A tale of two fitting rooms

The first time I went shopping for clothes with my husband, The Rational One, he was not quite my husband. We were securing shoes to accompany his wedding suit, in which he would marry me the following month. Never having shopped with my husband, I had no idea what type of shopper he was.

Just to be clear, he is the type that can make a woman crazy.

As a woman, I go into a shop, wander around, run my hands along the soft silky fabrics, pick up a couple of dresses on hangers, stand in front of the mirror and hold the dresses in front of me, and have an instant “yea” or “nay” moment, and then repeat. If the colour, fabric and style all converge to catch my eye, a retail worker will sweep the gown from my clutches, place it in the fitting room, and after repeating this process multiple times, I move to the fitting room. If it is a lucky day, one of the frocks will transform me from my current state – 50 year-old mother with evidence etched deep in her face of the perils of raising teenaged boys – into Cinderella. Or Belle. Or Jennifer Anniston.

The point is, there is a flow, a retail tango between the clothing and me, and this has been the way of my shopping since I was a girl.

The Rational One is different. That day, he tried on the first pair of shoes. He walked the length of the store and back, briskly, and then walked the length of the store and back slowly, as though he was pondering a great conundrum of the human experience. He rocked back and forth, heel to toe, toe to heel several times, like Admiral Nelson, or Sir Winston Churchill.

“How are they?” I asked innocently. “They look quite sharp,” I added.

Ignoring me, he turned to the salesman and said, “I’d like to try the other pair.”

The salesman hurried to lace the second pair and prepared, as my husband removed the first pair of shoes, to package those away.

“No, no,” The Rational One said, “don’t put that pair away just yet.”

My future husband then tried on the second pair, and began the walk down the length of the store. And back. And forth, with the second tempo. And back. And rocked. He then sat down, and put the right shoe on from the first pair, keeping the left shoe from the second. And went for the walk. Then he switched: first pair, left shoe, second pair, right shoe. And went for the walk.

And so it went for almost an hour. Four pairs of shoes, infinite combinations. In the end, pair number one was the winning pair, and they became his favourite pair of dress shoes. He danced all night at our wedding, feet comfortable, and has attended many events since then in the same pair, knowing he is wearing the most comfortable dress shoes ever made for mankind.

I learned I don’t like shopping with him.

My firstborn shares my simplistic shopping approach. He loves clothes, ergo he loves to shop. He isn’t a dandy; lots of classics, jeans, t-shirts and the like. He works with precision to seek out, try on, and secure, spending our money with a militaristic precision on the retail battlefield.

Recently we had the prom shopping experience and it was no different. He knew what colour suit he wanted and where he wanted to buy it, and we were in an out in under an hour. I was staggered, and greatly relieved, by his ability to decide on his ‘look.’ I was also a little frightened by his ability to lighten my bank account. ‘This one will need to marry into money,’ I thought as I put my wallet away.

It was also time for The Rational One to update his suit collection, expanding it from the one he wore to our wedding, and to every event that required a suit since, to two. I just couldn’t bear the thought that he was going to live his life like an Old West pioneer being “married and buried” in the same suit.

There was a two-for-one sale, so I dragged The Rational One to the store the day after the dapper firstborn, convinced that this was a really good, frugal idea. I had forgotten the wedding shoe experience.

Almost as bad, I hadn’t considered that the last time he bought a suit, they were different. We’ve been married almost 20 years – a millennium in fashion, we discovered.

The difference in men’s suits over 20 years was not quite as extreme as Don Cherry to George Stroumboulopoulos, but darn close. Straight legs had become peg legs; boxy jackets and padded shoulders had become slim-fit jackets with no structure. Deep, dark colours had become shiny fabrics in light colours. Shoes had morphed from a banker’s Oxford in oxblood to a light tan, pointy-toed slip-on. Apparently in 2015, men do not have muscular thighs, or a bottom. The Rational One was, in short, in middle-aged men’s fashion hell.

Similarly, stooped old Italian tailors sporting a cloth tape measure around their necks had been replaced by a hipster in a jaunty fedora, who snuck up behind him and grabbed a handful of the fabric on the rear of his slightly loose “skinny” pants and started pinning them in place. The Rational One was quickly becoming less rational.

We had been in the store more than two hours when he finally retreated into the fitting room to remove his new suit. I was actually delighted to follow the salesman to the desk and voluntarily and eagerly took my wallet out this time.

As we were totaling the sale, I saw the Fedora fellow glance over my shoulder and pause. He got an excited gleam in his eye, and I felt my heart sink.

“Oh hang on,” Fedora fellow said, “I think your husband is considering some new shoes, too …”

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