You can go your own way

Last week, I found myself walking up the street behind an elderly couple. One might have described them as slightly eccentric on first appearances, if one was willing to lay down such a judgement purely on the basis of their dress and manner. In both dress and manner they exhibited an adamant indifference to the rest of the street, and – one couldn’t help but imagine – world, around them, and this was enough to make them stand out. I wished I could take a photo of them.

If a suburb is to be judged by the price of its real estate, then they, and I, were walking in an expensive suburb of Melbourne, but like many expensive suburbs in Melbourne, Government Housing exists side by side with houses that sell for seven digit figures. It’s also a touristy suburb, being on the beach, but we were walking along a shopping strip away from the tourist area, and more likely to be populated by locals. These two characters looked neither wealthy, nor obviously poor, nor like tourists. I assume they were locals, but they could have been eccentric millionaires, or eccentric residents of Government housing, or anything in between.

The old man was slightly bent, and wearing a pair of those glasses that has an extra flap of dark glass that can be flipped up or down, so that they function as ordinary glasses or, with the extra flap down, as sunglasses. He had flipped the darker shades up, so he was walking along the street with those stuck out on a 90 degree angle. This struck me as amusing while I’m sure that from his point of view, it was completely practical. He wore a cap on his head, a shirt and a long, baggy, probably home-knitted cardigan, and trousers that hung loosely from a belt around his waist.

Here was a man who reminded me of my own father – because he clearly chose his attire due to the necessity to wear something for decency’s sake, and not because he had any interest in the colour or style, or overall effect of his ensemble. Walking closely beside him, his wife (I assume) also wore a large knitted cardigan, but hers was very colourful. Like him, she displayed indifference to any dictates of fashion, however unlike him I imagine she had, at some stage, chosen the clothes she was wearing today because she liked something about them. Probably the colours.

(*The couple in the pic above are more stylish than my elderly couple, but they exude the same sense of independence.)

In inner-city Melbourne, one would be more likely to see a colourful knitted cardigan on a young hipster woman, but this woman had been wearing them, and probably knitting them, for decades before Hipsters ever thought it a quaint idea to bring them back into fashion.

This couple were probably around the age of my parents, who are in their late seventies, and they were almost definitely  younger than my partner’s parents, who, now in their late 80s, have various health problems, and are easily exhausted. They don’t go out anymore unless they are chaperoned by someone who can help them navigate their way slowly and carefully in and out of cars, restaurants and public toilets.

But I don’t think it was this contrast that caused me to be struck at how independent and autonomous this couple seemed as they went about their trip to the shops together, walking at their own pace, talking loudly to one another, and ignoring the other people striding along the street briskly and purposefully, causing them to dodge around them as they approached from the front, or overtook them from behind.

It was because they were going their own way.

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6 Comments

  1. i love this post – and them!

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. weebluebirdie

     /  December 8, 2016

    and so enters another ear worm!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Your delightful post makes me wonder about how they got their indifference. Were they attracted to each other because they had their own eccentricities, delighted to find someone else who didn’t give a fig for fashion? Or, over time, did one of them slowly influence the other? With colourfully knitted cardigans perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. A stranger is like a closed box. You can see the exterior and make guesses as to what lies within but the interior is hidden, locked away from your gaze. Many times in my life I have made guesses about people, classed them as strong and independent or weak and needy and often I have been proved completely wrong in my assessment. I know that people are mostly wrong about me too, often flatteringly so: perhaps I am better at seeming than at being.

    We all wear masks of one kind or another and those of our acquaintance that we describe as ‘genuine’ are simply those who wear their masks with the greatest aplomb. Sometimes we manage to glimpse inside the box but this is very rare. To coin a phrase, ‘Things are never what they seem’.

    Liked by 1 person

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