I Like Old Clothes and I Cannot Lie

My only real party gripe, and one I fear is acutely specific to me, is that small talk - the lifeblood of the latter uPBE - often throws up a situation that leaves me stumped. And annoyingly, it's all my own fault.

If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love a good house party. Ah, who am I kidding? I love a bad house party too. I'll even tolerate an indifferent one, as long as there are nibbles. You can't beat a good nibble. Or a bad one. Or a...well, you get the idea.

There are just so many unique, party-based experiences (uPBEs) to fall in love with: squishing fifty people into a kitchen that was only designed to be a modestly proportioned bathroom; demonstrating (to everyone's concealed delight) that you are intimately familiar with both the words and actions to Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic Baby Got Back. And of course, meeting new people. Oh! The people you can meet at parties. I once got introduced to a chap by the name of Dougald.

"It's the past participle of Dougal!" he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling with pride and magic. And therein lies the beauty of the simple party - outside of a Tolkien novel, where else could you hope to encounter anyone as mythically brilliant as Dougald?

My only real party gripe, and one I fear is acutely specific to me, is that small talk - the lifeblood of the latter uPBE - often throws up a situation that leaves me stumped. And annoyingly, it's all my own fault.

"So, how come you dress like that?" an innocent partygoer might drop in, mid-conversation. It's a sensible question, given that my fashion sense lies somewhere between Charles Dickens and a Buddy Holly vampire; a question so full of epiphanic hope that I might in fact be a method actor researching a role, a time traveller popped by for an impromptu visit or perhaps even a lost soul caught in limbo, that I can barely bring myself to reveal the awful, underwhelming truth: I don't know.

"Umm," I mumble nervously, pawing at my bowtie and desperately scanning the room for inspiration, "I suppose it's just how I like to dress".

"Oh," comes the crestfallen response, "I...I just thought there must be some reasoning behind it. Never mind. Anyway, I'd better catch up with Dougald over there, he's a past participle you know."

So whilst they shuffle sadly away past a sea of slowly gyrating bodies to locate the most grammatically profound man in the room, I'm left to rue my inability to answer perhaps the most obvious question anyone would ask of me...and that my name isn't a Gerund.

The disappointing truth of the matter is that, despite having flaunted a dandyish desire for all things vintage for the past half decade, I'd never come up with a satisfactory reason as to why. Initially I'd just accepted it as a kind of inevitability, in much the same way I'd accepted the sky being blue. Then I discovered the sky was blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they do red, and I started to worry that if even the blue-min' sky could explain itself, then perhaps I should be able to as well.

I began to wonder about the root causes that might have led to my penchant for a pocket watch, my hankering for a handkerchief and my craving for a cravat. It seemed likely that a large part of it could be traced to a lifelong love of all things historical. But then there was also my adolescent worship of rapper and secret ginger, Eminem, whose peroxide barnet had provided the inspiration for a sixteen year old me to embrace his inner blonde bombshell, taking my first tentative step towards individuality in the process. And who could forget my fascination with the dressing up box as a child? Certainly not my father. My commitment to skyscraper heels on even the most impractical terrain is still the stuff of family legend. The answer seemed tantalisingly close, and yet indistinguishably far. I became sick with worry. OK, not sick, but at least mildly perturbed.

Then, whilst watching Forrest Gump again for the umpteenth time recently, it hit me: just as he'd run across America for three years for no particular reason other than he liked running, so I could say the same thing (not the bit about running specifically, more the bit about not having to justify all your life choices). Sure, it's perhaps not the deeply insightful answer I, or anyone else for that matter, was looking for, and I'll admit that the eponymous Gump isn't exactly the intellectual rapier I'd ideally base a life philosophy on. But the man was a Vietnam War hero for goodness' sake, you can't argue with that. And he was pretty wise when it came to boxes of chocolates too. All I'm saying is, if it's good enough for a somewhat naïve fictional character, it's good enough for me. And anyway, if nothing else it gives me something to discuss the next time I bump into Dougald at a party.


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