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with cheese

So, Lileks be damned, I was going to write about being a 70's fashion victim anyhow. But one thing led to another and I ended up loading the dishwasher and putting away laundry and it was suddenly time to get ready to leave for work. However, in my pre-post research, I found that I did - quite a few times - write about those hideous clothes I was made to wear in my youth. So yes, you get a repeat. You're going to get a lot of repeats in the coming days because I am going through old posts in preparation for something and I'm putting them out here as sort of litmus test for what it is I'm working on. Anyhow, this post isn't so much about fashion as it is about what that fashion did to me, but it does link to another older post about awful clothing from my past. ------- I am the cheese Did you ever come across a memory you didn't know you had? Memories are funny that way; they will just sneak up on you out of nowhere, as if they escaped from some cell inside your brain. I had one of those moments today and it clarified the whole meaning of my life for me. It was first grade. We were playing Farmer in the Dell in music class and everything was moving along just fine. Until the end, that is, when Ray Cicco picked me to be the cheese. So there I was, in my puffy dress and itchy tights and shiny black shoes, standing in the middle of this huge circle while the rest of the class chanted and the cheese stands alone. I wasn't an outgoing kid to begin with. My mother's penchant for making me wear frilly dresses and shiny shoes to school had already pegged me as an outcast. The fact that I rarely spoke above a whisper, added to the horror of being the smallest in the class, meant I was ripe for the picking. So I stood there. The music teacher, Mrs. Kaplan, either was enjoying the singing so much or wanted to torture me, because she had the class repeat the and the cheese stands alone refrain several times. Finally, the game ended and everyone went back to their seats. And then it started. Cheese! The first time it was whispered softly. Then again, a different voice. Cheese! Then someone more brazen than the whisperers pointed right at me and declared It's the cheese! The rest of the day they referred to me as The Cheese or Cheesy and would walk past me singing and the cheese stands alone. The teasing lingered for the rest of the week and then died out. It didn't matter. The damage to my six year old psyche had already been done. Is it any wonder that years later, I Am The Cheese would become my favorite book? So what does this have to do with the rest of my life? Simple. I was the cheese standing alone for many, many years. I still am, in a way. I may be more outgoing than I was 34 years ago. I probably have more friends now than I did in my entire grade school years combined. But I am still uncomfortable around large groups of people. I still feel vulnerable and small in any setting that may put me at the center of attention. Maybe it's why I wear black clothes all the time; to not be noticed. I still don't like overly competitive games. I hate musical chairs and dodge ball and any game that may single out one little kid for losing. I don't think they play things like Farmer in the Dell in school anymore. DJ came home from school Friday with his jeans torn and grass stains all over him. Me: What were you playing? DJ: Suicide. Me: Suicide. DJ: Yea, it's a really cool game. He then said something about a ball and a wall and throwing as hard as you can at someone. Me: That's interesting. How do you win? DJ: Duh. You don't die. Me: That seems sort of violent. DJ: What? You want us to play duck duck goose? Me: Yes. As a matter of fact, I do. DJ: How about kill the goose? Me: Sigh. The cheese episode must have affected me more than I realized if it was still rattling around in my brain this whole time. I was thinking that this was a whole new set of people to blame for my reluctance to speak up or make friends. And what does it say about me that cheese is my absolute favorite kind of food? Is it a subconcious way of saying I love myself? I want to eat myself? And you know, I'm slightly lactose intolerant, so maybe that's my body's way of saying "hey, even you can't stomach you!" Could this be why I am a Packers fan? (cheeshead...get it?) You would think the incident would have caused an aversion to cheese, not an obsession with it. Or maybe the cheese incident had nothing at all to do with my life and the way I turned out. Maybe it was the drugs. Nah. It was my mother and the damn frilly dresses, or the infamous dress with a clock on it. I've forgiven her for it, but I get even by sending my kids to her house dressed like slobs. It absolutely kills her. I get a slight thrill by watching my mom cringe when Natalie and DJ bounce into her house wearing faded jeans and t-shirts. She once tried to buy a dress for Natalie (who has worn a dress about twice in her entire life) and I stopped mom in her tracks. "You are not buying her a dress," I told her. "You make her wear one of those frilly dresses and before you know it she'll be sitting in a corner writing dark poetry and drawing pictures of her classmates with knives sticking out of their eyes." "You are a really strange person," my mother says. "Dress. Clock." I say in defiance. She knows what it means. "Oh for god's sake, get over that crap already." I pout and walk away and as mom starts making fun of me by mocking my "and you bought me off-brand sneakers instead of Keds" routine, I stick my fingers in my ears and say lalalalallala I can't hear you! I am the cheese.


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Behold, the power of cheese

Everything's better with cheese.

I think the best thing that happened when my younger two hit grade school age was K-8 went to uniforms. No more kids with $60 jeans making fun of the kids wearing Walmart knockoffs.

I just wish they'd do it for high school, too. Good lord, the guys dressed like Crips and the girls dressed like $5 hookers. Sheesh.

For the most part, growing up with other kids is hell (I was picked on because I was always the tallest in the class ... between 5 & 6th grade I went from 5' to 5'7" ... subsequently nick named and horribly teased as the 'jolly green giant'.. I can't visit the frozen food section of the grocery store without the flash backs. What is it with this food-related stuff?)

Both the current and the old post cause a great sadness to well up in me.

How little we know of what our children really feel about the decisions we make for them, particularly when we make those decisions to please our eye rather than their hearts.

I was very lucky not to be a part of that. And very lucky to be a man and not a woman. Can you imagine the future pain caused by today's bear midriff styles when our teen cuties look at the old pictures of their already prominent love handles?

My father and grandfather had roots in the Gentleman's Haberdashery trade. They explicitly taught me these things:

Dress like you mean it, otherwise just put on any old clothes. If you don't mean it, don't bother to dress.

If you don't feel good in your clothes, you won't look good in them. Choose for comfort first.

Choose your colors for your complexion. Period.

Choose your cuts and styles for your body type. Period.

Wear what looks good on you. Well made, well cut, well cared for old clothes will always look better on you than new clothes. Never neglect the thrift stores.

Buy only the best quality new and wear anything new that you buy freqently enough to get the right patina.

If an extreme style actually suits you, wear it for fun--but when you mean business wear business. And "business" doesn't mean just going to work.

According to Marshall Fields (via Lileks), ponchos are back.

They probably make them in black.

I'm thinking leather, with a fringe.

Toughskins ruled.

I had to wear my brothers boots on the first day of first grade too. They were about 3 sizes to big and I fell down at recess every time I tried to run.

My tennis shoes were being dried out from fishing the day before.

Those were the days.

Great googley-moogley, even Clint Eastwood looked like a dork in a poncho!

BALD MAN: I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.
(He has cheese slices on his head and shoulders. He slides past Giles.)

Buffy, TVS, S4 last ep, or if you prefer, ep. 78.

Speaking of things like the cheese... there's this performance-art piece that drama classes do sometimes called "the lonely machine" or somesuch. At summer camp before 8th grade, my friend Casey, who was in the drama class (each day had eight "classes", and the camp had something like 400-600 kids; it was run by the local community college), got to be the lonely machine. He stood there in the center of the gym, tapping his foot and making a vaguely claw-like movement with his arms. Other drama kids "attached" themselves to him, doing other machinelike things, over a period of five minutes, as a narrator... umm... narrated.

No one called him the lonely machine afterward, though. Must be one of those things.

things like michele's cheese story remind me that no matter how much adulthood sucks sometimes, childhood sucked even worse.

I was the kid wearing the knockoff-label jeans during the first wave of designer jean popularity ("Jordaches" were the status brand). I got called "Wrangler" because I also owned a pair of Wrangler jeans.

when I think of all the years I spent thinking I was not-O.K. and not worthwhile because of what other kids said to me, it makes me angry and sad.

Ironically, when my friend from the UK visited me last summer, one of the first things she did was asked to locate an American store she get could some pairs of Wranglers cheap because they were all the expensive rage in Britain at the time...

Huh, I LOVED dodgeball. And not the throwing part - I loved being the, uh, the dodger. Especially if I got to be the last one standing, and EVERYBODY was trying to hit me. That must be why I find Griff's character (The Last Starfighter) so appealing.

Make of that what you will.