Back when I went to high school, I liked to envision myself as a dandy who would go to work every day decked out in a stylish business jacket, wearing dark designer sunglasses, carrying a leather briefcase and perhaps also sporting an edgy haircut. If someone would have asked me where exactly it was that I pictured myself heading to dressed like that, I wouldn’t have known what to reply, for all I had cared to imagine was the image I wanted to project one day.
After high school, I still hadn’t found my vocation and decided to take the same major most of my classmates went for. I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying, so I focused on saving the money needed to purchase the suit jacket that I had always fantasized about. As soon as I graduated from university, I rushed to the chicest boutique in town and bought the jacket of my dreams. It felt like entering a new phase of life, the one where I would gain public recognition and become someone with a very promising future lying ahead of him.
I tried it on as soon as I arrived back home. I was beside myself with joy and couldn’t stop smiling as I gazed into the mirror. To me, that was what success was supposed to look like. I felt unstoppable, like the world was my oyster. I think I broke the Guinness record for the most selfies taken in one and the same garment that afternoon. Afterwards, I put the jacket back into its bag, and inside the cupboard, to save it for when the occasion to flaunt it arose.
I waited for it day after day. Weeks turned into months, months, into years, and suddenly, three years had gone by and I hadn’t worn the jacket once. I hadn’t found a job, nor launched my own project, nor found the courage to try luck in another country like most of my former classmates. I had just been hanging out with people in coffee shops and fishing at the renowned port of Aden. Every time I opened the cupboard where my jacket was stored, I couldn’t help myself from taking a peep at it and asking myself, “How memorable does the occasion have to be to deserve that I mark it by pulling this amazing jacket off the hanger?”
Then, one day, I decided that I had waited long enough. I took it out of the cupboard, gave it a quick wipe down, and donned it. It didn’t fit as it did three years before. That, however, didn’t come as a surprise to me. I had lost a lot of weight since then. It hadn’t been the easiest of times.
I combed and styled my hair, put on the shoes that I had bought to match the jacket, as well as a pair of sunglasses to complete the look, and glanced at myself in the mirror. For the first time in ages, I felt comfortable in my own skin. I was convinced that if I showed myself dressed like that, people would mistake me for a Hollywood star, for I certainly looked the part.
Thus, I decided to put it to the test. I went out on the street and started strolling about casually. I could feel everyone’s stares burning on my back. Some I could see making fun of me, but there were others who actually stopped to congratulate me, because they believed that I had been hired by a big company to fill an important post. That made me feel even better about myself, better than I had felt in years. On the one hand, I didn’t want to deceive anyone, but on the other, it felt so good to be acknowledged that I didn’t actively keep anyone from jumping to conclusions either.
I returned home from my afternoon walk feeling as happy as a clam at high tide. I knew my blissfulness would be rather short-lived. Nonetheless, I had learnt a valuable lesson that day, namely, that although the suit—quite literally—doesn’t make the man, it sure motivates him to stand upright, and, at the end of the day, life is too short to get hung up on the conundrum of where exactly we should draw the line between form and content.
Written by Muneer Muhammad Binwaber.