I have been married to my lovely wife for over 31 years. During that time, I certainly have made a few missteps. Nothing too serious, mind you, just the kind of faux pas that may lead to a frosty evening or two. In order to prevent such incidents, my bride and I have developed a series of unwritten rules over the years. For example, I was trained early on to always put the toilet seat down. Some of my male acquaintances would consider that some sort of weakness on my part and that it is capitulation rather than compromise. I choose to look at it as an act of civility akin to “Never hit a woman”. I even used this rationale to teach my son about double standards and how to avoid conflict over trivial matters.
Another of these unwritten rules is to never, and I mean NEVER dress better than my wife. Fortunately, in my case, this is often quite easy. My closet can easily be mistaken for one at Barnum and Bailey. I like bright colors and clothing that makes a “statement”. I have sports jerseys, lounge pants, Converse All-Stars in about 20 different colors, and shirts with ridiculous logos. When my company had “Business Casual” days, I was the only one who had to dress up.
My wife, on the other hand dresses rather conservatively by comparison. What am I saying? Weird Al Yankovic dresses more conservatively then I do. My wife has a closet full of blacks, grays, and navy blues for work, and earth tones for when she wants to “cut loose”. Still, for some odd reason, she both respects and asks my opinion about nearly everything she wears. Every morning she asks, “Which shoes go best with this outfit?” She’ll stand there wearing two different shoes which to me, look nearly identical. Both are fine for business, but still, I must choose. I usually try to make a light joke such as, “I really need to see the bottoms first.” After a sneer, she goes with my choice 99% of the time which I assume is more of a reflection of her lack of self-esteem rather than my good taste. In any case, she always looks put together.
Ironically, people are much more likely to comment on my clothing than hers, which I suppose is how we both prefer it. For example, we attended a formal work function and she was wearing a pretty smoking red dress. I wore a tuxedo with a red bow tie and cummerbund. My boss, a humorless individual, was pleased that I was dressed exactly like him, since he felt that I normally dressed somewhat less than by his standard of professionalism. After complimenting me, he noticed that I was wearing bowling shoes that were black on one side and red on the other, with a number 14 prominently displayed on the heel. He was clearly chagrined, but the point is, that even in her hottest look, I received most of the attention.
We’ve infrequently been to events where we were both equally either underdressed or overdressed. In all of these cases, we were also equally embarrassed. The worst was a party for the daughter of an Indian friend of mine, the equivalent of a sweet sixteen party. My wife asked me to find out the level of dress, a mistake she’s never repeated to date. I asked another Indian friend who said a polo shirt and jeans would be fine. He was way off. This was a semi-formal affair with the girl and her family wearing stunning sequined saris and gowns. My wife was mortified. I tried to lay it off on my friend who had given me the bum steer, but when I found him, he was wearing a suit and tie. He sheepishly apologized and said that his wife had straightened him out after it was too late to call. I had made the same mistake that my wife had. I trusted a dude with fashion advice.
Often, we will be getting dressed to go out and we will simultaneously walk out of our closets. On extremely rare occasions, I will have chosen an outfit that is slightly dressier than hers.
“You’re wearing that?” she’ll ask, although it won’t really be a question. “I’d better put on something nicer”, she’ll say, or something similar.
“Seriously”, I’ll say, “is it such a crime that I look nice?”
“It’s not that. I just want to put on something nicer.”
“Then why did you pick that in the first place? It was nice enough before you saw what I was wearing. Does that mean that if I dressed worse, your outfit would then be okay?”
“No, you look nice. I didn’t think it was so dressy.”
“It isn’t so dressy. I just thought I’d wear something a little nicer for a change. I don’t want to make you change.”
Things pretty much deteriorated from there. I compound the sin of outdressing my wife by surveying all of our friends by relating the conversation, further embarrassing my bride. After returning home and heading to the bedroom, I remove my natty outfit and heave it into my hamper with a little more force than is necessary. As I am standing in the bathroom doing my business, I think for a moment about leaving the seat up. Yes, that will teach her to demean my couture. But after a moment, standing in my underwear, I realize that I no longer pose a threat to her. I put the seat down. After all, I’m not a savage…I just dress like one.
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