Friday, March 31, 2006

Tuxedo Junction

I feel sorry for my wife, because she’s a girl.

Wait, that didn’t sound right. Let me explain.

I tried on my tux yesterday. I had to see if it still fit before heading off to Seattle for Taproot Theatre’s 30th anniversary celebration.

The tux plays into my history with Taproot. I was the Managing Director of the company the year we moved into our very own theatre. To mark the auspicious occasion of Taproot’s first season in its own home, Artistic Director Scott Nolte and I decided we would wear a tuxedo each opening night.

So, like two typical boys, we went shopping. Okay, maybe that isn’t a boy thing; in fact, the very anti-boyish nature of shopping for formal wear (at least the anti-Sean/Scott nature of shopping for formal wear) is part of what makes the event so special. Hey, a condition of my accepting a job at Taproot was being able to wear jeans to work. And Scott in a tie signalled either a board meeting, a fund raising meeting, or an audition as an used car salesman.

But the tux was more than a six-openings costume; I was getting married that year, and was frugal enough to figure out that if the wife-to-be approved the tux I bought for the theatre games, then I wouldn’t have to go formal wear shopping later.

So here I am, nearly ten years later, squeezing into my wedding/opening night tuxedo. I’ve gained weight. Or the tux shrunk, you make the call. I’ve worn the thing a couple of times in the intervening years, so it’s no surprise that the pants that used to require suspenders fits just fine now, thank you very much.

I decide to wear the tux around that apartment for a spell to make sure that I’m not going to pop a button. Watch a little bit of John Stewart in a penguin suit. Go for some chips and salsa, recover my sanity, and pop some popcorn instead.

No buttons fling off. In fact, it almost becomes comfortable. I forget about the restricting bow tie, the pressure on my abdomen from the vest, the jacket that pulls when I slouch, reminding me that formal wear requires formal posture.

And I’m taken back. Back to that first opening night, when the dressing rooms were still in a construction zone, and the balcony railing that obstructed the views wasn’t fixed, and the air conditioning acknowledged only two settings – frozen tundra and burning desert.

Back to a family of friends and coworkers, who, just like a family, fought and bickered and created and bonded. Back to talent that at the end of the day was about devotion to the craft and a love of the audience. Back to a time/place when/where no one expected the Spirit to be separated from the act of creation, where faith and art wrestled into unified vision.

I stood in my hallway, looking at the mirror, at my tuxedoed forty year-old self. I can almost see my brother Mark standing behind me. I can certainly hear him. I’m not in my Burbank apartment; I’m in that little room off the church sanctuary, wondering if I look as scared as I feel, wondering if she’ll really come down that aisle, wondering if this is all a dream, or a practical joke. And my brother mocks me in my tux, as only a brother can: a reassuring, loving, you-know-what-you’re-doing-so-get-over-yourself mock.

That’s what a best man does – stands alongside. And we are out there, facing the aisle, standing together watching and waiting.

And she appears. She is a dream, but a real, waking one. And she is coming down the aisle, towards me of all people.

And that’s why I feel sorry for my wife. (Okay, for those that don’t know Mark, he just made a smart aleck remark like, “because she came down the aisle to you?” Ignore Mark, please.)

You see, the woman gets to have that very-special-dress, that one-in-a-million dress, the this-is-the-only-time-you’ll-wear-it dress. And it is the only time she gets to wear it. The guy gets the practical, use it again when there’s a formal event, tuxedo.

So every couple of years, I’ll have some reason to need a monkey suit, and I’ll try it on as a measure of just how much a diet of Doritos and Pop Tarts effects the aging body. And I’ll feel the rigidity of that bow tie and the heft of that jacket; and I’ll look in the mirror…

And I get to remember.

Just my thoughts,


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