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6:27 a.m. - 2001-08-25

THE FLAG SUIT

In 1976, I was 14 years old.

I'm sure quite a lot of you don't remember the year 1976, but it was a big year because of the Bicentennial.

Remember Y2K? Take away all the mass hysteria and corned beef hording and you had the Bicentennial. July 4th, 1976 was a date that would live in infamy because it was the 200th birthday of our country. I've already documented that day's happenings in my July 4th entry of this year, but I'm bringing it up because the one emblem that you saw EVERYWHERE that year, was the American flag.

For some reason that escapes me at the moment, my parents decided that I was old enough for a suit at 14. I guess I had outlived the whole SIDS thing and they figured they could make a $60 investment and get their money's worth.

So Mom took me to a department store called Bergner's and made me get fitted for a suit.

She wanted something in pin stripe, as I wasn't yet old enough to pick out my own clothes. I didn't really care what I wore.

...Until I saw IT.

The most beautiful suit in the world.

It was a denim suit. That's right...blue denim pants and a blue denim jacket.

...With a huge flag embroidered on the back.

I made up my mind. I wanted the Flag Suit.

Mom quickly extinguished my dreams of being the coolest kid in the world and nixed the Flag Suit deal. She said it was gaudy and ugly.

So I did what I did best at 14. I pouted.

I guess technically, I was probably best at masturbating, with my record being seven successful masturbation sessions in one day ... but I had enough common sense to not whip it out and yank it in the middle of Bergner's.

So I pouted instead.

I was forced into a few more suits, which I wore with the saddest of looks, the entire time staring at the Flag Suit.

After trying on several suits, Mom wasn't happy with any of them. So we left the store.

A week or so later, we went back to the store.

The Flag Suit was still there.

I tried on more suits and finally BEGGED mom to let me try on the Flag Suit.

During a momentary lapse of reason, Mom agreed to let me try on the Flag Suit.

With giddy anticipation, I waddled to the dressing room.

Keep in mind...I was 14 and weighed 215 lbs. I was a chunky little monkey. That year, I played football for the school team and my weight dropped to a more pleasant 160 lbs.

Anyway, I get into the Flag Suit and it SOOOOOO doesn't fit me. I could barely get the buttons buttonned on the jacket, the pants were so tight they wouldn't button and the length of the pants went to the top of my socks, making these the highest of highwater pants.

...I loved this suit.

I strutted back out into the department store in all my husky glory. Mom took one look at me and barely suppressed her laughter.

"It doesn't fit you," she said with a relieved sigh. "Now go take it off."

I was crushed.

It was the only Flag Suit in the store, which probably should have been a warning sign, but I was about as fashion conscious as your average senior citizen so I didn't know any better.

I remember crying softly in the dressing room as I took the suit off and hung it back up on its hangers. I saw that Flag Suit as my only ticket into the cool world of popularity. When you're a teenager, the strongest desire you have is to be popular. And I was CONVINCED that I would never be popular without that Flag Suit.

Tried on a few more suits, but my heart just wasn't in it.

Finally, Mom uttered the words that I had wanted to hear.

"If I buy that suit for you, would you really wear it?"

Cripes, Mom! I'd wear it to bed! I'd wear it to play in! I'd wear it until it was down to a few threads on my back! I swear to GOD I will wear it.

Mom informed me that I would have to lose some weight in order to squeeze into it. I made a solemn pledge right there in the husky department of Bergner's that I would indeed lose weight because that Flag Suit meant EVERYTHING to me.

Reluctantly, Mom told me to get the suit off the rack.

I remember distinctly that it was $42. A high price to pay for a suit in 1976. But worth every single penny.

We drove home and I just stared at that suit like it was a naked Cheryl Murphy, who happened to be a pretty hot girl in my class at the time.

We got home and true to my pledge, I put the Flag Suit on, fully intending to never take it off again.

Mom made me take it off. Apparently, it was burning her corneas.

For the rest of the summer, I cut back on what I ate. I was determined to look sleek and sexy in that Flag Suit. By the end of the summer, I had successfully lost eight pounds, taking me down to a slim 207 lbs.

We moved to Athens, Greece that summer. School started in September and I realized that I had a whole new chance to impress a whole new school full of students and to rise to the occasion of being the most popular kid in school.

...And I was going to rely on the Flag Suit to help me reach that status.

The first day of school, there was no question as to what I would be wearing.

I stared at the Flag Suit...hypnotized by its denimy goodness.

I slowly put it on. The pants still wouldn't button around my gut, so I cinched a belt around my waist as tight as possible to keep the pants up. I laid the wide collar of my shirt over the collar of the suit in typical disco fashion.

And for the final touch...my brand new 4" platform shoes.

I WAS Joe Cool. No questions asked. Sure...the pants were highwaters and my socks were on display for all to see. IT didn't matter. It was the flag on the back.

THE FLAG, MAN.

In the year of American pride, that flag was EVERYTHING.

Mom took me and my sister to the school that day and enrolled us.

I went to my first class and people stared. Nobody said anything...they just sat and admired my incredible sense of cool fashion.

It really wasn't until lunch that day that I realized just how cool I was.

...Try ...ZERO COOL.

Walking into the cafeteria, people were pointing and laughing at my Flag Suit. My confident Flag Boy Strut quickly became the Walk of Ridicule. I asked to sit down at a table full of people and they told me the seat was taken. So I ended up sitting down with a table full of Greek kids who accepted me for what I was...an idiot with absolutely NO fashion sense.

I went home that day, told Mom everything went fine at school, went to my room, undressed, hung that suit up and put it at the very back of my closet.

I never wore the Flag Suit again.

On the upside...I slowly became popular at school, and by the time we moved from Greece, I had dated some of the most beautiful girls in school and had lots of friends. Over 100 people showed up at my going-away party when we moved back to the states.

Including...yes...a young Greg Kinnear who went to our school at the time.

Mom rode my ass for a while over that Flag Suit because that's my Mom. She was pissed because she KNEW the suit was ugly, she KNEW I would be made fun of if she bought it for me and she KNEW if I was made fun of, I would never wear it again and she was out $42.

Mom was actually smarter than I ever gave her credit for being.

So kids...listen to your Mom. She's not as dumb as you think she is.

And one day...maybe one of those things she tells you will save you a ton of embarrassment in the long run.

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