If you've got too much, please don't flaunt it

Posted: August 26, 2001

I have been for some days at the shore, in the company of many of my fellow middle-aged Americans who are wearing not a lot of clothes, and I have a report.

My fellow middle-aged Americans, we are some kind of fat.

I don't mean getting a bit thick around the middle, or pleasantly plump, or zaftig, or Rubenesque (we are Reuben-esque), or settling into our bodies. I mean we are fat, fat, fat.

As a people, we have never been this fat. Probably, no people have ever been this fat. We are billowing immensities of avoirdupois; great, soft bins of finest quality lard; a nation of wide loads wallowing down the highway of life.

We have thighs that look like sacks of Parkerhouse rolls. We have stomachs that can shelter entire kindergartens from the glare of the noonday sun. Our bottoms dwarf the seats of our poor, suffering chairs as the mind of God dwarfs the mind of man. We do not walk; we shake, jiggle and roll. We are Moby-Dick, the great white whale; we are Dumbo; we are countless refutations of the claim that no man is an island.

Also, we are some kind of ugly. We are men with Rudy Giuliani-quality hair who have persuaded ourselves that the attractive solution is to drape the 14 remaining strands on the left side of our domes over to the right side, while gathering the 22 remaining strands on the backside of our heads into the sort of ratty little ponytail once - ah, those were the days - favored only by aging record producers.

We are pierced and we are tattooed to within an inch of all our available skin space, which is saying something (see paragraph 2). We (men) walk around downtown with no shirts on, in the apparent bizarre belief that others enjoy viewing the mats of graying hair that cover our backs, necks and watermelon-sized tum-tums. We (women) wear screaming pink Lycra stretch pants in sizes that run from one side of the boardwalk to the other: If you've got it, flaunt it; if you've got five times it, flaunt it in pink.

My fellow middle-aged Americans, let us admit two salient truths.

One: It is a nice thing to have an 18-year-old body and a nice thing for other people to be able to look at an 18-year-old body; so, when the owner of an 18-year-old body wears a minimum of clothing, this too is a nice thing. It adds to the general attractiveness of the world and the general happiness of humanity. But (and this is the critical point), we are no longer 18. With relatively few exceptions, we should ask ourselves if we might better serve our country by putting our clothes back on.

Two: Truly, nothing exceeds like excess. An earring or two, or three, nicely compliment the human form. Even a pierced navel, on the right (again: 18) body adds sex appeal. But adding a staple through the tongue, a couple of ball-studs in the upper lip and a troika of rings in the left nostril does not improve on this beginning. Similarly with tattoos. A single butterfly on a well-turned ankle is one thing; a torso-spanning butterfly garden is another. Remember, too, that, in the due passage of time, things sag. Also, they wrinkle. Tattoos affixed to things that sag and wrinkle likewise sag and wrinkle. As the artist inks the image of your beloved across your back, stop and think that, years hence on the beach, you will resemble nothing so much as a man taking the picture of Dorian Gray for a walk.

A few last reminders: A muffin the size of a softball is not breakfast. It is dessert; you are eating cake at 8 a.m. Wear a thong only if you can regard your nude self over your shoulder in a mirror and honestly say: The sight of my nearly fully exposed bottom is something most people would thank me for. Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts are appropriate only in places where rum drinks are served in coconut shells. This does not include most churches.

Michael Kelly is a columnist for the Washington Post.

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