Sunday, June 2, 2013

Neckties; Or, Adventures in Vasoconstriction, Part III

Although I learned during week one that they were not mandated by the company dress code, I continued wearing neckties to my new job until week three: mostly because, for yours truly, the image of me in a necktie was as novel a sight as a gorilla in a shopping mall reading Anna Karenina. The novelty has since lost its affect like similes with gorillas or puns on the word “novel” and with summer fast approaching (let’s hope Greenland doesn’t start thawing again), only the hipsterest hipster could bear wearing a sweat-slopped business-noose for the sake of ironic self-parody.

The lesser reason that I kept wearing ties was as a social experiment: do people treat necktie-wearers differently? I discovered that the courtesies and hostilities of everyday urban social interaction remain: what changes is who exchanges what.

For example, in my non-work attire, I accidentally happened upon Chevy's: a menswear shop on 86th Street in Gravesend. The moment I entered, the owner, sitting behind the counter, asked, with a very subtle enmity:

“Can I help you?”

I responded “just browsing!” and began perusing his wares. Much of it was Italian-made, which meant, to my own paranoid, left-wing head, that I could buy something and not fear that it came from a sweatshop.

As I walked to the back of the store, the owner rose and began sneaking quick glances at me, strongly resembling nervous butler with a peasant in his midst. I felt self-conscious and unwelcome. When I approached a rack of neatly-hung jeans, the contempt he held for my class and kind became clear:

“Those jeans cost $135. Is that a problem?”

Such a question can only be asked to humiliate. “No,” I lied, “that’s not a problem,” but I nevertheless considered buying a pair just to best him. I smiled savagely and asked if he carried the jeans in a size 29.

“I don’t,” said the sallow, class-prejudiced, pathetic little fuck.

“That,” said I, Shakespearean, triumphant, “is a problem,” and I left, mouth puckered inward, teeth clenched tighter than a streetfighter’s fist.

Blatant classism is bad enough, but I was more disturbed by how my peers, or those whom I would regard as such, treated me when I wore a tie. In the subway, my fellow countercultural twentysomethings, with their piercings, thrift-store clothing and chunky headphones blasting almost loud enough to drown-out their student loan anxieties, no longer looked at me with an acknowledgement of <DROOG> in their eyes. No matter what your actual job entails (I would consider my line pro-social), no matter how much David Graber or Michel Foucault you’ve read, and no matter that you’ve listened to every song on Sandinista! at least twice, a necktie immediately makes you The Man.

The absolute worst, however, was the socially-engineered, resentful obsequiousness of the very poor; the exaggerated nicities that we assume we should bestow on those of high rank. Having that directed at me was the straw that broke this camel's heart.

Thus lay a mess of neckties on my dresser table, gathering the same dust that all things, splendid and decrepit, generally do.

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