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Getting past the tuxedo hang-up
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I'm not a dress-to-the-hilt kind of guy at all.

Ordinarily, attending a dinner to cover is not a problem but I was wound up like a rubber band about attending the Ceres Public Safety Black Tie Charity Ball on March 7.

It was mostly because this was a "black tie" event and I should rent a tuxedo. After all, I only wore a tuxedo four times in my life - all weddings.

Renee Ledbetter, president of the Chamber, asked if I would be attending and I suggested that I would do my best to blend in without a tux.

With incredible timing, I was going through my son Jeremy's closet as part of cleaning out my home of 28 years because I'm moving. He left for the Air Force in 2010 and virtually left everything at home but his favorite movie DVDs behind. Hanging in his closet, next to his trademark red jacket and company pollo shirt worn when he was employed at a local IGA store, was a tuxedo wrapped in a garment bag. I was puzzled as to what it was. It was a tuxedo. I had no idea that he even owned one. I texted him about it and he said I bought it when he went to prom in high school.

How odd, I thought, that life is crazy-busy when your kids are growing up in your house and things escape right by you.

And oh, he texted from San Antonio, there was a small hole somewhere in the trousers. I searched and sure enough, I found the hole. Lucky for me that he had two pairs of pants and one was pristine.

Was it possible that I could fit into the tux and wear it to the Ceres charity? After all, he last wore this tuxedo in 2005 while in high school. I couldn't be sure I was even remotely the same size.

I tried on the jacket. It fit perfectly.

So did the pants.

Same with the shoes.

So did the shirt, which had been put away that prom night 10 years ago without Jeremy bothering to wash out a gross ring-around-the-collar.

I was without excuse now. I wore my son's high school black prom tuxedo complete with bow-tie.

Many of us in the room, I could tell, were not used to dressing like this. It felt borderline silly. After all, he weren't in high school. And how many events in Ceres - barring private wedding parties - call for a tuxedo? It almost had the feel of an insecure high school prom, although my honey was not with me this night. Then people started complimenting me on how I looked.

It wasn't bad wearing a tux after all. I got my mind of the attire and focused on a room full of old friends I've known in my 27 ½ years at the Courier (yes, I started in 1987.) As the program progressed, it dawned on me that this was also a reunion of Ceres police officers of sorts; officers who started under Police Chief Pete Peterson and trained under Commanders John Chapman and Brian Weber and then Sgt. Mike Borges. George Piro, Adam McGill, Brent Smith and Adam Christiansen all spoke of good times together as they all started out in law enforcement. They all rose to the top within a decade or two.

It was an event that makes you appreciate the kind of community Ceres is, said state Senator Anthony Cannella. I would agree.

At population 47,000, Ceres is still a very close-knit community and it showed on March 7. Ceres feels like family, most of the time, and always seems accepting of the inclusion of new friends. I don't see many snobs in Ceres like I do in other communities. There is plenty of stock of honest, down-to-earth people and it's been that way for years.

It's a community where you can have disagreements and still be on speaking terms. Like when you criticize the City Council about using taxpayers' money on food - as a point of principle - while thinking they are still individually people who care about the community and have its people's interest at heart. I've had disagreements with others before, including Ken Lane, and we've always been civil. I've had rifts with the Condits and those connections have healed, too. When you're family, you can disagree but in the end you're still family.

The next time I wear a tuxedo I won't have any angst. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that slaying old insecurities and pushing beyond comfort levels means there very well could be growth and rewards on the other side.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at