October 18

International Necktie Day


“Just this once.”  Carla offered the strip of clothing, dark brown with diamond patterns.  “Wear it for the interview.  Get the job, and you may never have to wear one again.”

It looked like a rattlesnake, the way she’d lain it across her bare arm.

Graham thought the wool suit jacket and slacks should have been enough to make an impression — plus the all-cotton Tommy Ralph shirt, with its collar open to avoid strangulation.

Carla didn’t quite understand his aversion to ties.  Certainly, women had their own burdens with business attire, and his wife dreaded any occasion where she felt obliged to wear nylon stockings and heels.  But Graham had a particular reason to despise neckties.  As a child, he’d attended a prep school that required a tie as part of the everyday uniform.  The worst students there, the bullies, developed a practice they called “peanutting,” where they’d sneak up on someone and yank the tie down, simultaneously pushing the knot toward the throat and tightening it.  Graham was a frequent target, and sometimes had to wear high collared shirts or sweaters at home to hide the bruises on his neck.

One time, a bully had held the strangling knot in place too long, and Graham nearly had to be hospitalized.

Just as he’d kept the bullying secret from his parents, he did the same with his wife.   He feared those schoolday incidents would make him appear weak to her, and he couldn’t explain why he’d never fought back.  So instead of telling Carla the full truth, he collected other reasons to avoid the accessory.  I always sweat around my neck, he’d say, and a tie makes it difficult for me to breathe.  Sometimes he added: They are torture devices.

This time he tried a new argument.  “They’re also unsanitary.”  As Carla scoffed, he followed up with details he’d read in a magazine.  “It’s true:  they’ve been banned in some hospitals.  The doctors lean over, and the tie dips in their soup or in the garbage pail.  Then during surgery, maybe, it slides across someone’s cut-open abdomen, with weeks and weeks of germs on it.  They’re not washed as often as other clothes, don’t you know.”

“You’re not a doctor.”  Carla smiled, shaking the tie as if that would make it seem more tempting.  “And this one’s brand new, so it’s perfectly clean.”

With those words, his wife emphasized that the tie was a gift that she’d bought especially for his interview.  A thoughtful surprise, intended to build his confidence.  The job would bring in extra money that both of them needed, especially with the expected changes upcoming for their family.

Graham sighed.  He accepted the rattlesnake.  Wrapped it around his neck.


[…continued tomorrow…]