I’m Ivy, You’re…

I am a touring musician, this summer anyway.  Used to tour a lot.  Write my own stuff, have a kind of unique (I know, things can’t be kind of unique but this is, it is the guitar-is-a-piano thing James Taylor does but different) way of playing guitar, been on the radio, in a past life even had things I wrote on a chart or two.  So while I am not a festival-unto-thyself I am also not ear-bleeding material.   It’s a litmus test.  I have had relationships with those who love it, and I have had relationships with women who actually vacuum under me while I practice.

Before I keep going, while I haven’t done this myself, I would almost bet if you did an image search of the site this would be the only Paula Abduul picture:


From the Opposites Attract video. You see where I am going with this?

Over on the Facebook Group a member posted a picture of himself and indicated that while he thought he was styling, his wife isn’t into it.  Which led me to ask how that works, which led me into a whole thread with members about being married to someone for whom the whole Trad thing isn’t a turn-on.

I used to live with a very successful Graphic Design recruiter on 83rd and Park.   I was in the middle of an assignment as an embedded CEO doing turnaround, so the hours were insane and I wasn’t around a whole bunch, so one of the few times we could connect was at 5:00 when I was leaving and she was waking up.  I will never forget one time I went into our room to say goodbyes she propped herself up on her elbows in bed and pushed the hair out of her eyes and said, “You always dress the same.”

I felt a clenching in an “abdominal” muscle that doesn’t typically clench.  We had turned a corner.  Yes, I always wore a suit to work with a white  OCBD (see my piece on OCD and my OCBD) and a repp tie and wing tips.  And braces, it was the early 90’s.  But how on the face of our beloved planet does a former graphic designer (I mean, you have a trained eye of sorts, right?) NOT get the pairing of the tie with the suit and the braces?  Braces?  I was purposely making it more complicated than it had to be by adding a third pattern.  And you as an aesthete who pairs creators of beauty with jobs, you don’t appreciate that?

I was spell checking myself and this image came up. I know you know what it means. But between us kids, maybe you didn’t.

Turns out she didn’t “have an appreciation” and about seven months later he father told her she couldn’t marry me because I wasn’t Jewish.  Cards on the table, it didn’t bother me much after the first few days.  I take Ivy seriously man.

On the flip side, I have also stayed in relationships too long because the person had an appreciation for my self-expression.  I have since learned all about meditation and the ego and get where I went wrong.  Somebody asked me once why I waited (I was 44) to have my first child, and I answered, “It took me this long not to be an asshole.”  But then, I stayed to get the praise.  The woman in particular I am thinking about was an aerobics instructor, but not a particularly ambitious one.  But she loved my guitar playing.  I would get home from wherever (this was between turnaround gigs – I should explain – I did turnaround assignments for 2 or 3 years as embedded CEO and then took a year off to grow my hair and ghostwrite a novel and play guitar) – anyway, I would get home from wherever and she would be on my couch in a muscle shirt (look it up) and underwear watching daytime Oprah and smoking (again, early 90’s) and she would say, “Hi baby!  I’ve been waiting so long – I want to see your hands work.”

And I would play guitar for her.  I know, that’s not the reflexive response.  But I stayed because she liked arpeggio guitar playing.  Until one day I guess Oprah was covering the wrong whatever when I got home and the scene was too much and we parted ways.

I have come to the conclusion that if you don’t like my clothes, we are not going to last as domestic partners.  It isn’t because I think my clothes are all that.  Well yes I do, but that isn’t the point.  I wear Ivy because I appreciate classics, but more importantly because I try to live the values that Ivy was based on.  I don’t wear Travolta’s white suit (I work from home, I could if I wanted to) because I don’t espouse disco.  I do espouse the value of thought, the value of dignity, the need to change and improve while hanging on dearly to that which has lasted because it works.  I buy quality over quantity and I appreciate consistency and dependability.  I try to only shake on square deals, I do work hard, and I take time every single day to focus only and solely on being a dad.  That’s how I interpret Ivy values.

And by the way, Graphic Design Recruiter chick – there are worse qualities in a prospective husband than the appreciation of consistency.

I was talking today to this absolutely fantastic graphic designer about (wait, why are graphic designers popping up all over the place in my life today?) working on the brand, as we move towards the next step in the business plan.  He is a member of the Facebook group, a self-described “lurker” who goes on every day but doesn’t post (that is the vast majority by the way).  He asked me why I thought it was so incredibly popular, this large community of Ivy dressers who share what they are wearing.  I said I think it is because one’s wardrobe is one of the very few areas where one is forced to express one’s self.  Other than prison oranges, what you have on is by and large your own choice (that includes work uniforms, you chose to work there) and it is a choice you made today, and one that you are forcing the rest of the world to look at if they are going to interface with you today.  And sadly, for some, it is their only means of self-expression.  After getting dressed the rest of the day is a routine for a good many people, and the invitations to put your signature on much of anything that isn’t going to cost you money are few and far between.  So it is really important to people, to be seen and heard, to be respected and to pay respect.

I think, with all deference to Ms. Abdul, that while opposites attract they have a hard time lasting.  There are times during the course of a relationship where the world has sucked some of the air out of your lungs, and you need to be reinforced with your own spirit.  That’s just too hard to do in my case if you don’t like Trad or acoustic guitar.

So yeah, if you don’t like Ivy, you probably aren’t going to want to hang around when I want to read a book instead of hang on the neighbor’s deck while they have a party during a Covid lockdown and the smoke from the weed wafts across their lawn onto mine.   My Ivy wardrobe is a representation of who I am, it is a predictor of what I am going to do, and it is actually a pretty decent means of getting to know me.  So if that doesn’t work for you, I probably don’t either.

See?  Clothes matter.



10 Comments on "I’m Ivy, You’re…"

  1. A fair assessment on several levels.

    Kind Regards,


  2. Evan Everhart | December 8, 2021 at 12:06 pm |

    John, youve knocked this one out of the park, my Friend! Ive been down that same road of antagonistic affinities and shared affinities and the issues which can arise from both, accross the spectrum. Ive stayed with a woman because of shared affinities despite having very little of substance in common, and dealt with an ex wife who would go into rages over my being “over dressed”, and the most charming of all, was a girl who appreciated that Id put effort in, was mostly disinterested one way or the other in my attire, but said that I always looked and acted “classy”, which was charming from her, as she had an excellent vocabulary, and she chose that nonchallant term. There is also the third path however, and that is learning to appreciate each other’s particular tastes. I helped my ex wife develop her taste and style, both in casual wear and in formal wear, thoough arguably she took more to the cadual wear than to the formal, I also introduced her to Frasier, arguably a high brow comedy if there ever was such a one on television, and got her into classic movies from the Silver Screen, with Bogart and Bacall, or Cagney or Stewart, and got her more into Shakespeare, she got me more into comedies in general and helped to become less of a snob and to appreciate earthier humor than I had ever been exposed to before, and got me to begin to play physical sports again, which Id not done in years, specifically Cricket. The long and the ahort of it was this, we each grew and gained from the partnership, and that is the middle path.

    Hey buddy! Thanks. – JB

  3. When I was a grad student, I played in the University Orchestra and sang in the University Chorus. I would show up for concerts wearing concert black of course, which in my mind naturally included polished shoes, and a self-tied bow tie. It is mind-blowing how much, while not my intent, this affected the young ladies; one of them positively, but many of them seemingly enraged. They just don’t like “feeling” outclassed or one-upped in any way. Girls are envious, of each other mostly, but also of men. I mean, whoda thunk it?

    As for the girl who’s father told her she couldn’t marry you because you are not Jewish, c’mon, man, she knew that was coming the whole time. Meawhile, she looked for conflict in order to make you, in her mind, the oppressor. Sound familiar? Her daddy finally gave her an out, but had she been honest, she never would have become involved with you to begin with. There was something in it for her.

    None of this is exactly a new phenomenon, we all know, but one would think that, you know, eventually one would come along…Man, am I naive!

    Anyway, hang in there old boy. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

    Yes. Well, if one continues reading, one can deduce that whatever was in it for her, it wasn’t my hands, which are apparently guitar-designated. – JB (PS thanks man, I love that quote. While the Design Recruiter story happened a very long time ago, that quote is applicable daily. And your spirit is appreciated too.)

  4. “Cards on the table, it didn’t bother me much after the first few days. I take Ivy seriously man.”

    “I have also stayed in relationships too long because the person had an appreciation for my self-expression. I have since learned all about meditation and the ego and get where I went wrong.”

    Really good.

    Thank you! Made my night. – JB

  5. John Burton | December 8, 2021 at 8:57 pm |

    Seriously not ONE comment on Paula Abduul?

  6. ….as for Paula, I was always more of a Taylor Dayne fan. Just saying.

  7. Janet Jackson for me, but I did like that video.

  8. Loved that video back in the day. I was a kid when that song was new, so of course I liked the cartoon aspect and developed a youthful crush on Paula Abdul. It’s a darn catchy bopper from back in the days of waiting (and waiting) for your favorites to air on MTV. …And now it’s stuck in my head, thanks.
    I think if you’re lucky enough to find a partner who celebrates and loves who you are, and you celebrate and love who they are, having different approaches to personal style doesn’t really mean much.

  9. Paula Abdul is cute but if I were a single man and a couple of years younger, this traditionalist might give the night clubbing, social democrat prime minister of Finland a go. If she were a member of the NCP, I might have to add her to the list of freebies.



  10. Great article.
    One could write interesting observations about wearing ‘Ivy’ clothes, with all the freight they carry in some people’s minds, in environments that are not typically ‘Ivy’.

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