I figure a heat wave like the one we are having in Hudson is a good time to tell you why I refused to wear shorts in the summer when I was in my early teens.
I have told you in the past that my legs are the color of young polar bears. They were shockingly white when I was young. For gym in elementary school, we wore yellow John L. Edwards Elementary School uniform shorts and tops. This was not a good color combination for me -- I looked like a fried egg.
I decided not to endure this embarrassing exposure when I didn’t have to. When summer vacation came around when I was 10 or 11, I made a decision that shorts weren’t cool in a fashion sense. Hey, active guys like me, just can't wear them.
I made up what I thought were completely rational reasons for my decision. After all, what if you had to slide in a game of “Run the Bases?” You’d leave a foot of skin on the ground. Or what if you were playing touch football in the street, can you imagine the road rash you’d suffer if you had to slide for a catch?
Looking back, I admire my creativity in covering up my vanity. I was so persuasive, in fact, that my cousin Mike also adopted a no-shorts policy.
My long pants, therefore, showed up in the most unusual places. I played the youth tennis tournament in Hudson in long pants. I played in the Columbia County tennis tournament for adults in long pants (that asphalt was dangerously rough!). Or in 90-degree-plus weather at picnics, parties, and at Oakdale playground. Sure your pants would get caught in your bicycle chain occasionally, but the grease stains on them made them -- and you -- look even cooler.
My secret was, of course, that I was very uncomfortable because of my fashion manifesto. Combine murderously hot weather with a new pair of stiff jeans, and you have a serious chafing problem. But I would not admit this to anyone, let alone my brother, Ken, or my sisters, or my mother, who would roll her eyes at my no shorts declaration.
I even wore long pants to “field day” in the eighth grade, where I ran the 600-yard race on a very hot day. The entire eighth grade would be watching and there was no way I was going to be a pale horse galloping around the track.
There were exceptions. Like when we went to a party at Pete Leggieri’s backyard pool and I had to wear a bathing suit. My entrances and exits of the pool were lightning quick, particularly if there were girls my age around.
My summertime coverup only made things worse when I went back to school in the fall and had to reveal my still pale limbs in co-ed gym sessions for square dancing or archery. I would hide behind the guys so the girls couldn’t see me.
I guess I finally gave in around the time I went to high school and my legs got a little tan from football and baseball practice. Fashion changes all the time and, again, I was being practical about it. Hey, what if I fell out of a boat and I have to swim to safety? Long pants would only drag me down.