Today, I found myself standing on a London street asking myself,”suck or bite?” Now, there are many situations in which that can be quite an important issue – in my case, the circumstances also involved another question – “to Kojak or not to Kojak?” My female readers may not have got this yet, but most males of 40 years or more will have. They will know that I had just unwrapped a lollipop and was about to get assaulted by an overwhelming urge to act out the persona of Kojak, the telly detective of my youth.
Of course, the above sentence assumes an element of free will in the process. In fact ladies, free will doesn’t enter into it. Before I knew it, the swagger, the tilt of the head, lolly in the side of the mouth and the Lower East Side accent were lining up like enthusiastic puppies; it was all I could do not to growl,”Who loves ya, baby,” at the next young thing to move into my (narrowed, knowing) vision.
I don’t know if every other guy has a life like this, in which random associations can trigger off complete (temporary) changes in persona. But I suspect so – mainly from watching other guys walk out of movies like the Bourne Identity or Men in Black (in fact, pretty much any Wilbur Smith vehicle). “The difference between you and me? I make this shit look good” – probably the best line on fashion sense that I have ever heard.
Which brings me to the sight that greeted me when I arrived, on the Eastbound platform of the Central Line at Tottenham Court Road, still sucking on my much diminished lolly. At first, I didn’t quite get it, but then I realised that I was sharing the airspace of a male fashion statement– brush-back blonde hair, tweed jacket with patterned handkerchief, cravat, drain-pipe legs and high finish brown brogues. Actually, there wasn’t just one – he was just the most striking of the three. I must be getting old. Time was, I would have snorted with derision at such dandiness. Now, I could almost admire the lengths to which these guys had gone in the search for distinction. Had I more initiative and courage, I would have taken a picture to share with you. Tant pis. You will just have to make do with this example of a rather cooler dude from elsewhere on the net –
Tweedguy from dailyfashionwriter.com
But it does make you think about what is going on. I mean, what is the incentive? After a bit of thought, I found myself thinking that the first motivation is
To look good.
To feel good,
To do good,
To be good?
Because, at first, don’t we give a lot of attention to fitting in? That seems to alternate with wanting to feel good, but I suspect it all comes down to wanting to fit in, or out, but in some way, fit. In which the feelings are nearly always the gap between what we think we should be and what others suggest we are, neither being necessarily true.
But after a time, and I think the timing varies, doesn’t it, the focus can shift, partly or wholly to doing and being good which, I think, are the starting points of true and original living. After all, how can anything original come of imitation or the impermanent tides of feeling and emotion.
Of course, there is another question – what do I/you really mean by “good”?
And who does love yah, baby?
Telly Savalas as Kojak, circa 1974