It was a good day for me to wear purple. But I didn't know that when I chose a jacket to wear on a decidedly cold February day here in Salem, Oregon.
It felt like a Patagonia jacket day.
I have quite a few colors. Green, orange, black, blue, gray, and my very first Patagonia jacket, a purple one that I got for half price, probably because Patagonia had figured out that not many men wear purple.
I like the jacket. I like purple.
However, the first time I wore it to my Tai Chi class, someone said, "You're brave," because the color isn't what most men wear. So now, in a (very) mild case of PTSD, every time I look at the jacket I think of that comment.
I also can't help but think of the poem by Jenny Joseph whose famous first line is, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple." Hey, what about old men? Can we also wear purple?
Well, obviously we can. And today seemed like a fine day to wear purple on my usual Tuesday afternoon grocery shopping expedition.
In the morning I'd started to re-read Anthony de Mello's book, "Awareness." He was an iconoclastic Jesuit priest who, according to the back cover, mixed Christian spirituality, Buddhist parables, Hindu breathing exercises, and psychological insight.
The book starts out with:
Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.
l feel more awake and alive when I wear my purple jacket. The color jolts me out of my usual slumbering routine. So reading de Mello helped spur me to go with purple. I had some matching Allbirds shoes.
Walking to my car, a feeling popped unbidden into my mind. Too much purple. You're overdoing it. The old purple jacket PTSD again. I shut up that feeling by asking myself, "Do you enjoy wearing a purple jacket and shoes?" "Yes," said the voice that speaks inside my head.
Case closed. Decision final. This old man was headed to Trader Joe's clad in purple.
Shortly after I entered the store, heading for the organic raspberries, I saw a female employee wearing a purple tutu as she stocked the refrigerated fruit shelves. I felt like telling her that we needed to form a purple club.
Soon it dawned on me that all of the Trader Joe's employees were wearing tutus. When I got to the checkout line, I snapped a photo.
I told the man wearing the purple tutu that the store dress-up day made me feel good about choosing to wear purple myself. He then clued me in to what the day was, which, if I'd given it a bit of thought, I guess I could have figured out myself.
"Today is 2/22/22. And it's a Tuesday. So Trader Joe's is celebrating all these twos by having staff wear tutus. This date won't happen again for 400 years." (In 2422.)
I felt much more comfortable in my purple jacket and shoes as I went to several other stores to complete my grocery shopping. Which is strange, since there's no reason I should ever have felt the least bit uncomfortable.
I enjoy seeing people wearing colorful clothes. I like it when women dye their hair purple, or blue, or whatever.
So why, at the age of 73, when seemingly I should feel free to do whatever the hell I want, given that there aren't all that many years left to live my life in any fashion, there's still a self-conscious sense when I put on my purple jacket?
I'm not sure. Maybe we all feel a need to both stand out from the crowd and blend in with the crowd, and those conflicting impulses pull us in different directions depending on our mood and surroundings.
On my Strange Up Salem Facebook page, I use a photo I took at the wonderful Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, outside of Eugene. It shows one of the exuberant parades that wind through the fair periodically.
At the Oregon Country Fair, a counter-culture celebration, it's impossible to feel like you're wrongly dressed, given the astounding variety of dress (and undress) by those attending.
Trader Joe's helped me remember that doing what you feel like doing, which includes dressing however you like, is a pretty good general guide for life -- with the caveat that sometimes you have to do what demands to be done, even if you don't feel like it.
I told the purple tutu clad employee who checked me out, "Seeing how you and the other staff are clad today, I feel underdressed." He said something like, "Here at Trader Joe's, you can wear whatever you want. That's partly why I enjoy working here so much."
And why I enjoy shopping there so much.