January 13, 2006

Hand me back clothing

By Al Carlos Hernandez

Irrespective of race, gender, economic class or SAT score, most of us have been victimized by the familial tradition of wearing clothes your older siblings have outgrown or have grown tired of, these are called “Hand me Downs”.

Like many of you, growing up financially challenged, I was a victim of this tradition from the very beginning of my lackluster academic career. My older brother, was the Captain of the Football team while President of the Student Body. He gave me one of his famous black sweaters. I made the mistake of wearing it once and the smart kids asked me really hard questions so I cut the sleeves off.

Of late, now that all the Christmas present-wear is being busted out, I have been experiencing a variation of the hand me down, which I call the “Hand me backs”.

Let me explain.

A hand me back is when you buy something for one of your kids. It can be a sweatshirt, Football/Basketball Jersey and or high ticket athletic shoes. Don’t even try the pants because I will tell you right now that they will be way too baggy, and an older guy in baggy pants is usually a fat drunk.

Virtually overnight the ungrateful child somehow outgrows the one-hundred dollar item, and inexplicably the item of clothing or the sports team it represents slips out of vogue. The brand new garment is taken out of rotation, stuffed into a drawer or lumped into a ball of duds, seldom hung nicely on a hangar. Nobody wear Chicago Bulls stuff anymore, except divorced Dads.

Some adolescents, in bowing to peer pressure have chosen never to wear the item again. I call this “Shirt-a-non-grata”. This is when you repossess and or ask for the item back so you can wear it. Ergo “Hand me Back”, (HMB) because I bought it for you in the first place and it’s still new and way too nice to send it to the Segunda. (The Second hand store). So I’ll wear it only because it’s warm, fits, and I still think I’m cool myself.

I am proud to say that all of my sons are taller than my 5-9 stature and well over my 175 pound girth; this is because they eat up all of our food like locusts, and never had to come out of pocket at the supermarket.

An interesting thing has happened since we instated the right of first refusal, on “Hand Backable” attire. My wife notices that when draped in HMB gear, that I am dressed exactly like a 19 year old urban kid would be exactly one year ago. This makes me look like an old dude trying to be young, when in fact I’m a cheap Dad trying to be resourceful.

I own Oakland Raider Jersey’s from one side of the family and 49ner Jerseys from the other. One kid gives me back all red colored things another, gives me blue. Each article comes with instructions as to what to wear the Jersey with and geographically where not to floss various color combinations.

Back in the day, hand me downs were simple unless you were a guy with older sisters, or a young girl with all older brothers. This could result in two things, gender identification issues, or, all new stuff all the time.

Some people have a problem wearing someone else’s clothing, these people are called Republicans.

What is weird is wearing someone else’s high miler shoes. I had mentioned before that a Gay friend of mines credo is, “Unless the shoes hurt, they can’t be considered cute”. Fortunately for me having cute shoes isn’t important to my self image. In fact if the shoes are the same size, they don’t even have to match, which ironically became cool for a minute.

I used to try to wear my brother’s shoes after he grew out of them, but he always had that 45 degree slant to them making me bow legged. It usually felt like I was walking on a taco and for some strange reason always wanted to go to the library or a debate team meeting.

One of my sons recently gave me an expensive pair of shoes which matched a particular outfit. Although the shoes were in theroy the right size, they were puffy, somehow high, round and tamale-like. This kid has since been forced on to a low carb diet.

While with the boys a few weeks ago, in one of those really hip athletic wear shops. One of the shop keepers asked me: “Excuse me Sir, where did you get that Jersey? Its sick.”

I bought it in New York all on my own, and my boys were proud, no one called dibs on hand ups, because everyone knows as soon as Papa wears something it’s played out.

Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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