Clothes make the man

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February 13, 2007

9:10 AM

A love of the College didn’t prompt me to attend President Gene Nichol’s lobbying trip, Road to Richmond. Don’t get me wrong, I love the College, but I got up at 5 a.m. for selfish reasons: I like wearing a suit.

p. There is a certain nobility endowed on business majors, government majors and frat brothers — ties are a must. Those lucky bastards have an excuse to dress fancy all of the time. “You see, I’m meeting U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annon today, so I thought it would be a good idea to look presentable,” a government major once explained to me when I asked him about his dapper duds.

p. With these vêtements comes respectability and the promise of future wealth. If clothes make a man, then my closet full of t-shirts, jeans and thrift store sweaters bespeak a humdrum adulthood followed by an equally salubrious old age and death.
As I stepped onto the bus that morning, wearing a suit that fit my father back when people still read the newspaper, I suddenly felt seven degrees more serious. Like a chameleon, I had taken on the skin of my environment.

p. Tightening my face and pursing my lips, I sat down in silence and prayed that I would manage to fit in with all of these serious people. I reclined, afraid that my utter lack of knowledge regarding the inner workings of Virginia’s legislature would betray me.

p. “I want to thank all of you for coming,” Nichol began several hours later as breakfast was served. “Gosh, Gene Nichol is such a powerful speaker,” someone eating with me said. “He sure is,” I responded between heaping mouthfuls of egg casserole.

p. I took a break from my plate to give Nichol a decent glance and was astonished by what I saw. “Oh my god, Gene Nichol lost so much weight,” I said to the people around me. I noticed folds in his suit that had developed in absence of his once generous girth. The chest, the sleeves, everything about his suit screamed of deprivation.

p. To everyone else, Nichol was still the same ebullient, progressively minded president he had been before. To me, he was a changed man. His immense size, at one time more intimidating than a polar bear, was now less daunting than a house cat. Nichol continued speaking, but I was not listening. His “Hark upon the Gale,” though heartfelt, lacked a certain schmaltz.

p. While everyone else at the College argues about Nichol’s removal of the Wren cross, I’ll be taking up my own issue. Nichol better gain some weight. If that means adding another meal, then so be it. If Nichol has to help himself to three servings of cake a day, fine by me. Who knows, perhaps he’ll have to cut down on exercise a bit. Instead of walking across the Wren courtyard to his office in Brafferton, I suggest he invest in a golf cart. And would it hurt anyone if he kept a few candy bars in the pockets of his suit at all times?

p. I cannot stand the thought of a dimished Nichol. He deserves a size equal to his eloquence. As much as I wish we could all get by on personality alone, that doesn’t cut it. While the craziness of my personality quickly betrayed my attire’s respectability that day, it’s not my suit’s fault. I’d chosen an appearance that didn’t match the person inside me. A rodeo clown outfit probably would have been a more appropriate fit.

p. But Nichol is different. He is the certifiable real thing. A larger-than-life figure who stands up for ideals and says things too intelligent for me to comprehend. How can his size be anything but grand?

p. Nichol finished speaking and everyone began to clap. “What a brilliant man,” someone said amidst the roar of the applause. As he stepped down from the podium, I watched him walk towards the table where plates of eggs, danishes, and bagels waited to be eaten. “You can do it, Gene Nichol,” I whispered to myself. Hoping, praying, that everything would work out.

__James Damon, a sophomore at the College, is a Staff Columnist. His columns appear every Tuesday.__

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