David Sedaris ends Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, with a story about an encounter with a group of elderly tourists in the early morning. The group of Dutch tourist were lost in Sedaris’ French village, and looking for another obscure village a few miles away. When Sedaris invites one into his home to find a map, he notices many out-of-ordinary items scattered throughout his house that may make the visitor perceive him as a mad scientist or mass murderer. He decides the next day he will plant some hydrangeas to put on his table, claiming they will be “pleasing to the eye.”
At first I felt jipped; I didn’t think this was a sufficient ending for such a great book. But after rereading the last page about five times I realized that this image of planting flowers, in a bucket used to kill a mouse, symbolized rebirth and rejuvenation. It paralleled his childhood, and younger years. The entire book focuses on the turmoil associated with accepting and becoming who you know you are. Often time the surface layer of a person is the only layer that people see. Getting one’s outside appearance to keep consistency with one’s inner being is not easy. With David’s last chapter he points out that this is a constant process. People will constantly perceive you for who you are not, one’s goal should be to constantly reflect on their life, and make the necessary changes, i.e. planting flowers.
The entire second half of the book focuses on David’s life as an adult. The themes of his final chapters are much broader then the first half of the book. Through a series of humorous revelations, we discover what means the most to him in his life. Paralleled to the stories of his struggling youth and his family, there is a different tone. He now really appreciates what he has, and also knows why he is appreciative.
In “Chicken in the Henhouse,” Sedaris finds himself helping a young boy bring coffee up to his parent’s hotel room. He is nervous that the parent’s will peg him as a child pedophile. His paranoia had him ready for “the fight of [his] life,” but instead of fighting the parents thanked him and tipped him a dollar. Although Sedaris didn’t necessarily want to be perceived as bellboy, it was still better then a child molester. He is not a monster and people don’t view him as one either.
After the first half of the book that contained some very depressing under-tones, the second half left me feeling very warm. This parallel forces you to revisit every chapter’s theme. Sedaris’ build-up to his final point is very intelligent. The meaning behind every joke is subtle, and yet so powerful. The ending is very optimistic, and that combined with the laugh-out-loud scenarios presented makes for a very enjoyable read. Besides pleasure, the book also gives you window into Sedaris’ life, which make you reflect on certain windows of your own life and discover their meaning.