I love costumes. I always have.
Some people call it Halloween. I call it life.
We all do it. We put on clothes consistent with the role we would like other people to see us playing. Even a conscious indifference to clothing is just another way of telling the world: "I don't care what you think. This is just who I am."
I tend to be a bit more studied with my clothing. Or, at least, I once did. I still remember how putting on my lawyer costume made me feel as invincible as a knight in his armor.
But all of that disappeared six years ago when I moved to Mexico. My suits dress shirts, and ties went to the Salvation Army, and I headed south with sandals, shorts, and t-shirts. I have enjoyed playing my new role as a shabbily-dressed pensioner on the beach. More than once I have laughed about the guy I once was.
Well, that guy is apparently still alive. Or, at least, Mexico City has resurrected him.
This city, like almost every cosmopolitan town, is filled with people who take great care (and more pride) in their clothing. The people who live here are paragons of grooming.
And not just the women. A Mexican woman once told me that Mexican women are very particular about their hair and clothes. But they are slackers compared to Mexican men. Mexican men are peacocks.
She is correct. You can almost imagine the Mexican men I have seen during the past week meticulously choosing their wardrobe each morning and then spending an hour getting their hair just so.
So, I decided I would play the game. My outfits on this trip have been mainly sport shirts with khakis -- what you would see at an Ivy League reunion football game. Yuppie, but certainly out of place with the rest of the competition.
Yesterday, I pulled out my black shirt, my black wool pants, my black dress shoes, and topped it all off with the tie I bought on Sunday. A color so red it would put Madonna's lips to shame.
It looked rather snazzy. Sort of a combination between a jazz drummer and a papal legate.
I am not certain if clothes change our attitude or if the attitude we are in causes us to choose certain clothes. Whichever it was, I was in my groove.
I strutted my stuff on a 12-block walk to El Palacio de Herrio where I looked at $400 shoes knowing that I was dressed to buy them. After taking a few swings through the store, I headed out on the street again.
Before I had walked another block, a middle-aged man politely hailed me. He informed me of something in Spanish. Seeing that I didn't understand, he told me: "Your zipper is open."
Here I thought the knowing glances I had received on the street were due to my astonishingly good taste in clothing -- when the glances were merely noting a gringo geezer too old to remember to finish dressing himself. At, least I had remembered to put my pants on.
That encounter reminded me of another I had on this trip at Chapultepec park. I was headed toward the road that leads up to the castle when a somewhat-anxious (and quite attractive) young Asian woman dressed in a fluorescent green jacket hurried up to me and said: "Do you speak English?" From her accent, I would guess she was Korean.
When I answered, "Yes," she pointed in the direction from which I had just come, and asked me if there was anything interesting to see at that end of the park. She didn't have much time and she wanted to use it wisely.
I would like to say I simply wanted to be helpful. But being a man of a certain age, I was pleased to simply be having a conversation with a young, beautiful woman. Rather than simply telling her, "No. There is nothing down there," I had to give a tour lecture of what was there, but not worth seeing.
When I tried to direct her attention to the walkway up to the castle, she would point the other way and ask questions. Usually, my street smarts would have kicked in. I did say, though, that she was beautiful.
She thanked me. Off she went on a tangential path, and I headed up to the castle. I stopped to take some photographs, and I noticed a flash of fluorescent green through the trees. It was the woman -- walking along talking with a man. It occurred to me, it was the same man standing next to me while I was talking with her.
Not believing I could have fallen for the beautiful-tourist-with-little-time-to-tour scam, I waited a second before I checked my pockets. And, sure enough a 500 peso note was missing from my pocket. (Before you chide me about having it in my pocket, it was there for a good reason.)
I wish I could say I learned something from this incident. But, I obviously haven't -- because this is the third time I have fallen victim (or nearly fallen victim) to the same scam. All three times here in Mexico City.
The reason the scam works is that the beautiful maiden in distress will always manage to pierce my knight errant armor.
Of course, she never would have bothered approaching me if I had been wearing today's costume. The combination of zipper down in a public park is usually not the best mark for a scam.