steve ivory (2014)

Steven Ivory

*Let me just admit it: I’m conflicted. The current climate clearly dictates logic and common sense. And yet I remain bound by archaic, time honored tradition. The truth of the matter is that I am weary of dealing with whites—you know, as in whether to wear mine beyond Labor Day.

Yes, I know. The nation and the world face some truly serious problems–and along with those, I’m pondering the long held fashion rule that one can wear whites only after Easter and then you pack them away on Labor Day. But Labor Day has come and gone, and in Southern California, where I live, it’s still hot.

Indeed, in the days after Labor Day, weather reports say the temperature here will reach the 90s. You’d think I’d wear white as long as weather permits or simply because I want to (I’m not talking about wool whites worn in winter, but cotton white).

However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve honored this notion that an officer of the fashion police will step out of nowhere and write me a citation for swishing about town post-Labor Day in white cotton pants and shirts. A traditionalist, I am not consoled by fashion experts who say to hell with the old rule.

That I even deliberate this—as I write, I’m still on the fence–has me thinking about other things we hold onto, rules and protocol that have zilch to do with our reality. Mandates we cling to simply because somebody somewhere said this is what we should do.

For example, there are women who won’t phone a man. Seriously. Plenty women believe that if they call a man they’re interested in—not incessantly or fanatically, but simply when she feels like talking with him–that it somehow looks as if she is “chasing” him or that the action denotes desperation.

Apparently, it never occurred to these women that men appreciate the same gracious gestures they do, including receiving a phone call from the person who interests them.

Then there’s the concept that grown men aren’t supposed to cry. Who came up with this one? To say a “real” man can’t cry is to believe men are prohibited from engaging in routine, vital human emotions.

A good cry is therapeutic to the spirit, a slate cleaner that allows us to carry on. Crying is a gift no one should be denied. I guarantee you that, in private, the man who came up with this idiot edict often boo-hooed harder and longer than anybody he knew.

Meanwhile, there are those already dreading the coming holiday season because they abhor spending it with a family member they absolutely despise. Where does it say you have to spend time designed to be joyous with people you don’t like just because you share a blood line? It’s another bullshit life rule that people, for the sake of personal happiness, need to find the courage to break.

It’s right up there with staying in a bad relationship or marriage because you don’t want to be alone or, infinitely worse, “for the sake of the kids.”

Fact: one isn’t the loneliest number–two is, because there’s nothing lonelier than being with someone you don’t love or one who doesn’t understand you. And bulletin: the kids, intuitive beings that they are, knew there was trouble in your fake paradise long before you or your partner admitted it.

Almost as painful is the nowhere job we stay in, because “it’s a good job.” Rebooting one’s professional occupation is no small task; we all have to make a living. However, remaining in a job you don’t enjoy is like placing a pillow over your soul in hopes of suffocating your dreams.

How about those who embrace and espouse racist views without question, because they were raised this way? Or the person who insists on defining him or herself “Christian” without a true understanding of the word?

What all of the aforementioned rituals have in common is fear: fear of change and the life-altering challenge that comes with it.Fear of not being accepted; of what might be found during the noble process of cleaning out that emotional closet. Fear of Self. Fear of being deserving of something good.

Back in the 20th century, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during his famous 1933 inauguration speech, sought to embolden a country in the grip of The Great Depression with, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I’m guessing Roosevelt was never stared down by a pair of white Ralph Lauren pants begging to be worn in unseasonably warm weather long after summer has officially passed.

I don’t know what I’ll do. Like the rest of us, I often struggle to walk in rhythm with what I talk. But if you’re in L.A. in the middle of a warm October and happen upon a bald man wearing all white, chances are good he won’t be an ice cream vendor, parking valet or Procter & Gamble’s audacious recast of its Mr. Clean mascot. It’ll be me, standing in bold and fragile triumph, wary of anyone looking to declare me uncool.

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]