By Stan Stewart.
My wife threatened me. Unless I changed, pain was on the way.
This showdown was brought about by the Whitianga Aero Club’s 75th Jubilee Seafood Dinner – an auspicious occasion. We were invited. “You’ll have to wear a suit and tie and black shiny shoes. That’s what is the order of the day,” she said. The prospect shook me to the core. My suits and leather shoes are packed away, goodness knows where in Auckland. Besides, I have become used to not wearing these items and I was hoping I would never wear them again. “We will have to search the op shops,” she said. “I am not buying new ones, knowing how much you hate wearing them.”
I went into panic. My only hope was that this dress code was a figment of her fashion and obligation conscious imagination. In desperation, I rang Bill Beard, the organiser of the Anniversary Dinner. He said, “Shorts and sandals will be fine”. Phew! One battle won. Nonetheless I had to wear a fancy shirt purchased years ago. To my horror it gaped. However, once again the Aero Club came to the rescue. The Aero Club’s guest name tags were as big as a breadboard and were worn around our necks (large lanyard). They completely covered manly chests and any peeping flesh. These flying boys think of everything!
The incident set me thinking about black shiny shoes. I have always felt you should not scrimp on shoes. I buy my shiny black shoes from the Warehouse. They usually have them for around $25. Advice: Don’t skimp. Go after quality. I have found that if you search you will find more upmarket black shiny shoes - a bit more expensive but worth it. Here’s my advice – “Pay the extra $5.00 and walk in style”.
I have come to the conclusion that Whitianga has its own dress code for men. It is simple but serviceable. Jandals and shorts, a casual shirt and a baseball cap (optional) – sometimes turned around and could be closed-in casual shoes for those ‘dress up’ events. In Whitianga, this dress code is suitable for all occasions, (add a fishing jacket or puffer jacket for the cold days). In the city, a man’s dress gives a clue as to his profession. Builders, retailers, doctors, lawyers, and accountants all have their own dress code. In Whiti, the way men dress tells you nothing about their previous life. Watching the cars, they drive will probably give more clues.
I am frequently in our supermarkets stocking our magazine supplies. I take note of older men, like myself, with shopping trolleys. I notice their facial expression. They look ‘staunch’! Their facial expression seems to say – “Don’t think I am enjoying this. I have to do this”. The same men in the pub or at the club look completely different. Often, in the supermarkets they are pushing a trolley for a woman who seems to be in charge. These women are not in good time girl mode. They are focused, purposeful and the man grimly does her bidding.
I think many of us men, come to Whiti to start a new stage of life. We don’t want a continuum of what we were doing elsewhere. Whitianga (the Coromandel) is a place to start again or at least take a completely different tack. We want to leave behind our previous pattern of life and its demands and protocols. Living this way is about more than beach and fishing. It’s as if these men have a second chance to live differently, even think differently. I may be wrong, but I feel this in many people I meet, and I can relate to it. I wonder if it is the same for women.
How lucky are we. Much of the world seems like it is going to hell in a hand basket. Poverty controls the life of more than half on the planet. Others are captured by fixed ideas, hatred and prejudice. In little New Zealand, at the bottom of the globe, it all seems so far way. On the beautiful Coromandel, it seems even farther away. It seems we are spectators of a world gone mad. The oceans insulate us from all that. Really!
To have the possibility to think about changing our lifestyle is rare. Most people alive now will never have that opportunity. Their life is proscribed. It is a given. What are we to do?
How come I am thinking like this? The Aero Club Anniversary brought home to me what freedom we have here. People are shrugging off old restrictions and thinking in new ways. But I can’t accept that we are just spectators of the woes of our world. But what to do about it is tricky. Fiddle (have fun) while Rome (the rest of the world) burns? This doesn’t appeal to me.
Even though I am rejecting a suit, ties, and shiny black shoes, I want to stay engaged with the world of our community and beyond. Aotearoa New Zealand cannot just be a gated community - gated by the vast ocean. Even people in jandals and shorts have to think about the wider world.