With this humbling and embarrassing admission, I want to set the record straight. That way, if you see me in public, you won’t have to surreptitiously stare at the stain and wonder, “How did this guy’s wife ever let him out of the house with that stain on his shirt?” Or “Maybe I should recommend a good dry cleaner for this dimwit.” Or perhaps, “Gee, his family must have fallen on hard times if he has to wear a shirt with a gravy stain on it.” (Point of translation — Italians call it “gravy” while the rest of the world calls it “marinara sauce.”)
Maybe I’m getting long in the tooth like my grandfather, who could never keep the food off his shirt, let alone his moustache. In fact, he never seemed to notice it was there until we pointed it out, and even then he didn’t care.
My personal collection of assorted stains includes not only tomato sauce, but also olive oil, ink, coffee and assorted mystery stains I can only assume the dry cleaner caused. It’s only natural to blame someone else.
The reason I started wearing bow ties many years ago wasn’t that I wanted to look cool or clever or like some intellectual wannabe or Pee-Wee Herman, but rather because I got tired of ruining all those neckties with food stains, which were generally caused by chili that plopped onto my tie while I was trying to negotiate a foot-long hot dog into my mouth with only ten minutes to eat lunch because of deadline.
I suppose it’s in my genes. I still remember my grandmother calling me a “sciattone,” when I was barely eight years old. (Point of translation, that’s Italian for “slob.”) Some things never change. In recent months, the problem has gotten worse, and I’m beginning to worry that it may be a progressive condition.
To compound the problem, I write with fountain pens and every other day, I fill them with permanent black ink with brand names like “Edelstein Onyx” and “Mystery Black.” This ink is truly permanent, and once it touches something, it’s guaranteed to stay there until Armageddon or the end of the material world as we know it, or at least until the Dow crashes. I suppose I could start using washable blue ink, but somehow that’s just not the same because it doesn’t have that kind of classy look I associate with Downton Abbey.
Last week, when I was filling my pen, I got two very tiny dots of ink — as large as deer ticks — on my white shirt. At first I thought they were specks of dirt, until I tried to remove them. Unfortunately, once I applied water, the stains became as large as polka dots.
Even though I take every precaution imaginable when I fill the pens, the ink always seems to go somewhere besides inside the pen. I’ve also stained our kitchen counter and dining room table, not to mention several expensive table cloths.
I guess I should start filling them in the back yard, or maybe I could pay the neighbors’ kids a few bucks to do it for me since they’re sciattones too.
On average, I ruin a shirt with ink stains about every two months and with Zesty Italian Dressing about every three weeks. The olive oil and salad dressing stains are more difficult to avoid since I eat salad every day for lunch. So for now, as a preventive measure, I’ve started to wear a paper towel bib, which has proved effective. Unfortunately, I’ll never make the cover of GQ … or the back cover.
This problem is straining my marriage because my wife is tired of replacing shirts that are virtually brand new. I told her we can write them off as a business expense, and that seemed to satisfy her, but I’m sure my accountant will see it differently.
Nevertheless, I’m committed to getting this problem under control. From now on, I’ll carry a roll of Bounty paper towels in my attaché, and instead of a fountain pen in my shirt pocket, you’ll see a Tide stick, which, I’ve discovered from firsthand experience, is one of the greatest inventions of the latter half of the 20th Century, rivaling the iPhone.
Contact Joe Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org.