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Before I met The Great Love Of My Life I dated a psychotherapist named Dr. Joan who had a lucrative practice on Philadelphia's Main Line. Every time I showed up at her house for a date, she appeared in perfect fall elegance. Fuzzy wools in earth tones. Dark tweeds and cashmeres. Long alpaca and mohair scarves, loosely knotted just so. Gold earrings, bracelets, rings. Her preferred designers were Valentino, Fendi, Dior, Marc Jacob, Prada, Gucci. Early on she vowed that common cotton or synthetic fabric underwear would never cover her skin, only the most well-made and expensive black silk would do. What's more, she would discard these undies at the slightest sign of wear. They had to be, and remain, pristine.

I thought Dr. Joan's clothing obsession was very nearly pathological, perhaps a reflection of her relationship with her stern, grim, unsmiling, never-to-be-satisfied father. Why should costumes play such an important role in her life? It was obviously all about poor self-esteem. An incomplete self-acceptance.

Now, I've always considered myself indifferent to what I wear. Jeans, sweat shirts, and loafers or running shoes suit me just fine. I'm a writer, a photographer, after all. We artists prefer to look casually rumpled.

But then last weekend at the laundramat I noticed that the high temperature of the dryer made all my t-shirts look a bit brownish at the crew neck, as if they weren't washed properly. Not good, I thought. Time for a fresh batch.

At Sears I was surprised to see that six crew neck Jockeys cost $40. Jesus H. Christ! I didn't recall them ever being so damned expensive. So I decided I might try soaking my old ones in a wastebasket half-full of Clorox bleach.

After 24 hours, they looked perfectly white, like new.

I felt compelled to photograph those shirts as they hung to dry in the bathroom. Click, click, click. How about a few closeups of the crew neck?

Yes. Click, click, click.

A few days later I looked at the photos. They didn't please me at all because they didn't really convey what I wanted.

Which was what, exactly?

Answer: The special look of a new, clean white t-shirt's crew neck. Like the one that Bobby Quinn--the most popular boy at St. Casimir's school-- used to show up in every day. Unlike the filthy garments I was obliged to wear because my aunt consented to wash my father's and my clothes only every two or three weeks.

Ah, a bright flash of insight.

These days, sixty years after my envy of Bobby Quinn, I insist on the perfection of whiteness. A pathology, exactly mirroring Dr. Joan's. Yes. It's all about incomplete self-acceptance. Poor self-esteem. The whole thing never occurred to me until now.

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At least it is only your own clothes and not other people's. There is a lady in SchollSoc who shall be nameless but who is also a big fan of Charles. She's always going on - affectionately, but still rather too much - about Andreas Scholl's rumpled appearance, but when she gets onto the subject of Charles' clothes she is positively scandalised. "And his TROUSERS!" she exclaims, as though they were the most appalling things she'd ever seen.

All I can say to that is a) he's a cyclist, so what the heck do you expect? and b) if she is looking at his trousers while he's singing, there is something wrong with her. :-)

If I were Charles I suppose I would say that it matters little to me WHY a lass shows up at my performance, just as long as she does indeed show up!

This proves that you are not Charles. :-) He is absolutely all about the music; as far as he's concerned, he is secondary. He just happens to be the man with the voice, and he's still amazed that other people like the said voice quite so much.

Have I ever mentioned there was only one thing standing in the way of my achieving fame and riches as a concert pianist?


Don't you go knocking yourself. You may not be able to play the piano like an expert, but you're certainly not without talent as a photographer.

I once asked Charles if he could play the piano. This was shortly after his elder daughter had gleefully revealed the existence of a photograph of him horsing around in a feather boa (which I can quite imagine, because he does have a wonderfully silly sense of humour). His reply was, "No, not really, but I can vamp." Given the context, it was all I could do to keep my face straight... he'd have been most embarrassed if he'd realised! :-)

Totally disagree.

Clothes are fun! Costumes are fun!

But yes, artists who spy -- like me, like you -- have to dress anonymously so we don't call attention to ourselves. :-)

When I was associate editor of DuPont Magazine I wore a three-piece pinstriped suit, a pure silk regimental tie, polished wingtips, and carried a chrome-trimmed Samsonite attache case. Those corporate assholes actually thought I was one of them!

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