Bow Ties at a Funeral
I was packing for my father-in-law’s funeral. It was out of town. I grabbed some black socks, my black wingtips, a white shirt, and my black suit. Then I turned to my tie rack.
“Should I wear a bow tie?” I asked my wife.
“Why not?” she replied.
Why not? Here’s why not: as I’ve noted before, bow ties do make people smile. They can be construed as frivolous. They draw attention to oneself. I don’t want to be the first half of Alice Roosevelt’s description of her father Teddy, “My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.” And is being different disrespectful? If I’m being honest, I was too concerned with what people would think.
But my wife is one of the smarter people I know and she was the deceased’s only daughter so I gave her “Why not?” more weight than my doubts or the thoughts of others. Plus, I’d just written a piece for Bow Tie Aficionado called “The Courage to Wear a Bow Tie.”
So I wore a bow tie to a funeral.
And I shouldn’t have thought anything of it. The attire of those attending the funeral was…relaxed, to put it politely. I’m learning that in 2015, funerals are not always somber affairs where people feel the need to…not wear shorts or to wear shirts with collars. Surveying the gathered mourners in my muted blue and red bow tie, I felt myself grimacing like Clint Eastwood at his grandchildren in the opening scene of Gran Torino.
As I wrote in that “Courage” piece, “It’s 2015 and anything like standards have been shattered.”
So I wore my bow tie and, as all clothing choices at a funeral should be, I completely forgot about me and my petty concerns. I spent my time comforting the mourners and pondering the life of my father-in-law.
Post-funeral validation came while writing this piece when I had to hop onto YouTube to find that Gran Torino scene. Look what the man who gets the first speaking line at that same funeral is wearing, and he’s wearing quite nicely. A bow tie at a funeral. He didn’t look like he gave it two thoughts…and, heck, he’s shaking the hand of Clint Eastwood.