Monday, September 11, 2006

Retail and the sober husband

Now, the Drunken Housewife loves clothes, loves shopping for them, and loves coming home with loads and loads of fabulous new clothes. (Sadly, this is a love mostly foresaken these days, and I run around in pathetic outfits. I'm currently sporting some navy cargo pants which I hate, plus my beloved Elvis Herselvis t-shirt).

But the Sober Husband is another thing altogether. The man freaks out at the thought of going to buy clothes. We both came from families which were miserly about children's clothing, economizing via hand-me-downs. In his case, the husband was deeply traumatized by this and to this day does not want anyone remarking upon his clothing. He wants to look "normal", and he's somehow paralyzed by indecision and an inability to decide what "normal" would be for him.

After he left home, his grandmother used to buy his clothes for him, but she always bought them many sizes too large, so he was drowning in an odd assortment of baggy clothes. Then I eventually came along. At first, when we were dating, I showered him in the sorts of things I'd love him to enjoy, like an antique smoking jacket, a bathrobe made of cow-patterned, black and white splotchy fabric, black turtlenecks, and gorgeous Hawaiian shirts. I quickly learned better. We fell into a workable system under which I'd buy him jeans from Jeff's Jeans (in the hugely oversized, baggy proportions he wanted), along with the occasional bunch of shirts and sweaters from L.L. Bean's. That system worked fairly well for a number of years.

Then our child started private school, and the husband started feeling shabby compared to the other fathers. He kept complaining that he wanted to look like the other fathers, wanted to look like the other fathers, wanted to look like the other fathers. "Fine, so ask them where they shop!" I said. He was frozen with indecision; he couldn't bring himself to inquire. He couldn't describe what it was he saw he wanted. (I mostly see some fathers wearing khakis and unremarkable shirts and some wearing conservative suits; I have not yet seen a single father whose clothing seemed fabulous). I told him that his nagging broke the system. I felt I could no longer buy him clothes, since he was no longer satisfied with them and could provide no more guidance.

We festered like that for some time, with plenty of complaining from the husband but no action and no ideas. I proposed taking him to Banana Republic, which he met with jeers and revulsion. Finally on the eve of a business conference, for which he felt completely unprepared sartorially, he pathetically placed himself in my hands, and I took him to Nordstrom's. At Nordstrom's, I asked him if I could do the talking for him, which he agreed to but which freaked out the men's department workers. We were in a hurry, as we needed to go back home and then get the husband to the airport for his flight, and we had two small children with us, who needed constant supervision.

I explained to a man who turned out to the assistant head of the department that "my husband hates retail, he hates shopping, and he doesn't know anything about clothes. He needs some nice, conservative shirts, some dress pants, and a lightweight sports jacket." The man looked at my husband for some reaction, clearly thinking "that woman with the tattooed tits is insane." The husband just looked helpless. "What kind of shirt did you have in mind?" the man asked my husband, attempting to circumvent me. The husband just looked at me for guidance, looking somewhat panicked.

Dragging the husband and children in our wake, I hounded the manager throughout the store, until we had three fine button-down shirts (not the Collezione Armani ones, alas, those were a bit out of our price range). We found some dress slacks (here the husband was particularly without input and extra helpless). The husband was ushered back to try on his pants, while I hung out with the children, trying to amuse them by letting them flip through short sleeved shirts on the racks. The manager came back to get me, as it had become apparent to him by now that he was going to get nowhere without me and that the husband would be able to physically put on the new, proposed pants, but completely unable to evaluate them or make any decision. So Iris, Lola, and I plunged deep into the bowels of the men's changing room, getting plenty of shocked glances along the way, and we instructed the husband to buy the pants. "Oh, you have so much more gravitas!" I said, and I could see the somewhat relieved manager stifling a laugh. (Indeed "gravitas" is an apropos word for the husband, who is truly a genius of sorts and a man of great industry, although weirdly helpless in many ways).

Lola started crawling underneath the changing room wall to a neighboring cubicle, where I could see only some navy sock clad feet, and I quickly pulled her back and said, "You cannot go into a changing room unless it's with someone you know!" "I was only saying hi!" she indignantly shouted.

Then I went off the register to ring up the husband's new clothes. The manager asked me, "Umm, if I could ask, what does he do?"

"He's in software development," I said.

"Ohhh!" That explained everything.

When I shared that I'd made the poor old Sober Husband buy a house in essentially the same way, the manager seemed riveted but disturbed. He looked ready to toddle off for a drink after his rather intense hour with the Drunken Housewife and family.

In all actuality, the Sober Husband can be quite masterful and commanding, but when it comes to retail, be it clothes or houses, the world could fall apart from entropy before the man could reach any sort of decision.


Anonymous said...

Let me first say that your life and the lives of your children remind me of the life of a certain british girl with a certain sister named, "Libby".

That and you are hilarious and I love you.

Yes! I have had a little girl crawl under my changing room at JC Pennys. I wasn't sure what to do. Suddenly my jeans dance was interrupted by a pair of large brown eyes.

"Um. Hello."

Anonymous said...

OMG! You must be my husband's "other wife" - yep, you totally described him/me/our life - even down to working with computers !!! So he's not REALLY working the nightshift - he's with you and Iris and Lola !
BTW - good luck - I've been trying to get him interested in ANY kind of retail (no, Atwoods does NOT count as a fashionable place for clothes) for years !!

Anonymous said...

omg, i seriously love your posts! you are bloody hilarious! and the antics your kids get up to? priceless! i'm going to blog about your blog, hahaha, it's so enjoyable! hope you don't mind!