Tuxedo Envy

Consider for a moment – Cary Grant; suave and debonair, the epitome of panache. Movie studios loved to showcase him in a tuxedo whenever possible. A case in point is Bringing Up Baby where an early scene shows him descending a broad staircase, pure Art Deco, characteristically checking his shirt cuffs, making certain the right amount of the cuff extended beyond the sleeves of his coat. It is a gesture not often seen these days as more men eschew French cuffs. Hold that image.

Now consider the saying “as busy as a one-armed paperhanger.” I have not heard the saying much of late and suspect that it has gone out of vogue. Having hung wallpaper in my time, it is a task I would consider impossible since my two-handed efforts were less than spectacular. The last time there was papering to be done, we hand it done professionally by an individual with two arms.

A recent accident, we won’t go into the details here, resulted in my breaking my left wrist. Painful and, I subsequently discovered, quite inconvenient. Interestingly, the second question I am asked, the first being how I did it, is “are you left handed?” It so happens that I tend toward ambidexterity although, given the activity, I do favor one hand over the other. I prefer to write with my right hand and throw a ball with my left; the latter activity awkward since I prefer to catch the ball with my left hand as well. A real failing had I aspired to seriously playing baseball. In sports involving a racket, badminton or tennis for example, it does not matter and I never learned to hit the birdie or the ball backhanded and merely switched the racket from one hand to the other as necessary. This shortcoming earned me a D in a second quarter Phys Ed course my freshman year in college. At any rate, back to the right-left-handed question, I usually respond that I am right handed, it being useless trying to explain ambidexterity to the ambidextrously impaired. The comeback to my response to the second question usually is something like “well, It’s OK then.”

It is at this point that I am tempted to tap them lightly up aside the head to demonstrate the weight of the cast on my left arm. Their well-intentioned rejoinder fails to recognize that almost everything we do necessitates two hands. Buttoning a shirt is difficult and slow, as is tying one’s shoes, the latter performed by my good wife until I got a shorter cast that allowed me more mobility, hence the one-armed paperhanger imagery. If we eat out my selections are limited to things not requiring a knife and fork. I refuse to sit quietly by in a restaurant while my wife cuts my steak up for me.

At a concert recently I struck up a conversation with a gentleman whose left arm also was clad in a cast. As we commiserated with each other about the bother imposed by our casts, he remarked that “taking a leak sucks.” It does, you know. I opined that a length of string, judiciously tied, might simplify the procedure (I won’t go into the details, use your imagination). We both decided that while the idea had merit, the string ends hanging out of our fly might garner undue attention. In short, the idea requires further thought.

One does learn to adapt, however, and shirt buttoning and shoe tying reach a certain point of familiarity. You also begin to reach out to other endeavors; typing with both hands (you don’t think I picked this out with one hand do you?), simple housekeeping chores not requiring a critical eye and, the piece de resistance, discovering I can run the snow blower one handed. That, I think, will be my ultimate achievement before this cast comes off.

But what about Cary Grant you ask. I have been envious of him for as long as I can remember and, because of him, have always wanted to own a tuxedo. It is a foolish desire and one I will never fulfill since, after all, just where would I wear it and not look out of place. Even if I did own one, it could never be with the suave demeanor he embodies. I realized long ago that women will never turn their heads, tuxedo or no, when I enter the room unless, of course, my entrance were accompanied by some faux pas, something I am remarkably good at, witness the cast on my arm. I have known other Cary Grants in my life, those who, when introduced to a charming young lady, always have an appropriately engaging and well-spoken greeting. You know the type. Even knowing how it is done, I can never pull it off and usually end up sounding like Goofy “well, hyuk hyuk, garsh, hyuk hyyuk, pleased to meet’cha.”

That said, I also have come to realize that I am in good company, that the Cary Grants are few. While he wouldn’t take a swan dive off the back steps at his daughter’s house (the secret is out, I really can’t walk and chew gum at the same time), such accidents are not unfamiliar to others. The inconvenience the accident engenders is temporary and, I hope, soon forgotten. And without this cast, who knows, maybe I would look good in a tuxedo.