The Wrinkle King

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There is something special about someone well-turned-out, their suit or dress smooth and crisp. It speaks to a different era or to attention to detail, and the time (or money) to make certain each seam is sharp and smooth.

I, unfortunately, am the wrinkle king.

I have an iron. I even know how to use it. Now and again, when the occasion calls for it, funerals perhaps, or weddings, I even apply it. I was taught as a young man how to iron my clothes and pop a crease with the best of them. It’s like riding a bike, I have learned, you never forget, even if years go by between episodes of peak neatness.

Mostly though, I don’t.

I have been saved by wrinkle-free fabrics in my dress shirts and slacks. They aren’t really wrinkle-free of course, but they are close enough that I am socially acceptable most of the time. Imperfect, but no so much the neighbors talk. Or, if they do talk, they don’t do it to me. That’s good enough.

But the rest of my clothes. The stuff I wear day to day, even when I work, sitting at my desk writing or doing video conferences with clients? I look like I am wearing a Google map written in wrinkles.

My ex-wife is the one who dubbed me the wrinkle king. It was not a term of endearment. I had a long relationship after my marriage ended, and she continued the wrinkle king moniker. For her, it was a term of endearment, or at least seemed to be. Today, I am married to a woman who has a similar philosophy of ironing I do.

We were meant to be together.

It’s not a philosophic statement or a fashion statement. It’s more a laziness statement. I admit it. I don’t much care, and mostly, I don’t run around in circles of people who care.

Or if they do care, they are quiet about it. That could be. I live in Vermont. People are polite here. It’s one of the things I like about Vermont.

Back in the late 1990s, I became a partner in a systems integration company. We designed and built TV studios and control rooms just as high definition was becoming a thing. As they were pitching the idea of me coming on as a partner, one of the other two owners told me this was more than about business. “As long as I have been in the business, people who did what we do wore coats and ties. I hate coats and ties and part of my goal is to never have to wear a tie again.”  An admirable business goal in my book. And he never did.

I’ve just taken that a little further.

I just turned 64. I have wrinkles. Crinkly rivulets around my eyes. Two frowny lines on my forehead above my nose. When I smile, my cheeks and eyes erupt in wrinkles. I don’t mind at all. I earned them. I survived a lot to get those wrinkles. I am my age, and more and have no need to pretend I am not as old as I am.

I am, after all, the wrinkle king.

I have come to a place where I am willing to let other wrinkles show too. I don’t mind sharing some of my struggles and flaws.

Mostly of course, we don’t like to do that. We have an image to preserve. We all do. It’s the way we were taught and our society tells us that we all need to be smooth, cool and together. You never see a depressed, neurotic, fearful, struggling person selling Rolexes.

I lived that veneer way of thinking for a long time. And failed miserably at it.  Miserably. I wasn’t up to the task. Too much work. Not enough me. Or I was not enough. Or both. All I know is that my wrinkles ran deep into my soul and my psyche and trying to smooth them over took more than the latest skin creme. I came undone. A public display of wrinkles.

And guess what? No one seemed to care. The people who loved me still loved me. The people who didn’t, even armed with new reasons to dislike me, still disliked me. Nothing changed except I wasn’t having to work so hard at smoothing my wrinkles.

Duh. I should have figured that out much younger than I did.

I like being the wrinkle king. It’s easier. It’s more natural, and a decade or so into it. I have found my wrinkly tribe and my wrinkle queen and it’s a wonderful life. Wrinkles, I have discovered, are far more interesting.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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