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.

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Conversations with my wife: Diversity

In the car, my wife tells me about something she read online that has her very excited.

WIFE: There’s this company that will pay you $6,000 to eat just junk food for a month.

ME: Why are they doing that?

WIFE: They want you to eat just junk food and take their herbal supplement and see how you feel after a month. I guess their supplement is supposed to give you all the nutrition you need. I wanna do it!

ME: Is it just chips and candy?

WIFE: I’m sure you can eat fried food and burgers and stuff. It sounds great. We should both do it. Then we’d get $12,000. Just think, $12,000 for eating chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. It’s perfect.

Fire up the deep fryer! It’s greasy time!

ME: I don’t know that I could eat that kind of stuff for a solid month. Besides, I bet they want more diversity in their subjects.

WIFE: What are you taking about? A young, black woman – an old, white man. What could be more diverse than that?

ME: I was thinking more about environmental diversity, but since you put it that way, I guess they’d have to take us.

I hope their supplement doesn’t interact with my senility meds.

 

Homeless caveman squats in area sunroom

You can’t really call a room with coordinated throw pillows a man cave. It’s the closest thing I’ve got though.

My house is too small and my family is too big. I have only three children, but my boys have a way of building themselves in to a horde. They are everywhere, and even when you can’t see them, you can still hear them.

I lived many years in our home without feeling the need for my own special space. In the past year, things have changed. First, the living room TV has been taken over by video games. I have two kids addicted to PlayStation and one kid who is happiest when his brothers are playing it. Intently preoccupied boys have not one second to waste vexing a younger brother.

Second, I recently discovered I can read again, after a 10 year hiatus, if I hide myself well enough. Being better equipped to distract themselves now, these bloodhounds don’t hunt me down as constantly as they used to. I might be able to slip away for 20 minutes of solitude.

I need a sanctuary.

The bedroom doesn’t make for a good man cave, and it’s the first place they look. The basement is too cool and humid, and occasionally it floods. I’m not trying to spelunk in my cave. I just want to watch sports and read.

Over the summer, I discovered I could slip away to the Three Seasons Room to catch moments of peace. I even read an entire book out there, over three seasons. These stolen moments were a delight, but I can’t say I established a man cave.

Color coordinated pillows. Humbug! I can hardly bring myself to nap on them.

There are many flaws.

  • The name, Three Seasons Room, is pretty generous. It’s more of a Two Seasons and Spare Change Room. Maybe round it up to 2.5 seasons. November through March are cold, barring a very mild day with hours of sunshine.
  • The room is right off the kitchen, so if any kid needs help getting an emergency cup of juice, I’m the first responder.
  • It was furnished by the lady of the house, which means it’s tasteful, and worst of all, inviting. It has matching stuff, no neon, nor any of the other assorted, tacky paraphernalia that tells people to zip it when the game is on.

    Breakfast nook with table centerpiece. I expect this to become a man cave essential any day now.

  • I made the mistake of putting a Roku TV in there. It’s kind of a poor man’s smart TV. It’s a TV with an average IQ that seems genius compared to the dim-witted TVs I’ve always had. Now, anybody can watch Netflix movies at the push of a button. Maybe I don’t know enough about man caves, but I don’t think they’re meant for men to watch Smurfs with their families on football Sundays.

My 2.5 Seasons Room is not much of a man cave, but it’s a baby step forward. I’m not greedy; I don’t need a whole cave. I can live in a man cubby for a while.

The fraud in the frozen foods aisle

One Saturday I got a sudden and mysterious knot on my knee. It was swollen, but X-rays showed no damage, and the doctor concluded it would probably heal itself. As a precaution, she advised me to pick up some extra-strength pain reliever.

We all went to the store together on the way home from the doctor. I was feeling pretty good, so I suggested we pick up our groceries while we were there. My wife thought that was a fine idea and immediately steered me toward the bay of motorized carts for disabled shoppers.

I attempted to persuade her this mode of transportation was unnecessary, but you know how a wife always thinks her husband is just trying to be manly in public, because a wife thinks her husband perceives himself always with a large S on his chest and a blue cape on his back? It was like that.

She’s awfully insistent when she is trying to save me from myself. She says stuff like: “Oh, you’re embarrassed to ride that? How will you feel when everybody sees you fall over in the middle of the store?”

She won – not because her position was strong, but because she can tolerate a louder argument in public.

Somehow, my wife failed to take pictures of my embarrassment. She must be slipping.

Walking toward the go-cart I limped more than medically necessary, in case any passersby wondered at my justification for commandeering Granny’s ride.

Once mounted, I experimented with positions to make my leg appear more busted. I even considered riding side-saddle to insinuate an inability to lift my leg over the front of the seat. I discarded this idea from fear my wife would loudly offer to bring me my corset and parasol.

I settled on keeping my leg rigidly straight, inviting onlookers to imagine a poor man who could not bend his knee. I also decided to ride out on my own, putting as much store between myself and my always-conspicuous family.

Riding my lonesome trail, I imaged all eyes on me, casting suspicion on my need for special accommodation. I passed a fellow traveler, a young lady, robust and healthy, in no way manifesting a requirement to ride the aisles, except for the crutch proudly displayed behind her handlebars.

Damn! If I only had a crutch, all these haters would be silenced!

The self-conscious grocery rider learns these carts make the beeping noise of a construction vehicle when backing. In a Saturday superstore, there are an alarming number of obstructions that force reversing.

I had almost become resigned to my trike when I saw him: a man older than me, with one less leg, striding toward me on one crutch. There is no condemnation quite like riding past an upstanding amputee.

My impulse was to get up from my bicycle basketful of groceries, and march out of the store. But this would prove how little I needed my mechanical advantage, so I bowed my head until the man passed.

I found my family; we bought our groceries; then I parked my vehicle and walked out of the store like the fraud I am.