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The Column

Who Wears Short Shorts?
7/6/03

It is oppressively hot right now. I'm okay with the smoldering and the sweating and the sunburn - but not the shorts. There are just some people better off wearing pants.

I'm one of them. I fully understand the harm of exposing other people to my legs. My legs are so pale and skinny it looks like I'm using toothpicks to serve my feet as hors d'oeuvres. Yet I sometimes still wear shorts. Frankly, I'm sorry.

I try to wear pants as often as possible. I even own a pair of really long shorts so that I can pretend they're pants. Really, it's so other people can pretend they're pants. I don't have to pretend - I know what my legs look like already, and I don't mind them so much. Mainly because I don't have to look at them head on. If I did, I'd probably need to buy a visor.

My problem is accentuated by the naiveté I had as a 15-year-old. When I started working out, I just wanted to look buff - in other words, I spent a lot of time working on my chest and arms without touching my legs. So now I have a regular-sized torso on top of my super-skinny legs. From a certain distance, I look like a midget on stilts. Picture the top-half of a He-Man figure on the bottom of a GI-Joe and you're starting to get the idea.

I know I'm not suited for shorts, and I can joke about it. If someone came up to me and asked for an hors d'oeuvre, I'd probably laugh. Even more that I cut-and-pasted the word hors d'oeuvre from the first time I looked it up in the dictionary. And when I cut-and-pasted it a second time to point out that I cut-and-pasted it. I'm not risking typing that thing again. Spelling, like wearing shorts, is another thing I just shouldn't do.

My point is that people need to have a sense of humor about their deficiencies. You will rarely find me in shorts - but more rarely you will find me with a short fuse. I admit my flaws - I'm proud that I'm honest enough with myself to recognize them. And one of them is legs better suited for a runway model than a grown man.

I was recently introduced to someone who learned I was a comedian. "Watch out," she said. "I've also been known to crack a few jokes." What she should have said was that over the course of her entire life, she'd told three jokes, all of which were so galactically appalling that they raised her to infamy. By telling me she's known for cracking jokes, she called attention to her poor sense of humor. Then while I waited for her to be funny, her quality jokes were in short (badum!) supply. I swear she told a joke just like that.

I know people who claim to be excellent listeners and monopolize the conversation. I've met people who talk about how great they are at poker and then leave the table in three hands. I've even come across someone who complained about how bored she was in class due to her vast intellectual superiority, which is obviously why she failed out of her junior college.

No one can be good at everything - we all have faults. But some of us accentuate them through a process of ignoring. Even those perfect people that you know--and we all know a few--have their flaws. Sure, they may be attractive, athletic, brilliant, and look good in shorts, but can they play the beat to Wipeout on their desk with their eyes closed? I think not!

I am good at enough things that I don't mind getting the short (badum!) end of the stick at others. I used to want to be the best at everything - I just had to be funniest, smartest, cutest, most athletic, and able to play the beat to Wipeout on my desk with my eyes closed. And the only two things I was actually the best at were over-promising and under-delivering. I couldn't even do that Wipeout thing so well. I always got the first few seconds okay, but then there were those three hard beats in a row that totally threw me.

I am much happier now that I've begun to admit what I can't do. And when the weather calls for it, I still wear shorts on occasion. But I am also fine with wearing pants when I need to.

And yes, that last sentence was a metaphor. Which is a much easier word to spell than hors d'oeuvre.

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