Every summer, there's a deluge of articles about a man's quest for the perfect swim trunks (men in bathing suits! Har har!), and today's Times has one by Henry Alford that, at first glance, is no exception. It commences with a predictable ideal: a picture of Jude Law on the beach in Cannes.
I downloaded the image, and hied myself to Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue, where I showed it to a smiley salesman in his 20s named Beau. I told Beau, “I want to be mistaken for Jude Law.” I explained, “My looks are kind of preppy and innocent, so I need a suit that will take me to ‘wayward English schoolboy’ rather than ‘toffee-nosed prat.’”
What follows is the also predictable wild goose chase of shopping, punctuated by useless salespeople and sorrowful anecdotes about his reflection in dressing room mirrors.
“These make me look like I have a little storage area,” I said to the salesclerk, a sly brunette in her 20s. “A place for pencils or filberts.” (Her: “Yeah.”)
However, he finally triumphs! And here's where things get interesting. Rather than giving his story a happy conclusion about feeling emboldened by his fancy new swimming costume, Alford wears them under his pants on the Hamptons jitney ("As I boarded the bus, I found myself smiling slightly, and thought, 'I am wearing very exciting underpants!'). Then, rather than mooching off a wealthier friend's Hamptons timeshare like everyone else, he decides to sleep on the beach in Amagansett.
I crawled into my sleeping bag at 10 p.m. The suit’s smoothness felt satiny and delightful against the sleeping bag’s slippery insides: a hot dog in a bun. The surf raged, the stars twinkled. I felt new and brimming. Jude at last.
But then, just after midnight: blindingly bright car headlights aimed at my head. “Hey! Hey!” yelled a male voice from inside an East Hampton Marine Patrol vehicle. The officer then asked, with some irritation, “Why are you sleeping on the beach?” Groggily, I explained, “I just bought a new bathing suit.” He snorted and said: “You just bought a new bathing suit! What kind of reason is that?” I mumbled an incoherent answer. He wrote me a summons.
Alford winds up taking the 4:20 a.m. jitney back to New York (still in his swim shorts, awesomely), presumably amid drunken twentysomethings whose overnight plans have also fallen through. If only more Times articles ended like this, people would actually pay for an online subscription.