Middle-aged man earns right to dress himself – for now

My wife hates the way I dress. The shirts and ties I wear to work are okay (just okay, nothing fantastic), but the clothes I wear in more casual circumstances will not do. The shade of my blue jeans is not right; I wear my shirt tucked in when all the hip older gentlemen are leaving theirs out; and having pants that fit just right is no excuse not to wear a belt. I didn’t know this, but holding your britches up is only one of the reasons to wear a belt, and probably not the primary one.

I’m a country boy, and I dress like it. I wear clothes to be clothed. Warmth, comfort, and hiding my shame are my concerns when it comes to wardrobe. I developed a dislike for clothes shopping early in life and have honored that dislike to this very day, which is why I tend to wear an article until it is no longer comfortable or has quit hiding the more disturbing views of my shame.

I grew up being told to tuck in my shirt. That was how you made yourself look respectable. After many years, I finally learned to do this routinely and figured I was set, as far as managing the transition between shirt and pants. I was wrong. Tucking your shirt in no longer makes you respectable, as I interpret the messages I’m getting. It makes you look like an old man who still dresses like a little boy. It also shows off that gaping faux pas where your superfluous belt should be.

I can’t help it if I become a Social Media Influencer in my Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes. (Image: Russell Lee)

My wife grew up in a completely opposite world. She came from the affluent suburbs, where people didn’t have the social freedom to dress like farmers. While I was dodging cow patties, she was dodging the societal pitfalls of matching the wrong top with her shoes. The poor girl had to spend her spare time accessorizing. The closest I ever came to that was finding a pair of matching socks. I’m not saying I did that every day, but I had my debonair moments.

Whenever my shame starts to feel a breeze I reluctantly go out and buy something modern. I don’t make a point to show my new garments to my wife, but she always notices them. I know she’s noticed when she says, “I wish you would just let me shop for you.” This doesn’t always come off sounding like the compliment she means it to be, but I can usually dig down to the loving sentiment beneath it all.

The last time I wore a new outfit, it caught her off guard. She looked at me and let out, “Oh, you look so nice!” before she realized I was wearing new clothes that I’d bought for myself. She had to concede I’d dressed myself like a grown up, but not perfectly so. “Now we just need to get you into a nice pair of Sperrys,” she added.

I think those might be shoes.

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like a house with the right kind of bed in it

On the days I pick my son up from kindergarten, we come home through the neighborhood. There are a lot of very nice, roomy houses on the school side of our neighborhood. The homes get smaller and plainer as we get closer to ours. When there is nothing left to envy about the houses we pass, we know we are home.

dream home

What our house surely looks like from the other end of the neighborhood. (Image: Marion Post Wolcott/US Farm Security Administration)

There have been three or four houses for sale along our path since we began taking it. They are all near the school, over on the swanky side of town. We couldn’t afford to upgrade to any of them, but with the addition coming to our family, it is tempting to fantasize about living in a bigger house.

My son always points out each house with a for sale sign in the front yard. We make a game of picking out which property each of us thinks is the nicest. It’s kind of a stupid game, since they are all nicer than people of our ilk can afford. But it passes the time.

One day, on our trip home, I asked the boy, “Would you like to move to a new house?”


“Not even a nice, big, fancy one like these?”


“Why not?”

“Because the new house might have a girl’s bed in it.”

“A girl’s bed? What does that mean?”

“It might come with a girl’s bed in my bedroom instead of a boy’s bed.”

I’d never thought of that. Who would want to take such a chance? “When you move to a new house, you take your own bed with you,” I explained.

“Oh. That’s a good idea. I should keep my same bed.”

Yesterday was my morning to take him to school. All of his favorite pants and shirts were in the hamper, so we had to make do with whatever was clean. He balked at the two pairs of pants I could find that fit him. Then, when I finally got him to understand that there were no other choices, he complained that the shirt I found went with a different pair of pants. The situation escalated. I yelled at him to just put something on before we were late. He whined and got all pouty about having to wear such unappealing clothes.

fresh laundry

All his other clothes were dirty. (Image: Dorthea Lange/US Farm Security Administration)

And there I was arguing fashion with my five-year-old son. I’d never imagined a scenario that would lead me to this result.

It’s a good thing I don’t have any money to buy a new house. There was an hour yesterday morning when I might have shopped for one that came with a girl’s bed.

That knee-jerk reaction faded fast. It soon occurred to me that he was arguing about his loss of control more than about fashion. Even so, he can be into fashion or whatever else he wants. He’ll always be my boy and he’ll always be able to bring his own bed wherever we might go.