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May 14

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The rule of the powder blue tux

Flash back to spring 1976. I was going to the prom with my friend, and I went with him to arrange to rent a tux for the event. The rental form asked for our top three color choices, and we dutifully listed three: black (of course), dark green (in the semi-darkness of the gym, it would look a lot like black), and powder blue. When he showed up at my house the night of the prom, you can guess which color tux my friend was wearing. I don’t know what we were thinking when we put down “powder blue” on the order form. We certainly weren’t being ironic (high school proms in 1976 were mostly irony-free), and now we were stuck with one of us wearing a powder blue monkey suit.

To this day I retain pleasant memories of the evening and an axiom I refer to as The Rule of the Powder Blue Tux: to wit, never agree to an option that you know deep down you won’t like if you end up with it. This axiom has served me well in life choices large and small (second dates, drapes, holiday travel, a business logo). The next time you are asked to identify a set of options, and you realize that you won’t be happy if the result turns out to be Option No. 3, do yourself a favor and pick a different No. 3—or go with just two options. You’ll be glad you did.

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