Before I plunge ahead with this tale of woe, a bit of background would be helpful. I have always been concerned about my appearance and the clothes I wear.

Being on the smaller side of the average American male, buying clothes can be challenging -- shirtsleeves and pant legs are always too long. One of my biggest fears has been looking like the guy whose clothes are drooping all over him, an image that was reenforced by a recent experience at an upscale hotel.

Tired from a long day of traveling, I looked forward to a shower and perhaps a meal in the very elegant and comfortable room, wrapped in one of the wonderfully soft bathrobes hanging on the bathroom door. All went as planned until I put the robe on. I turned to the mirror and to my utter dismay saw a Yoda-like creature looking at me. My hands were not visible beyond the sleeves, and my feet barely peeked out from under the hem of the robe that rested on the floor. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I immediately disrobed, dressed, and retreated to the lobby bar for something to help me forget what I just saw in that mirror.

Now to the suspenders.

My expanding waistline in recent years has only aggravated the clothing problem. My true waistline now sits at the midpoint of my abdomen, and any slacks belted at that level have nowhere to go but down, unless the belt is tight enough to cut off blood circulation to my brain.

The solution to this unpleasant dilemma is a pair of suspenders. They work just fine, until they don't. Because it's so obvious that I'm wearing them to hold my pants up, and not as a fashion statement, I'd rather they not be seen, so I cover them with a sweater or other appropriate garments.

Unfortunately, over time the snaps that attach to the trousers can weaken and lose their grip, sometimes at a most inopportune time. If it is one of the front snaps, the solution is simple; place a hand in the pocket on the compromised side to keep things from going too far south, and look for the nearest bathroom or a secluded corner where the problem can be repaired, unobserved by others. If you are with a group of people no one will pay much attention to what's going on.

If both front snaps fail, which fortunately doesn't happen very often, trouser droppage is more severe, and you need both hands in the front pockets ASAP.

This is a problem if both hands are not readily available. You have to work quickly to find a way out, because people will soon be looking at you, wondering what you're doing with your hands buried in your pockets while you are frantically looking around the room. I can assure you it is not a pleasant situation.

As bad as these situations have been, they don't compare to the time when a single back snap came undone. I did not realize what happened until my pants suddenly became subject to the laws of gravity, at an alarming speed. There was no time to try and find pockets. I had to resort to the nuclear option -- clamping both upper legs and knees tightly together. This doesn't stop the top of the pants from falling, but at least prevents them from reaching my knees, and sliding over my shoes. And forget about leaving the room gracefully. Walking with your knees together immediately catches everyone's attention, and there is no telling what they think might be happening.

Believe it or not, that is not the worst that could happen. The tension on the suspenders has to be tight enough to do their job, and when sitting, this tension is increased, sometimes to critical levels. When that happens, all snaps can fail simultaneously, usually un-noticed. It's only when you rise from the chair and your pants don't, that you realize the severity of the problem.

Sensitivities prevent me from going into the maneuvers required to survive this situation.

But, engineering foibles aside, I continue to wear suspenders because I'm a tiger; I wear rose-colored glasses; and lastly, true to character, I'm a vain dolt.

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