We were having family over for Thanksgiving dinner, and after wearing my old blue jeans all morning as I helped by watching Kim cook, I decided to dress up for dinner. Dressing up meant changing into my black Levis and putting a shirt with a collar over the t-shirt I’d been wearing. And putting on shoes. Sandals, really. Kim rolled her eyes when she saw me emerge from the closet, and she suggested that I write about it. So I am.
My wardrobe has been an issue for Kim ever since we were married 25 years ago. After looking through my closet, she made me an offer: She would buy me a new shirt for every three items she discarded. Puzzled, I agreed. I lost a few favorites to Goodwill, I’m not sure why.
My wardrobe challenges actually started during our courtship days. I remember approaching her desk wearing one of my favorite “outfits,” featuring a nearly iridescent yellow shirt and a flashy sleeveless argyle sweater. I don’t remember the pants I was wearing, but I’m sure they have disappeared from my closet. Might have been my bell-bottoms. Kim told me she thought I was doing it as a joke. Nope. It was courtship days, and I was trying to make a good impression.
How bad was that outfit? A few years later we were married, and my stepson, Scott, was briefly living with us as he made the transition from college to career. He was broke, and he had a date that night. I offered him $100 if he would wear my old shirt and sweater combo. He declined. He could have changed it in his car in the driveway, but he didn’t want to take a chance of being seen as he walked to his car. At night.
My wardrobe decisions simplified as my teaching career moved into my second decade. On one of my annual teacher evaluations a student made a comment about the neckties I tended to wear. The obvious solution: no more ties. I still have a few left in my closet, but most have been sold to amused customers at our garage sales.
In the 80s our high school implemented a “casual Friday” policy where it was OK for teachers to wear jeans. After about five years my “casual Friday” had expanded to include every day except for once very five years when the Principal stopped by to evaluate my performance. Tenure, I found, is very useful.
Kim has continued her efforts to upgrade my wardrobe. She buys me clothes and encourages me to buy them for myself. In fact, I recently discovered five shirts she’d bought me. They were stacked in a bottom drawer, still folded in their plastic Eddie Bauer envelopes.
Sometimes, however, I manage to emerge from my closet wearing an outfit that meets Kim’s approval, and she rewards me with positive reinforcement, telling me I look “sexy.” I try to reward her back by wearing the same shirt and pants for three or four days in a row, but for some reason the sexiness of my outfit seems to fade with the passage of time.
I’ve also learned that choosing the right outfit is not enough; I also need to wear it the right way. I’m pretty good at getting my belt through all the belt loops, getting my buttons more or less vertical, matching my socks and putting my shoes on the right feet, but there’s more to it than that. It seems that my shirt is supposed to balloon out slightly as it approaches my belt, and shrugging my shoulders usually does not do the trick. My best solution so far is to leave my shirt untucked – not perfect, but better, at my age, than removing my shirt altogether.
When I get really old and living in the nursing home, I may find myself in a situation where someone else dresses me – also true when I am dead. How do I feel about that? Not so good about the circumstances, but getting dressed by someone else has its advantages. I may have to teach them how to balloon my shirt out just right.