Q: My husband, who is a grown man, sometimes drives around town without a shirt, as if he were some kind of a small-town teenager coming home from mowing lawns or the swimming hole. He says that it’s no big deal, but it is a big deal, right? He shouldn’t do this, should he? Please back me up here.
Sandra Garcia, Fort Worth
A: Wading into dustups between wives and husbands is typically an ill-advised endeavor, but the Texanist’s bread is buttered by giving guidance to those who come to him for such assistance and he doesn’t always get to choose his battles. Thankfully, the root of the particular domestic discord at hand appears be fairly benign, so the Texanist, since you’ve asked, is more than happy to roll up his sleeves and dive right in.
Thanks for reading Texas Monthly
You’ll be pleased to know that as a former small-town teenager who was, back in those more carefree days, familiar with both lawn work and swimming holes, the Texanist is well qualified to chime in on the subject of shirtless automobiling. However, in the spirit of full exposure, er, disclosure, the Texanist should at this point acknowledge that even at his own relatively advanced age he, too, still occasionally partakes in turns behind the wheel sans shirt.
Fear not, though, for just because the Texanist is himself a confessed practitioner of the very act you disapprove of so strongly doesn’t mean that he can’t pretend to be an unbiased third-party arbiter on the matter. Actual judges, after all, put aside their personal prejudices all the time. Or so they say.
So, hear ye, hear ye! Before the honorable Texanist now comes the case of Sandra Garcia, a seemingly upright Fort Worther of seemingly sound mind, versus her husband, of whom the Texanist knows scant little, but who sounds like an alright fella, having been happily (one assumes) married to Ms. Garcia, for however long it has been.
A summary of the complaint against Ms. Garcia’s better half avers that he sometimes cruises Cowtown with his upper body unclad. As this is a bench trial in which the Texanist gets to act as both judge and jury, please excuse him for a moment while he retires to the nearest watering hole—uh, sorry, his chambers—and deliberates for a spell.
(Three and a half hours later.)
Okay, thank you for your—hic!—patience. All rise.
In considering the present case, the Texanist referred to all applicable statutes, various online driving manuals, and the Texas Department of Public Safety’s “Texas Driver Handbook,” 2017 revised edition. He even googled “Fort Worth” and “shirtless driving.”
It turns out that your husband, in prowling Panther City partly peeled, has run afoul of exactly zero laws, ordinances, or rules having to do with the operation of a motor vehicle, public lewdness, or any combination thereof. It seems that he is required to wear a seat belt but he is not required to wear a shirt. (Interestingly, contrary to a persistent rumor that has circulated among new drivers going back a long, long time, it’s not against the law to drive in flip-flops or bare feet, either.)
Therefore, the honorable Texanist, who is not an actual judge but pretends to be one in the pages of a nationally recognized magazine for entertainment purposes only, does hereby find in favor of the defendant and, furthermore, declares that the complainant must pay all applicable “court” costs, in the form of a check made out to the Texas Chili Parlor in care of the Texanist’s standing bar tab.
The Texanist is sorry that things didn’t work out for you in his ad hoc kangaroo court of law, Ms. Garcia. But now that the Texanist has disrobed—in the sense, of course, of removing his judicial garb and nothing else, not even his shirt—he may now return to his usual role of providing his signature fine advice to the confused, the mistaken, and the lovelorn and offer a few thoughts that you might actually find helpful.
The Texanist has no way of knowing how long you’ve been going with this fella, but in case you are not already aware, it’s a fact of life that no matter a man’s age or station in life, that man, unless he’s a total straight-arrow, a killjoy, a sourpuss, a never-nude (not even partially nude) prude, or some kind of weirdo, will have stayed in touch with his sometimes shirtless inner small-town teenager, no matter the actual size of the town in which he grew up. This is a good thing. Small-town teenagers, if you recall, live pretty sweet lives. Remember cruising the Sonic, hanging out at the skating rink, getting buzzed on purloined garage fridge beer out at the lake, throwing the 6X9s up on the roof of the truck and jamming out to ZZ Top, and then making time with so and so from that school one town over? Remember that? The Texanist fears that you do not. And this, the Texanist believes, may be the source of the disconnect between your straitlaced self and your unlaced husband.
Is there a fix for this marital discord? The Texanist thinks there is, and it is rooted in the widely held notion that what’s good for the goose is also, as they say, good for the gander. If you continue to fail in shaming your lawfully wedded hubby into covering up his lawfully half-nekkid body, the Texanist suggests reintroducing yourself to your own inner teenager. We are, as they also say, only as young as we feel. Unfortunately, though, the joys of topless motoring are not a two-way street. The Texanist’s research informs him that the Texas public’s old-fashioned views on female public chest-baring could result in a citation. So you will have to find other ways to relive your own wild halcyon days, even if you didn’t actually live them the first time around. To that end, do you happen to have teasable hair, a good supply of blue eye shadow, and a vintage 1978 sleeveless Cotton Bowl Jam II concert half-shirt that commemorates the day Steve Miller rocked his adopted hometown so hard? (Or can you buy one on Etsy?) If so, the Texanist suggests setting your hair sky-high, applying a heavy coat of that eye makeup, wriggling into that old concert T, rolling down the windows, cranking the tunes, and flying like an eagle.
Perhaps one sticky summer night, as a hot breeze blows through that ratted mess on top of your head while you make your way down Berry Street for the umpteenth time, the stars will align and you’ll cross paths with a certain man possessed of an undeniable virility who likes to drive around town without his shirt on. And maybe, just maybe, if you’re really lucky, your inner teenager and his inner teenager will throw caution to the wind and end up breaking curfew together.
In the meantime, if your husband starts tooling around town with an unclothed lower half, give the Texanist a shout. Because rules are rules, and when someone’s inner teenager goes too far, he’s liable to lose his keys to the car for a spell.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.