Down East 2013 ©
I know many of you consider me to be the hyper-critical type, always censuring others as if I were somehow faultless. But I have to confess that I’m a long way from perfection, and nothing illustrates my deficiencies more clearly than my appearance. To put it as politely as possible:
I’m a disgusting slob.
I wear raggedy jeans and T-shirts that still have stains on them from meals I ate in barbeque joints that closed more than a decade ago. Sometimes when I’m hungry, I suck on the remnants (hey, they had really great ribs at those places). I don’t tuck in my shirt (except occasionally at funerals and weddings – if my wife nags me enough or if I’m the one getting buried or married). When I take off my sneakers in airport security lines, guys in hazmat suits suddenly appear with decontamination gear. I’ve got underwear that’s so threadbare, you can count the number of molecules left intact. Last season, 8 percent of the state’s potato crop grew in my socks.
And that’s my formal wardrobe. On casual Fridays, I’m often mistaken for an unattended Dumpster.
So, if there’s one area where I wouldn’t dream of passing judgment on anyone else, it’s in matters of dress. If you want to wear baggy checked pants with polka-dot v-necked sweaters, be my guest. Low-slung jeans that expose high-ridin’ boxers? Not an issue for me. Turquoise leisure suits over shirts with collars so large they could serve as wind-turbine blades are acceptable under my personal dress code.
Heck, I can even tolerate magazine publishers who wear bow ties.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as open-minded as I am. One need only try wandering into a restaurant, gift shop, or convenience store barefoot and with a plastic garbage bag covering one’s private parts to discover that the world is full of folks eager to render negative reviews of other people’s perceived sartorial shortcomings.
Until recently, however, there was one event at which one could find refuge from the fashion police while also watching the political equivalent of steel-cage death matches. You could kick off your shoes (assuming you were wearing any), lean back (although no further than modesty and a somewhat slippery plastic- bag loin cloth allow) and enjoy the wacky adventures of the Auburn City Council.
Dick Gleason, the city’s new mayor-elect, wants to change all that.
It’s not that Gleason, who won the post in the November election, is planning to do anything about the personal feuds, ethical lapses, and pigheaded policies that have made Auburn councilors so entertaining in recent years. Gleason just wants them to dress better. 
“I think there have been times when they’ve come directly from the barn to the City Council meeting,” he told the Lewiston Sun Journal. “I think they should take a shower and at least put on a shirt.”
I’ve heard of bare-fisted politics, but this is the first time I’ve encountered the bare-chested variety.
Gleason said he’s seen councilors show up for meetings “in jeans and shorts.” I can see his point. Most people either wear one or the other.
“I think it’s up to us as city leaders to set an example,” he said, “especially for children who watch us.”
Difficult to believe any responsible parent would allow that.
Gleason insisted he wasn’t trying to impose a tie-and-jacket-type dress code, which is good, because that would look ridiculous without also requiring a shirt.
And what about pants? While it’s true that councilors conduct their meetings seated at desks, thereby making trousers less crucial to decorum than if they were called upon to stand at a lectern like members of Congress, I find it unlikely that Gleason would go to all the trouble of raising this important issue without addressing the matter of covering the lower extremities.
But a mandatory pantification policy could lead to all sorts of complications.
For instance, there’s the matter of women councilors. Of which there aren’t any at the moment (although that could change if the city gets around to allowing females to attend school and vote). But if there ever were women on the council, would they be required to wear pants, too? Or would they have to wear dresses down to their ankles? And would the male members also be allowed to wear skirts?
To be fair, though, Gleason does have a point about how councilors deck themselves out for meetings. A visit to the city of Auburn’s official Web site  (it hasn’t yet been updated to reflect the most recent election) reveals a couple of current councilors, who might be characterized – if I were in any position to cast aspersions on other people’s wardrobes – as distinctly lacking in spiffiness.
Councilors Dan Herrick and Mike Farrell (didn’t he used to be on “M*A*S*H”?) were two of the harshest critics of Gleason’s proposed clothing upgrade, and both of them appear to fill their closets from many of the same sources I use (“Stop the car! There’s a glove by the side of the road that almost matches one I have at home”).
“If I come into the meeting with my clothes all torn up and my shoes on the wrong feet, am I going to get written up?” asked Farrell in the Sun Journal story. (He obviously hasn’t lost any of the wit he displayed in his TV days.)
Herrick advanced the debate by threatening to show up at City Hall “in bib overalls and straw hat” and without taking a shower. Could have done without being told that last part.
No matter how this contentious issue is finally resolved, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know the aggrieved councilors are handling their disagreement with the mayor-elect in a mature and thoughtful manner that bodes well for future cooperation and community harmony.
Earlier this week, they voted to cut all funding for refreshments at Gleason’s Dec. 7 inauguration.
At least that takes care of the problem of dripping cocktail sauce on your best necktie.
In spite of the lack of fruit punch and cheese puffs, I’d still like to attend that event, just to see how it all works out. But don’t count on my showing up.
I haven’t got a thing to wear.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org . Don’t be shirty.