“Excuse me,” said the voice from behind me. “Do you know how to tie a bow tie?”
Standing between stacks of men’s dress shirts, I turn to see young man holding out a long strip of black fabric. His English is clear but with a hint of somewhere interesting. He, at least to me, looks like a young version of actor Antonio Banderas.
“Tonight is a special night and I don’t want to be wearing a clip-on bow tie…”
There is an unusual blend of excitement and awkwardness in his voice as he shows me the long, untied length of fabric.
“Well,” I said, “I hate to say I really don’t know, but maybe we could find someone to help.”
“That would be great,” he said, almost apologizing, “believe me, if it wasn’t really important I wouldn’t be hanging around this department and walking up to complete strangers and asking them if they knew how to tie one of these.”
We both began joking about jumping we could jump on the Internet to watch a video on how to tie proper a bow – in many ways a lost art.
“Yes, I wish I’d thought about doing that earlier.”
Suddenly another young man came around the corner.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know how to bowtie?”
Stopping – and probably instinctively recognizing the importance of the moment (men rarely ask for help unless it is a last resort) – he walked over.
Somewhere is a list of critical skills all men should know – how to start a fire, bait a hook and maybe syphon gasoline – but each of us felt intimidated by a modest length of black fabric.
“I think I might remember,” he said. “I once actually spent an hour and a half in front of a mirror with a YouTube video trying to figure it out.”
“Okay,” he continued, “you take this end and…”
Looking over the young man’s shoulder, I watched as he formed to create a bow with one end and then carefully threaded the longer end through the opening.
“When you get it here,” he said, “you just fiddle around with it until you get the bow to where you want it.”
Honestly, I think all of us were surprised at what a great bow he’d tied under the gun.
Walking over to a mirror, the first man looked at the silk tie around his neck.
“Wow, this looks great…but what do I do when I get it home?”
Apparently, the red plaid shirt he was wearing would not be going to dinner that night.
For another few minutes the two stood in front of the mirror as the second man tried to teach the first on how to tie the bow when he got home – and darned if he didn’t do it on the first try.
Walking back towards me, his formal black bowtie still around the neck of his red plaid shirt, he offered his hand.
“Tie looks great,” I said. “I hope everything goes well for you tonight.”
Smiling, he turned and began walking out from the men’s dress shirts.
“If she says ‘yes’, then it will be a beautiful night.”
As he hurriedly walked between rows of shirts and towards the exit I couldn’t help but wish the bow tie would not be the only knot he learned to tie on this particular evening.
– 30 –