My birthday approaches, which means a handful of certainties. I'm that much nearer to 40, and a slower metabolism, so I must find a way to spend less time at Chipotle. Curse its tempting deliciousness!
It also means that my husband, probably at this very minute, is spending too much money on new clothes for me. Although, come to think of it, this action does not require a birthday. It could be a run-of-the-mill Tuesday. Here's the most shocking truth of our marriage: George buys all my clothes.
This fact surprises and even offends an awful lot of people (too nosy, if you ask me). But it's not as if he wrested control of my wardrobe against my will. I gave it to him gladly. In fact, it took too damn long, if you ask me. This is something that evolved over time.
I loathe shopping, particularly for clothes, especially for myself. I will gladly purchase glittery roller girl outfits for my baby nieces Ruby and Vivian, but perusing garments for myself gives me hives.
It always has, in fact, which is why, when George and I were first dating, I generally wore hand-me-downs. Well, if you can define "hand-me-downs" as clothes I stole from one of my sisters or, more likely, their husbands.
The problem stems from my unreasonable height. For years, I wore men's jeans because they just didn't make women's jeans long enough. I don't know if you're aware of it, but men's jeans are alarmingly unflattering on women. So, you know, as long as I already looked like a bum, why bother? I'd pair my baggy-butt pants with an oversized T-shirt and some black Converse hightops and look, well, hideous.
George didn't jump right in and give me a makeover or anything. At first, he probably never realized I had a problem. We met years ago when we both worked at the Black Horse Inn near Grandview, and he mostly saw me in my waitress uniform. (FYI: If your restaurant uniform is more flattering and stylish than your actual clothes, you're in trouble.)
As we started seeing each other more seriously, he eventually suggested that I might consider getting some newer clothes. Maybe pants that fit. Perhaps shirts with buttons, with some color. He just suggested. Later he cajoled. Then he begged.
I wasn't wedded to my look, I just didn't want to go shopping. I'm cheap. I hate looking for bargains, I hate looking at clothes, I hate trying on clothes. And stores make me dizzy and irrational. God forbid I wander unintentionally into petites. I find the whole thing exasperating and unpleasant.
I don't like shopping online any better because if I can't find pants long enough in a place where I can actually try them on, what are the chances I'll find them online?
Desperate, George decided one Christmas many years back to take a tape measure to the old Northland Mall with one mission: to find a pair of women's pants with a 36-inch inseam. He found two.
Flushed with success, his purchases expanded beyond pants, and over the years I have accumulated shirts, skirts, dresses, sweaters, shoes and coats that fit. If I don't like something, I return it, but let's be honest: I'm not that discerning. I no longer look like a bag lady. He no longer has to look at a bag lady. It's been win/win.
In fact, my whole family is pleased. Last Christmas, when my niece Brenna greeted us at my door, she hugged me close and shouted, "Thanks for buying Hope these cute pants, Uncle George!"
Not everybody is as appreciative of the arrangement, though. The reaction this gets from women in particular surprises me. My own friends-tired, also, of my bag lady apparel-applaud George's efforts. But the responses by his female friends range from wonder (I wish my boyfriend would buy me a sweater like that!) to skepticism to, in one case, outright anger. I don't know if she thinks he's being controlling, or maybe robbing me of my right to choose corduroys. Clearly she didn't attend that wedding a few years back when, to avoid shopping, I pulled out my 10th grade homecoming dress. I swear this happened.
Our arrangement is not always perfect, of course. I routinely have to remind George of our long-standing, but often broken, rule: no stripper clothes. And he still has to tolerate the oversized Ramones T-shirt at least once a week.
But beyond that, we're good.
Hope Madden is a film critic for The Other Paper and a freelance writer.