Fit to Be Tied

I had a picnic wearing my picnic tie to the office picnic. It's blue with big red slices of watermelon surrounded by adorable black ants. You may have seen one like it sold to aid a worldwide children's charity. The artist's label says "Lauren, Age 6: The Picnic Tie."

"Do you wear it only at picnics?" asked an executive picnicker in what seemed an unexpectedly probing question. He and another old friend were hashing over my neckwear and grilling me next to the barbecue.

"Uh, well, I have a Fourth of July tie - you know, stars and stripes - and I wear it only on the Fourth," I temporized through my corn bread.

"I thought so," said the exec. I wasn't sure if he thought that, naturally, anyone with a picnic tie would also have a Fourth of July tie - or that I had enough class not to wear a Fourth of July tie on, say, Halloween.

"I did once wear my picnic tie to a restaurant," I confessed, "and the cashier said: 'I love your watermelons. I have a tie with Bing cherries on it.' "

What's in a tie?

I HAVE a green tie with little ornaments that I reserve for Christmastime.

I have one with running athletes on it that I always forget to wear for the Boston Marathon.

I have one with tiny hearts and one with bigger hearts that I wear with impunity on Valentine's Day or not.

I don't know the meaning of the nautical flags on a tie that I wear without going near the water. But I'm always ready to explain, "I think this one says 'Hug me.' "

Most of my ties are undated stripes, dots, figures, flowers. I accumulated scads during decades of wearing a tie to the office every day. I look at them with nostalgia now that ties at many workplaces have become optional and, on designated casual days, virtually forbidden.

Ties, like many other things, were simpler in the Marines 50 years ago. They weren't even called ties. "Field scarves," as I recall. They were all one color, the same khaki as the shirts they went with. So you really needed only one. And you never had to decide for yourself when to wear it.

Still, on the whole, tie-wise, I'd rather risk the occasional probing question.

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