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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,16 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 33
Tour de Life: Fashionistain't
Section One
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Tour de Life: Fashionistain't

by Beau Burriola - SGN Contributing Writer

Nipples. I couldn't see them, but I knew they were as visible to everyone in the room as a couple of craisins glued to my shirt. It was too late to change - the damage was done. There would be no living this down for ages to come.

I was standing in a room of executive managers, discussing cost overruns in the most serious tone I could muster. Never mind I could feel my face burning with the fire it does when my whole face turns bright red. Never mind the noticeable effort to make no eye contact. I could have dimmed the lights and done the Haka and my nips would still be the most noticeable part of my presentation.

One of the most difficult integration issues I've had since moving to Belgium is taking on much of the effortless European fashion most of these folks seem born with. I've tried even enlisting the counsel of some extremely well-put-together folks, but there's always something that doesn't work - my wrong-colored shoes, my slightly bizarre choice of tie, or my far-too-literal interpretation of skinny pants.

In this case, when I bought the shirt I noticed the material was a little bit thin, but I thought I would just wear a shirt under it and everything would be fine. Nope. The same exact shirt that made the dummy look like a French soccer executive made me look like a dive bar waitress. Maybe dummies don't have nipples?

Stateside, I could get away with my fashion deficiency, because in Seattle most people are kind of weird and in Texas the bar for acceptable attire just ain't that high. Here in Europe, I stick out obviously, sometimes literally.

'It's not that visible,' Jamie lied over Skype when I complained.

'It's because it's on your iPhone - I bet you can even see it on that.'

'You're being paranoid,' she said, 'but if you want my opinion, that tie looks weird.'

Sigh.

This is only one of the Gay genes I wasn't born with. I don't know anything about flowers, I don't know many showtunes, my hair is short because I am not sure how it is supposed to go, and my home is more bachelor cheap than bachelor-pad cheap. I'm a walking anti-stereotype, and never more than with my best friend, Jeff.

'Seriously? A scarf?' I asked. 'It's summer.'

'It's to dress up my T-shirt and jacket for work,' he said, in all seriousness. Jeff Andrews is endlessly stylish - his home is all clean long angles, perfectly contrasting colors, and gadgets mixed with mid-century style, his hair is big and wavy, his glasses are a half-step from hipster, and the only person who can put his shoe choices to shame is his wife, the quintessential classy European lady who could simply throw a tea towel over her shoulder and instantly transform it as if it were a cashmere scarf with the wind blowing just so.

'You're overreacting,' Nathalie told me. Another effortless Frenchwoman at work. I felt comfortable enough to ask her if she thought maybe the color of the brown in my shoes was unacceptable for this suit. I saw in a magazine a guy wearing a black suit and sort of wood-colored shoes. He clearly had more cred than I had to pull it off, but in the effort of integration I gave it a go. 'It isn't that bad, but maybe you should get a blue suit.'

Sigh.

Maybe my whole life, I will only look normal in a T-shirt and boots. Maybe this part of the Gay thing or Europe thing never sinks in. Maybe this is the limit of what I can do.

'EEEEEEIIIII!' My little tweenage sister, BB, screamed over Skype after I didn't bother with a haircut for six weeks and just rolled out of bed. 'I love your hair!'

'Yeah ... well ...' Sigh.

'You'd be surprised to know how much it costs to look this cheap!' - Dolly Parton

Beau Burriola is a 34-year-old Brussels-based writer happy enough to have the same color socks on each day. beaubrent@gmail.com

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