I’m standing here looking out of my office over the downtown streets and the front yard of the State house. I am tying my tie a little late in the day; I’ve been here for 45 minutes. I realize what a mindless activity this has become and how it is so rote in my muscle memory. This starts me thinking back to the first time my father taught me how to tie a tie. We were standing in his bedroom, he to my right, both of us facing the giant mirror connected to my mother’s dresser that took up most of the wall. He was trying to show me how he tied his and I was supposed to mirror his movements and come to the same result.
It wasn’t going so well. The door to their bathroom was right next to where my father was standing, and my mother had just gotten out of the shower. The steam was pouring out of the bathroom, undoubtedly raising my father’s body temperature and irritating him without him knowing why he was getting irritated. My sisters were being girls getting ready to go out, so my mother was tending to them, and she was getting frustrated as well because she couldn’t focus on getting ready herself. I was getting distracted by everything going on.
I just wasn’t getting it, for whatever reason. The tying of the tie was not my forte, apparently. I could see my father getting frustrated from the heat and my inability to grasp what is essentially such a simple task. I wanted to please him so badly. I wanted to get it right just once so he would be proud of me. I told myself if I got it right I would never untie it again so that every time I put it on he would be proud that I had mastered that skill.
I could feel him getting frustrated. Just as I thought he was going to lose it, he turned to me, knelt down, put his hands on my shoulders, and squared me up to him. “You can do this. Follow along, pay attention, watch what I’m doing, and tie your tie. This is stuff that men have to know how to do. ” I nodded okay. I understood. This was my last chance to make him proud.
I studied. I followed along. Step-by-step. Over and under, up, through, and down. Done. I had done it. It was tied perfectly. One step closer to being a man, like my father. To this day I only know that one way to tie my tie, and I am not interested in learning other knots. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only correct knot because this is how my father tied his knot; a Windsor Knot with a dimple. Everything else is wrong.
I saw the smile on his face and I knew he was proud. Honestly, I don’t even remember if he said he was proud of me, but knowing him, I am sure he did. He had taught his son how to tie a tie, a skill men have to have. I have no son, so raising a boy into a man is something that has been precluded from me. But my father was able to experience that, and I can only imagine what a great feeling it must have been, and that makes me happy for him.