‘Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.’—Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, 1895
The Hub and I have different approaches to the concept of clothes. I view them as ornamental, ultimately disposable cellulite covers. In clothes selection, I’m a prosecutor cross-examining a hostile witness: “Do you promise to conceal the hips, the whole stomach, and nothing but the flab, so help you cloth?”
When it comes to shopping, I feel a deep conviction that “Thou Shalt Not Pay Full Price” belongs right up there with “Thou Shalt Not Massacre Infants” And “Thou Shalt Not Wear Black Spandex Mini-Skirts If Thou Has Reached Puberty.”
But to the Hub, each new article of clothing is a potential intimate relationship. It must be wooed slowly, allowed to mature on a back shelf of his closet. Eventually, when they have built a foundation of mutual compatibility and trust, he consummates the relationship: “I take thee to be my garment of choice, to machine-wash, tumble-dry and to iron, in frayed seams and in replaced buttons, as long as we both shall last.”
I think he went clothes shopping once. But he could tell that while he was looking for a serious commitment to a lasting relationship, they just wanted his body for a one-night-stand. [NOTE: luckily, his mother showed up with his old college-graduation suit, and our wedding went forward as planned.]
So I was amazed when we were living in Champaign, Illinois** and the Hub announced, “I need some new clothes.” I’m sure he meant it in the abstract, as in “I need the clothes I have in my closet at this moment to clone themselves into identical (but newer) exact copies.” But ten minutes later, I had walked the dog, shut her in the kitchen, loaded three kids into the car with the promise of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Daddy buy clothes, grabbed the Hub and the plastic money, and we were off to the Chicago Megamall.
[**Champaign, Illinois motto: we’re in the middle of the middle. Hot dish?]
On the drive up to Chicago, I tried to keep him focussed on buying clothes by making lists of all the things we needed to look for.
ME: “Shirts, trousers…”
HIM: “Portable speakers…”
ME: “Coat, shoes…”
HIM: “That laptop with the new chip so powerful it could walk the dog, fix the economy, and solve world hunger before noon…”
ME: “Sweaters, tie…”
HIM: “That new import sports car that doesn’t actually hold any carseats, but goes from zero to supersonic in twelve seconds flat…”
At last we reached the mall. We went to the toy store, book store, bathrooms, computer store, restaurant, bathrooms, and that fountain you throw coins into for luck. (And then, of course, we had to go to the bathrooms.) All that was left was the men’s store and the cookie store. With everyone screaming in protest, I steered straight past Mrs. Diabolical’s Instant Cardiac Event Cookies to reach the Clothes-For-Ivy-League-Types-Who-Might-Go-On-Safari-Someday-You-Never-Know-But-While-They’re-Here-They’ll-Have-Some-Of-Those-Khakis-And-A-Few-Oxford-Buttondowns-R-Us. Suddenly, before we even had time to consider the relative merits of the shirt for the African Photo Journalist versus the shirt for the Australian Bush Pilot, a voice interrupted the Muzak version of “Proud Mary” to announce, “Our store is now closed. Thank you for shopping with us.”
“NOOOOO!” I’m not ashamed to admit it: I begged.”It’s not fair. He only goes shopping every other decade. Please don’t make us leave without making a natural fiber, button-down sartorial statement.”Well, I don’t know about men’s clothes, but the next time you feel like driving for three hours, I can recommend a mall with a great cookie store.