Schneider and Klinger and a Five-Year-Old's Dream
When I was a little kid, maybe about five years of age, I decided that as soon as I was old enough, I was going to move into an apartment by myself, become a truck driver, and get a tattoo. I don't know where a little girl growing up within 1977s suburban gender polarity in a two-story house got ideas about things like apartments and tattoos, but it sounded good to me.
Come to think of it, though, I was a huge fan of Dwayne F. Schneider on "One Day at a Time" then. I was still under the impression that I was going to grow up to be a man, and there was something about Schneider's macho affectations that spoke to me. It had to do with his 1950s greaser aesthetic, the man who wouldn't be, a not quite Peter Pan; he had dark and wavy hair, tight jeans, a swagger, and he always wore his standard white t-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one sleeve.
It was that pack of cigarettes that kept me magnetized to the television. Every time Schneider would enter a scene, I watched for the rectangular outline of them through his t-shirt. I liked how the squareness of them drew attention to his biceps, and I decided that I would have biceps like that, too, and roll cigarette packages into my sleeves to accentuate them. I wasn't too sure about his cheezy moustache and know-it-all posturing, but the muscles and cool hair and bad boy paraphernalia were all a part of my vision for my future self.
Can you believe that the actor who played Schneider, Pat Harrington Jr., was born in 1929?
Can you believe that I once idolized a man in flood pants with a matching jean vest and whatsis dangling to his knees from a tool belt? In more than a few ways, I am glad that my ambitions at the age of five have not been fully realized, although I do have decent hair, a pack-every-five-days habit that I can't seem to shake, a tattoo on my butt, and I look damn fine in my tight jeans.
You know, I kind of had a bit of a thing for Klinger from "M*A*S*H", as well. I used to dream of going to Toledo, his home town, I marvelled at the size of his nostrils, and I was confounded by his insistence on wearing older lady clothes instead of a more vixeny style. Even his cross-dressing was transgressive.
Did I just insinuate that older women are transgressive by the mere fact of their age? I think I did. Let the revolution begin!
When I played dress-up in ladies' clothing with a girl down the street, I was secretly dressing in drag like Klinger but as the character of Schneider. I distinctly remember putting on a hawaiian dress covered in a purple, flowered print and stuffing a box of crayons up into one of the puffy, short sleeves. Why are you doing that? my friend asked. Because if Schneider wore a dress he'd put his cigarettes in it like this I answered. I somehow figured that it was cooler to be a macho Schneider in drag than a regular Klinger who smoked.
Actually, the only part of my five-year-old self's dream that I have never realized is truck driving. I did consider it briefly in my early twenties, but then a gripping fear of highway travel put the kibosh on that. And a tendency toward road hypnosis. And I was too lazy to get the proper kind of driver's license. And I didn't want to get truck driver's butt.