Q: I work for a technology company in a nice office in Austin—despite what you have heard, we are required to wear shoes. Anyway, I have a co-worker who dips Copenhagen and spits into a Styrofoam cup. Is this acceptable in an office environment?
Mike, via e-mail
A: Though the Texanist cannot condone the use of any product that, according to its own label, “may cause gum disease and tooth loss,” he understands well the satisfaction gained from a pinch of moist smokeless tobacco. In youth, he once repaired to the vacant lot behind the Bonanza Steakhouse in Temple with a trusted friend, cut open a fistful of tea bags, and placed this reasonable-seeming tobacco facsimile in a couple of old empty snuff cans. The next day’s invitation-only dip at Cater Elementary School resulted in a somewhat jangly buzz—caffeine- rather than nicotine-fueled as it was—and, ultimately, a trip to the principal’s office, but the hook had set. Who could have known that a lipful of Lipton would be the gateway to grapevine smoking, Red Man Plug, boxes of San Antonio—made Travis Club Senators, cigarettes by the carton, and an unquenchable thirst for double macchiatos?
But the Texanist digresses. Unlike the husky-voiced and ashy-complexioned throngs who are now fixtures outside every office building, your co-worker has yet to be legally banished for his vice, and until secondhand spittle is shown to cause warts and liver rot, it is unlikely he will be. But while his habit may not inflict actual bodily harm upon bystanders, some are surely discomfited by his amber currents of drool and foul-smelling forgotten spittoons. Your colleague should be mindful of this and employ discretion, confining his dips to the men’s room or his own desk. The office is not the horseshoe court.
Q: Is it proper to fly the Lone Star flag outside Texas? I proudly hoist it every morning in front of my home in Oklahoma City, surprisingly with no complaints whatsoever, but I surely don’t want to step beyond the bounds of propriety.
Kendall White, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
A: Misguided pride has led to numerous displays of our flag where it doesn’t belong. The Texanist is thinking of bikinis, bandannas, shot glasses, Western shirts, jogging shorts (that means you, Willie), toilet seat covers, hubcaps, and urinal cakes. None of these can be said to properly exhibit our venerated colors, and the Texanist advises you to eschew them all. Emblematic of that for which it stands, the state flag of Texas, a noble pennant immediately recognizable throughout the civilized world, should always be treated with the utmost respect.
To answer your question, the Texanist tried to imagine what his reaction might be were his own neighbor to raise the state flag of Oklahoma. He quickly realized that he wouldn’t know the Oklahoma flag from Shinola and thus would probably just think it peculiar. As for the Oklahomans, it is not without historical precedent for them to tolerate strange banners. Beginning with the Royal Standard of Spain, fourteen flags have flown over their soil, including two versions of our own, from 1836 to 1850. So the sight of the Lone Star should be found offensive by nary an Okie, and as long as you behave in accordance with the Texas flag code, you should be well within the bounds of propriety and thus OK in OK.
Q: I was recently presented with one of those window stickers for your car that advertises your child’s name, school, sport, and position. I am very proud of my son (even though he doesn’t get much playing time), but I don’t want to put this sticker on my car. Am I going to hell?
Name Withheld, Longview
A: The Texanist is not responsible for determining whether or not you spend your hereafter roasting in the hot fires of eternal damnation, but if he were, this would not meet his threshold of a condemnable offense. Maybe if your son was QB.
Q: I recently bought a straw cowboy hat, and a friend told me that I can’t wear it after Labor Day. Is this right?
Brian Jordan, Austin
A: Your friend is referring to the old custom of straw between Memorial Day and Labor Day and felt the rest of the year. But if your recent acquisition is one of those already-broken-in, pre-crushed, bent-up strawbominations so prevalent today, you are advised not to sport it before, during, or after Labor Day. Otherwise, the Texanist finds the Memorial Day to Labor Day straw law to be nothing more than a rule of thumb. Similar dictates are often said to govern garments made from linen, seersucker, and madras; certain types of footwear; and white apparel in general. On these subjects the Texanist is silent. But when the mercury rises in September or, more often than not, October, he has never been afraid to don a sturdy Mexican palm leaf lid. Since his days in diapers, he has believed that fashion follows function. In the case of a late-breaking spring norther or a trip to cooler climes, he unashamedly doffs the Gus, a handmade silver-belly beaver crafted by famed hatmaker Manny Gammage, of Texas Hatters. Gammage designed the Gus for Robert Duvall’s portrayal of ex—Texas Ranger captain Augustus “Gus” McCrae in the television adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, but the Texanist has been told that it suits him to a T.
Sartorial strictures are for crossing guards, newscasters, and French maids. Especially in a hot climate such as ours, you are advised to wear whatever fits. Just be glad that Texas is a place where the native headgear has not yet been abandoned in the same wild, modernizing rush that claimed the derby and fedora. Here one can stroll the sidewalks under a wide, shade-giving brim and incur no smirks. Here one can wear a hat.