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For too long, I have been ashamed to admit this to anyone. I have always been different, have always felt different. I have tortured myself trying to fit into a world that would shun me if I betrayed their norms. I’m sure my wife always knew. I’m sure a lot of people know. I have just never admitted this out loud.

Listen, I understand that there will be outrage. I have been living a secret life and pretended to be something I’m not. But today is the day I come out of the closet.

Dear O&F readers , I — Joseph Mack — am a proud pants-wearing American.

I grew up wearing shorts. I can remember my first pair: a multi-colored, patchwork that I wore everyday. There was nothing wrong with them. But as my body started to change so did my feelings. Conflicting emotions began to bubble inside of me. I knew something was wrong. Like, somehow I wasn’t being true to who I was. Yet I continued to wear shorts late into my teenage years.

I explored these new feelings and even experimented with pleats into my early twenties. But, it never felt right. Still I was battling societal expectations towards the breezy lifestyle of wearing shorts. Especially during Florida summers. I was old enough and well into my realization to know better. But I was an imposter scared to be revealed.

Then, on a bright, happy day, I was introduced to chinos and linen slacks. My eyes were opened. A lightweight option was the perfect solution to the heat. It was like a completed puzzle. Just like that, I have never worn a pair of shorts again (unless the occasion dictated it). I am proud of my choice. Most importantly, I don’t feel the need to conform and cut my pants at the knees.

Once I made this fundamental change, my newfound confidence was recognized by people around me. A new world was opened to me. I found myself surrounded by like minded individuals who questioned the open embrace of the shorts lifestyle. I was not alone. In fact, there were many more like me.

I will admit I don’t understand the shorts lifestyle: bare flesh, unkempt hair, and knobby knees. I’m friends with a lot of people who wear shorts. Hell, even my best friend wears shorts. He wears them to work and I still love him like a brother. I completely believe what consenting individuals do behind closed doors is up to them. Exposing my hairy columns of meat in public just not something to which I subscribe.

So this has been my confession. I spent years struggling with wearing shorts. I suffered even longer undoing the cultural programming that normalized shorts. I now realize that there is no stigma either way; I am free to wear what I want because my legs are my own.

With each American to stand up and be proud of their choice to extend their shorts into proud pants, what we choose to wear will matter less and less.

Here’s to that one summer day.

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