, and I call her “Mrs. P.”
Mrs. P. doesn’t know she has always been a star to me. Since 1975, her rays continue to shine bright. At her youthful age of 77, I pray they continue to shine for many more years. As long as she stays active and does what makes her happy, I have a feeling she will shine on.
Without either of us knowing, my neighbor also purchased the same shirt. She, too, is a star who lights up my neighborhood.
This Tuesday, “Patriot’s Day,” marks the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Our country fell collectively to its knees that day, and all of us felt the heartbreak. We still do. But if we don’t celebrate our freedom every day, then we haven’t paid homage to those who lost their lives that day, those who fought then, and those who continue to fight now for our freedom.
We have freedoms that are foreign to much of the rest of the world. Our country is far from perfect, but if it is your home, please celebrate by exercising your freedoms.
Wear white pants after Labor Day. Don’t cut the ends off the ham. Or, do cut the ends off. Whatever pleases you. You have the right to do all these things, and so many more.
If it doesn’t hurt anyone, and, to reflect back on Mom’s advice, “If it feels good and doesn’t break the 10 Commandments, then do it.” Go ahead and break those rules if breaking them meets the above criteria.
Like the white pants rule that served the rich and privileged, many rules serve only those who created them, serving to keep them in positions of power. Or, in the case of the ham, sometimes a “rule” is created in responses to an isolated instance, and it should have never become a rule in the first place.
Do your own thing. Exercise your freedoms this Tuesday, September 11th, and every day. But please never forget why we have these freedoms, and who gave them to us.
My boys shortly after 9/11/01.
Gail, Suzanne and I have rescheduled our Colorado trip for early October. We will likely wear white pants, and will most likely break other rules that should be broken, too. Here’s a throwback photo from our trip several years ago from Suzanne’s Facebook page.