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It’s Not Just a Tie

I am no stranger to a wardrobe that consists entirely of menswear whether it’s jeans and shirts or dress slacks or even a suit.

Everything I own is “for men” right down to my shower stuff, cologne, and hair care products. I’ve shopped in the men’s department ever since I was a kid, much to the chagrin of my mother. Before transitioning I had a full suit that an ex-girlfriend insisted I have and it came in handy on occasion and included a dress tie. Fast forward several years and I am no longer a “girl in a suit” I’m also a different size, have moved multiple times, and have no idea where that tie went.

“HE JOKED WITH ME, CALLING ME ‘JUDE CASH,’ ONE OF THE FIRST TIMES HE EVER ACTUALLY USED MY NAME.”

Now, 2016, I have my cousin’s wedding and I’ve not asked anyone in my family for anything “male” before. I couldn’t find a tie that was reasonably priced as I knew I’d likely not wear it more than once a year if that. I was strapped for cash as the animal-care field doesn’t exactly pay well and I didn’t want to toss $30-$50 on a piece of cloth I’d use once in a blue moon. So I sent a text to my brother the morning of the wedding asking if he had a tie I could borrow. He asked what my color scheme was and I answered black on black. He joked with me, calling me “Jude Cash,” one of the first times he ever actually used my name. He sent me pictures of a few and I picked the one I liked best that would add a little splash of color to the otherwise all-black outfit.

When we arrived (separately) to the wedding hall he gave it to me and asked if I needed help learning how to tie it but he had taught me many, many years ago and it was something that I always retained. I can recall him showing me how to do a tie with his catholic school uniform tie (not a clip on back then) and despite being so young myself I somehow always remembered just how to make the tie.

The wedding was beautiful and fun and drinks were bountiful. I, unfortunately, had to remain sober as I had work bright and early the very next day but everyone else indulged. My brother gets to be the most sentimental you’ll ever see him after a few drinks, otherwise, it’s incredibly difficult for him to be open emotionally. I’d only ever seen him cry the first Christmas after my grandmother passed (I cannot even recall seeing him cry right when she passed), at my Uncle’s funeral, and that day at the wedding. We all knew it was going to be a hard wedding to get through. You see, my cousin that was getting married – her father, my uncle (my mother’s baby brother) passed just a couple of weeks earlier completely unexpectedly. Right before Thanksgiving, right before her wedding, right before the purchase of their first house, and right before Christmas – all monumental things for her and things he was always a major presence at. He was the patriarch of the family and his passing wasn’t just upsetting, it left an unfillable void in all of our lives. The drinks flowed heavily because we were devastated to watch her walk down the aisle by her mother and not her father. We cried as we entered the hall and saw the table that was set up for those who could no longer be with us, his picture featured prominently, and we cried when the traditional father-daughter dance came up and her three brothers stepped up to plate like true gentlemen. My uncle and my brother were extremely close so his loss was felt far more deeply by my brother than it would by myself or some others.

“THAT DAY, HOWEVER, WE EMBRACED AS EQUALS, SOMETHING I HAD NEVER FELT FROM HIM BEFORE.”

I mention this moment of heartache not for any “oh, so sorry to hear about your loss” but to impress upon you that my brother is not an emotional man. In my nearly 38 years I’ve only seen him cry those three times and while he’s jovial and fun-loving he is not one to pull you into a hug or seek out comfort from others. That day, however, we embraced as equals, something I had never felt from him before. He vowed to be more involved and to make that little extra effort to be together more. We sat around the table and we laughed and joked openly, we embraced the festivities and the memories. When he asked why I was eating with a napkin tucked into my shirt I told him because I didn’t want to ruin his tie before I give it back to him.

“HE LAUGHED AND SAID IT WAS MINE TO KEEP. TO CONSIDER IT A DONATION, THE FIRST TIE FOR THE NEW ME.”

He laughed and said it was mine to keep. To consider it a donation, the first tie for the new me. I’m pretty sure he really didn’t understand the impact of his statement but it was something that constantly rings back to my ears. It’s a moment that constantly replays and makes me smile. I’d always admired my brother – he is truly a man to be admired and often is by almost everyone that has ever met him, even for just a few moments. He is just that kind of guy. But growing up we were separated. He is 8 years my senior and I was just one of his annoying little siblings whose entire purpose in life, at that point, was to drive him nuts. But I always looked up to him and he, more so than almost any other man, is the one that I always aspire to be like and model what it means to be a man as a guide for myself. To have that moment across the table at a wedding for my cousin in the absence of the man who was his own role model I felt us enter a new phase of our relationship and I felt him make a step towards acceptance.

To look at it, it really is just a simple little tie. For me, however, I now look forward to finding other occasions in which to wear it because it holds so much more meaning now. While I saved a few bucks on a random piece of cloth at the store I wound up with a priceless moment between my brother and me.

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