Fit to be Tied (neck-tied)

File this story under the heading “can’t these politicians think of a more important issue to tackle than this?”

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris wants to ban companies from mandating that workers wear neckties.

Parris is basing his proposal on a small German study he found online that examined blood flow to the brain in men wearing ties, finding a 7.5% drop in circulation in men wearing the ties compared to the group not wearing them.

First of all, one doesn’t need to have a doctorate degree in scientific methodology to know that a study size of 30 participants is insufficient.  Second, just how tight were those ties tied?

In interviews, Parris expresses a predisposed disdain for ties despite having to wear one as an attorney in the courtroom.  When he came across this shaky evidence that a tie causes harm, he was ready to take a Mission Impossible leap over credulity.

Parris’s law firm focuses on personal injury cases with “over $1.4 billion won” as claimed on its website so it’s not surprising that he is wasting taxpayer time on a nanny state matter such as regulating employers’ dress codes.   By the way, his photo is the most prominent on the website and, yes, he is wearing a tie.

When one looks around and sees how poorly people dress all the time, the last thing we need is a law forcing people to look less dressed up.

We are living at a time when people dress like slobs everywhere they go.  Men’s attire these days often consists of a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops whether at work, attending a theatrical performance or dining at an upscale restaurant.

In “You Are What You Wear: Rude,” Times columnist Meghan Daum wrote that people dress as if everyone else around them were invisible.  They really don’t care what anyone else thinks; “do whatever you want” is the mantra.

Many experts think that dressing up instills confidence and power.  Baltimore clinical psychologist Jennifer Baumgartner told Forbes magazine that “when you dress in a certain way, it helps shift your internal self” similar to actors who by “putting on a costume facilitates expression of character.”   Think of work clothes as superhero outfits.

My wife works from home once a week.   Even though she does not leave the house, she wears business clothes as if she were at her office.  Why?  “It’s a part of my professional attire.”

A 2014 study by the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that when participants wore doctor’s lab coats they not only were perceived smarter, but they made fewer mistakes because of what they wore.  In another example, people dressed in suits negotiated better business deals than those dressed in sweats.

Where I work, I am the outlier wearing sport jackets and ties.  Not even some male administrators wear that attire.  Schools often talk about dress codes for students; there should be one for teachers.

One student teacher I worked with asked me how to dress for Back to School Night.  I told him to wear a tie; he told me that he didn’t own one.  And he was 40 years old.

A much younger student teacher wore concert t-shirts and white sneakers every day to work.  Office messengers would often mistake her for a student and end up giving me the summons.   We would not want to confuse doctors with patients based on how they dressed, would we?

Let’s hope Mr. Parris doesn’t come across a study on the internet concluding that wearing underpants constricts blood flowing to the heart.



Oh How We Could Use Mr. Rogers Today

Summer time is movie blockbuster time, but for those who are searching for a film that doesn’t depict the end of the universe (like any Marvel offering), try “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the documentary about Fred Rogers, the creator of the long-running “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” children’s show which aired for more than 30 years on PBS from 1968-2001.

How refreshing to see a portrait of a public figure that doesn’t tear apart the image of the person being examined.

Spoiler alert:   It turns out that Mr. Rogers the TV personality was identical to Mr. Rogers the human being.

While I was too old to watch “Mister Rogers” when it first aired, I had a perception of him as a benevolent TV personality who oversaw a little show done with inexpensive sets and sock puppets.  This documentary reveals the thoughtfulness behind his mindset.

Before conceiving his show, Rogers is shown in an old black and white clip talking directly to the camera, musing out loud while on a piano about what he would like to do for children and how he would approach such an endeavor.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will make you feel guilty for not appreciating or realizing that Fred Rogers, an ordained minister and amateur child psychologist, was quite talented, writing 900 shows and 300 songs.  He took his job seriously and made it clear that others should likewise be responsible in developing tasteful television shows for children in a comforting and nurturing way; he disapproved of most children’s programming which focused on frenetic and insulting rather than calm and uplifting material.

In a tightly compacted 90 minutes, which includes new interviews with his widow and grown sons, a sense of “wow, what a good man he was” overwhelms you. Through a television screen, he made a direct connection to youngsters by emphasizing their uniqueness at the same time acknowledging their universal fears.  Rogers did not shy away from confronting mature issues such as racism, war, and death.

When observing him interact with kids in personal appearances, he always gives his full attention to what they have to say, something few adults do.  Too many parents ignore their children instead of interact with them, leaving them alone to their own devices, literally.

To hear him speak so eloquently and extemporaneously in front of a U.S. senate committee on funding for Public Broadcasting in 1969 is remarkable.  Mr. Rogers was on a mission to ensure there would be at least one decent TV show for kids on the air.

There are many moments in the film when a viewer’s eyes will fill with tears.  The most poignant one comes near the end when you hear Fred Rogers’ voice asking the audience to take a minute “to think about those who have helped you become who you are today.  Some of them may be here right now.  Some may be far away.  Some may even be in Heaven.  But wherever they are, if they’ve loved you, and encouraged you, and wanted what was best in life for you, they’re right inside yourself.”

To ask such a profound question, and to grant permission to have a minute of silence to think of that person encapsulates the soul of Fred Rogers, a humanitarian for all of us.

However, the saddest part of seeing the movie is that you are overcome with a sense of loss that there is no Mr. Rogers for children anymore.  The positive response to this documentary is proof that people crave someone like him especially in these fractured times.  Who is the savior today in the realm of children’s programming?  The void is heartbreaking.