Suspenders fashion faux pas

By Bob Huber: Local columnist

By the time I reached the sixth grade, my mother began to slip. I found out later that this phenomenon was rather widespread. I just hadn’t noticed before. I first spotted it when she allowed me to wear belted pants.

Prior to the sixth grade I wore only bib overalls. Mom bought them one pair at a time every few months or so. That way I owned two pair — one for everyday use plus a larger-sized pair for Sundays and special occasions. “You’ll grow into them,” she said.

Only when my everyday overalls reached a point where my friends called me “High Pockets” and my bare knees stuck out of patches did I graduate to my Sunday overalls. That was when my mother bought an even larger pair, ad nauseam.

At first I welcomed belted jeans, even though my scholarly development almost skidded to a halt. At last I was able to adequately advertise my Arnold Schwarzenegger physique. Real men, you see, wore pants, not overalls, but education was the last thing on their adventurous minds.

But I digress, and I left out a key word back in the lead paragraphs — “suspenders.” My mother hid my belt and said, “You have to wear suspenders, or it’s back to the overalls.”

The conclusion was I had to camouflage them, because nobody, I mean nobody, wore suspenders in the sixth grade. I covered them with sweaters in August or hung my shirt tails outside my pants at other times — anything to hide the ugly sight of suspenders. I was like a builder concealing unattractive plumbing.

Another problem was with a law dating back to ancient Babylonia and still in effect, which said all sixth-graders must snap suspenders whenever they saw them. At the end of the first day of my new fashion, my back was so sore I thought 20 lashes with a cat o’ nine tails would be comic relief.

Some of my best friends gathered at school the next day just to snap my suspenders again, but I refused to allow it. I fell to the ground and lay on my back, writhing and screaming. My friend Smooth Heine immediately lobbied a compromise.

He recommended I stuff cardboard down the back of my shirt. That way everyone could gleefully snap my suspenders, but I would remain unscathed — a win-win situation.

Meanwhile, in residence at our little school was a sixth-grade teacher named Miss Hockstetter who tutored under the time-tested misconception that silence and education were synonymous. While she lectured the finer points of higher mathematics on the blackboard one day, Barf Gouge sneaked up behind me and snapped my suspenders.

The resulting sound of suspenders smacking cardboard reverberated around the classroom like a gun shot. Girls squealed, and Miss Hockstetter jerked her chalk and inadvertently introduced the class to the Boolean square root symbol.

No one was more shocked than I was. I thought someone had blown a firecracker under my chair. I went straight up, and when Miss Hockstetter looked for the source of the noise, I was crouched on my desk top with my hands clamped over my ears, howling.

And that’s why to this day suspenders give me a feeling of insecurity. It’s not that I fear my pants might fall down. I just don’t want another miscarriage of high fashion.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.