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Words of advice from the semi-dressed man

The man eating a Rochesterfest lunch at a crowded picnic table motioned for me to come over.

It was a friendly wave, suggesting that I might know him, but his face provided no clue.

"Your belly button is showing,'' he said. "Your button isn't buttoned.''

As fashion faux paus go, an unbuttoned button is a small offense. The trouble is, I have committed several in the past few weeks. A co-worker noticed an unzipped zipper and wrote a post-it note bringing it to my attention. The preacher during Sunday service alerted me to the same offense before I stepped to the podium for the first reading. That was the same Sunday that I later discovered that my tie was sort of inside-out.

Challenges of being vertically challenged


I blame it on haste and inattentiveness. Clothing manufacturers shoulder partial responsibility. Manufacturers don't make clothes for short people, especially those who buy pants off the rack. It seems that 5-foot, 7-inch Americans don't exist. That's why my pants cuffs scrape the ground and get tattered before their time. The danger is shoes walking over cuffs can cause slipping, sliding and pratfalls.

I discovered that walking across a rain-slickened crosswalk. The fall led to a month on crutches and several X-rays that showed no broken ankle bones.

An easy remedy rectified the situation. Pant legs can be stuffed inside socks. It felt good, like in the old days when baseball players wore long leggings that kept their sanitary socks perfectly in place.

A co-worker's laughter alerted me that the pant legs were still stuffed inside the socks. He liked the look and suggested that it might become a fashion fad.

Practicality trumps style, I said, explaining that it was a safety issue. The other option was to hike the pants up past the belly button, which I sometimes do.

"It's a good look for you,'' he said politely, before alerting his friend to take a look.

He will be rewarded for his kindness to an old man, even if it is nothing more than a box of day-old doughnuts from the convenience store.

I told Sam about the humiliation. "That had to be embarrassing,'' he said.


Like father, like son

Sam is vertically challenged like his father. There was a time when he wanted to be 6-feet, 5-inches. I once did, too. One must keep all things in perspective.

In the 18th century,  being 5-foot, 7-inches tall meant you were taller than average. Napoleon, who almost conquered the world, stood only 5-foot, 2-inches. Many male Hollywood stars had to stand on boxes so they appeared taller than their female co-stars. Then again, if Napoleon hadn't been so short he might not have stirred up so much trouble in Europe, and he might not have agreed to sell the United States a big chunk of North America for less than 3 cents an acre.

"You've got to be comfortable in your own skin,'' I told Sam, after he pointed out that he might have been a good basketball and football player with a little more height.

I'm not too comfortable with mine right now with the belly lapping over the belt. It would be nice to look down and see my feet.

A friend suggests that I should try the Atkins low-carb diet to lose weight fast, which would eventually help reduce blood pressure and joint pain. Nick explains that with Atkins, you can eat all the meat and eggs you want as long at those things high in starches — potatoes, bread, certain vegetables and soft drinks — are avoided. Cheese is OK and black coffee is fine, but regular and diet soft drinks are out. He says I might be able to drop 30 pounds in six weeks.

It sounds almost too good to be true. Besides, the potatoes are nearly ready to dig and sweet corn season is just around the corner.

Kathy suggests that a good diet and exercise is a much better option. The current exercise program consists of pulling weeds, which works up a sweat but doesn't increase the heart rate much. Bike riding and swimming are sound options. However, since I never learned to swim, the kiddie pool would be none too comfortable.


Sam works outside without a shirt to show his washboard stomach and suggests that I do the same.

It would be faux paus that I might never live down.

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