THE other afternoon my ever-present first wife persuaded me to take her "out" for supper. After she put the pistol back on the gun rack I said, "You can lay out my necktie." I do have one, and I don't go out for supper without it. She said, "That's old stuff nowadays. Nobody suits up for a restaurant anymore. Pull on your red sweater and you'll be as well dressed as anybody there."
"I am not anybody," I immediately responded. "I believe in gentility, and I will not approach crepuscular comestibles except in respectable sartorial accoutrements. When I go out to eat, I dress accordingly. If rowdyism is today's style, odi profanum volgus et arceo." I was quoting, of course, but them there is my sentiments.
Historians displease me. They deal with unimportant things and make us inattentive.
For instance, how much did William Howard Taft weigh? He was a huge man, and that fact is important if we are going to profit by his examples. I just looked, and the book says nothing about his weight, although it tries to get us interested with dollar diplomacy and his expertise with the Philippines.
When some religious perplexity surfaced in the islands, President Theodore Roosevelt sent Mr. Taft to represent him at a Vatican conference where the matter was to be resolved with the Pope. In deference to Mr. Taft, the Pope ordered that the dinner be conducted in "full dress," but somehow this was not passed along to Mr. Taft, who arrived in a business suit. The guards wouldn't let him in.
There wasn't time to arrange for tails, so Mr. Taft went to the nearest restaurant and exchanged clothes with the head waiter. The waiter was a slight man and Mr. Taft was not. The difference was many stones.
But when Mr. Taft returned to the conference, the guards saw that his attire was correct and he was admitted. The sleeves were short, the pants legs were shorter, and the coat was many time zones too soon at the equator. There was a splash of minestrone at one knee. But the amenities were secure, and Mr. Taft and the Pope got along fine.
It goes to show. I think. If the historians would tell us things like that it would make many a famous person look like a human being and we might relate to dull facts with a new interest. So I hope to be remembered as the odd one who put on a necktie for supper out.
I don't and won't go to the junk-food joints, so I mean a comfortable, leisurely, genteel place where social graces (otherwise) prevail and generosity is promoted. I like to have my waitress hug me when I leave. We don't have such a place in our small village, so we ride over to nearby Camden and hobnob with the backwash of the seasonal influence.
Camden is one of our Maine resorts where the natives fight in town meeting over the best way to exploit the summercaters and still be able to pass through the throng and get to the post office. In "off-season" we can enjoy a restaurant there without hearing somebody at the next table say that gasoline is cheaper in New Jersey.
As we toyed with our introductory salads, I gave the place the once-over, and of the 78 other diners, 34 seemed to be males. One of that 34 was wearing a jacket, but he didn't sport a necktie. I certainly did not feel out of place, and have no intentions of adopting rowdyism for my cook's night out. I ate as if I were in style. At home, I put my necktie back in the drawer to await the next time.
We used to have a brick mason in our town, back when I was a lad, who took his noon hour in dignified grace, honoring his luncheon to the utmost. The other workmen on a job would sit on sawhorses and gobble from lunchpails, hurrying so they'd have time for a game of hearts before one o'clock. But Mr. Whitley withdrew apart, and spent a few minutes arranging some sort of table. He had a goodly hamper, and he would fetch forth a tablecloth and silverware. There was always a bud vase with a posy. His food w as more than a sandwich lunch, and he would make the various things ready to eat. Then he took his time. He made ingestion a true ceremony. It should be.