Jay Nordlinger’s Impromptus & Letters — On Dressing Up and Dressing Down

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Britain’s Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi attend the wedding ceremony of Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, and Olympia von und zu Arco-Zinneberg at the Saint-Louis des Invalides Cathedral in Paris, October 19, 2019. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters)

My Impromptus today begins with an old idea, an old bone of contention: race as destiny, ethnicity as destiny, religion as destiny — you know the drill. Last week, Joe Biden cracked, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” (He quickly apologized for this.) Last year, President Trump said, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Ay caramba, as our friend Bart Simpson would say.

In my column, I move on to North Korea, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, anti-lockdown protests . . . A little excerpt: “Recently, I have had a debate with some colleagues: What is good, rambunctious, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ protest and what crosses the line into mobbish goonery?”

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I note two instances in which people have hanged a governor in effigy: one in Kentucky, one in Michigan. Here is Tim Alberta — formerly of NR, now with Politicoreporting from Michigan (his home state, and mine): “One man hoists a Betsy Ross-era flag from his fishing pole, with a naked brunette doll — ‘Governor Half-Whit!’ he cries, echoing a presidential putdown — dangling from a noose.”

My comment: “The Spirit of ’76 is one thing, the Spirit of ’89 another. I feel we need to teach our children the difference (even if it’s too late for others).”

I then meander through a variety of political issues — all of them touchy — and finish up with music and sports.

In a column last week, I talked about clothes. Very unusual for me, I realize — what do I know about the subject? — but I was talking about getting dressed up and the mental effect this has on some people. I even quoted a song: “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out. Strut down the street and have your picture took.”

I would like to publish two letters, which I think you will enjoy, as I did. A reader writes,

Jay,

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were supposed to see Swan Lake at the Michigan Opera Theatre. The show was canceled, but I put on my tux the afternoon we were supposed to go and took my wife to the living room to watch a taped version on the TV. Obviously this was a faux pas as it was before 6 p.m., but there’s a pandemic of sorts going on.

Fabulous. And our second letter:

Hi, Jay,

I could tell many stories about dressing up, but I’ll share only one. I used to install fences during the summer (I taught) — fences as in what makes good neighbors. A very physically taxing job whose full-time workers were grizzled, hard-scrabble-type guys. They talked mostly in grunt, and they never called you by your name. If they even cracked a smile at something you said, your day was made.

So what did this crew — which I and others grew very fond of — say if we wore clean-looking clothes or something new? “Where are you going? Dancing?”

Tough guys, but, to paraphrase a commercial, installing fences required tough men. Probably of all the jobs I had, I was most proud of what I accomplished in the hard-pan, rocky soil of Rhode Island.

Beautiful. Have a good day, y’all.

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