Pale Strider

It's time once again for my annual vow to the entire country: No matter how high temperatures rise in the months ahead, I'll never, ever leave home wearing pants that are anything but full-length. My thighs, knees, and calves shall remain permanently hidden from public view. This is my gift to America.

I'm part of the "honored citizen" demographic, and lots of guys in this age bracket are perfectly at ease striding through summer in shorts, black socks and wingtip loafers. It's a well-established male fashion statement. For a long time I believed it would gradually decline and become extinct by the 21st century, and I couldn't have been more wrong.

Please understand--I'm positively not criticizing anyone's apparel decisions. We're all good. I grew up in the '60s. Gestalt is my co-pilot; I wear my things, you wear yours, blah, blah, blah, it's beautiful.

But the brutal truth I face every day is that my lower extremities are not beautiful. Interesting, perhaps, but only to a medical illustrator. They've reached that stage when veins are clearly visible and resemble little winding waterways on a wrinkled parchment map. No need for anyone outside my immediate family to go sightseeing in that bleak, desolate territory.

Long periods of non-exposure to the sun have created an interesting variation in my anatomical pallor. Years ago I was in a paint store and did some quick comparisons with a color chart. My arms were "Almond Blossom," kind of an off-white with a shade of yellow. Leg-wise, I was a good match for a more bluish custom blend called "Sea Breeze."

No amount of spray-on tan or other cosmetic application will improve this situation. But it's comforting to know that if I ever take a wrong turn and run out of gas on some backcountry road, aerial searchers won't have any trouble locating me. When I hear the sound of helicopters, I'll simply find an open spot, remove my clothes, and voila! I am my own signaling device. The only danger is that a rescue pilot might be temporarily blinded by the glare and crash the chopper.

I don't play tennis, but I've always enjoyed following the action at Wimbledon, and my favorite memory is from 1983. That's when American Trey Waltke became the first man in 37 years to compete wearing long pants and secured a permanent spot in my personal Hall of Heroes.

I've read several interviews with actors recently and, when analyzing a particular role, they often discuss whether or not the character "is comfortable in his (or her) own skin." I'm extremely comfortable, and quite certain that keeping myself covered in opaque garments is the best way to keep people outside my skin from becoming seriously uncomfortable with it.

Nothing I've said here is breaking news. Accepting our physique deficiencies is a process that aging men have wrestled with for centuries. I got an early hint of what was coming in elementary school, when I browsed through a paperback compilation of Dennis the Menace cartoons.

One of them showed Dennis and his mom standing outside the bathroom in their home. The door was slightly open, and Dennis's dad was peeking out, with a scowl on his face. The caption read, "No, he can't come in. All he wants to do is laugh at my legs!"

I thought it was pretty funny. Being young means never having to think stuff like that will happen to you. Now I find myself channeling Mr. Mitchell on a regular basis. Society is better off when my legs are hidden behind closed doors. And when doors aren't available, trousers are the next best thing.