I look quite good in plaid. Red plaid, to be specific. Red plaid pants with a matching red plaid vest to be even more specific. Red plaid pants and matching red plaid vest with a pumpkin colored shirt underneath just to make the plaid really “pop” according to my mom in 1979.
I am at my friend Eve’s 9th birthday party. It is February and I have slept over the night before as she is my best friend and I have special 2 nights in a row privileges. My red plaid suit is packed in my overnight bag, along with my brother’s long underwear that has been handed down to me after he outgrew it. Until I was 19 years old, I have never had a pair of long underwear without a penis pouch in the front. Why do men’s long underwear last for so long?? It is cold and the long underwear is necessary, according to my mom, who turns out is almost always right, especially when part of the birthday party involves going for a horse and buggy ride in central park. Did I mention it is February?
I bring the overnight bag into Eve’s bathroom to change into my special birthday outfit and to see if I can hide all traces of the boy penis pouch long underwear so I am not made fun of by any other guests. Because I have no penis and not a trace of hair in the area that might help to fill out the pouch, it hangs there puffing out, looking lonely and unfulfilled. The long underwear is close to 2 sizes too big for me since my brother is not only 4 years older than I am but also a lot bigger, so it sags down towards the knees. The undershirt is stained and a lifeless grey, with the arm cuffs edging beyond my skinny wrists. I stand there and peer at myself in the mirror. This would not be the outfit I’d use to impress a parent or 4th grade crush, but I know my red plaid get up will soon cover the flaws and boyishness of this undergarment and I’ll be looking pretty snappy soon! I pull out said pants, shirt and vest and as soon as they are on, with the traces of my brother’s lumpy leftovers well hidden, I exit the bathroom and make my way into the living room where a few kids from our class have collected.
I try to act casual but I know I look pretty darn good especially after applying some Carmex which gives my lips extra shine to match my shiny belt buckle. No one says much, but I can see their appreciation in their eyes. Plus, it’s Eve’s Birthday. I don’t want to take away too much attention. The excitement about our equine adventure is palpable and the four of us giggle with anticipation about the ride, the horses, the potential bumps and the chill.
The walk down Columbus Avenue commences and I can already smell the horses blocks away. As we approach, they whinny in what sounds to be praise for my outfit, giving me the eye in the way that horses do – somewhat shy but very directed and intentional. Donned themselves in white and gold frilly horse regalia atop their heads, and bright red material braided into their manes, they clearly appreciate my 9 year old fashion statement and I appreciate their appreciation. Horses know panache when they see it. I climb aboard with my fellow one digit aged pals and snuggle under blankets as the horses and driver ready themselves to carry aboard one small and skinny mogul of style. Fortified by the warmth of my brothers’ long underwear, I let my pants leg sneak out of the side of the blanket and into the chilly afternoon so all of New York will have a chance to witness the tantalizing patterns of my ensemble and perhaps be inspired to think to themselves “ Red plaid plants and matching vest. Bold. Beautiful. Now that’s an outfit I might just need to add to my wardrobe.” I sit back and smile to myself, cozy with my pals, celebrating the best birthday party ever, ( and we hadn’t even eaten cake yet!) and knowing this was just the beginning of my lifelong relationship with plaid until two years later, when my mom bought me an argyle sweater and everything changed. Turns out I look even better in argyle.