As I previously mentioned, Cathi recently celebrated a birthday. As a married couple on a teacher's budget, we rarely get any large surprises for each other on our birthdays. Sometimes we talk about it, but that talk always seems to be reduced to, "I would really just like to go out and get some new clothes."
Cathi is out getting some new clothes right now. She deserves whatever clothing she opts to allow grace her body. However, there is one biyearly clothing charade that digs a craven pit deep inside my gutless guts: The pants purchase.
Most men know exactly of what I speak. If you have been to a mall with your companion, you have been to hell and back. It's the same game every time we go; "These pants are kinda cute. These ones look long enough. I think I will try these on!"
I have seen Cathi go into a dressing room with both shoulders loaded with pants 8 deep. I have seen some of the slacks she has picked out and I have had very high hopes for at least one. I wait, and wait, and wait until I have been sitting on the stool outside the dressing room for at least 45 minutes. I realize she has been in there a long time. That must be a good sign!
The worst store to be stuck in while your loved one unsuccessfully tries on her britches is a women's clothing store with no customary changing room stool and without any sign of a men's section. You are relegated to the lonely man wondering walk of shame. Sliding carefully through rows of bras and blouses, occasionally lifting a price tag to look busy. It seems to always be the same girl that follows you around for a few minutes with her eyes and finally unassumingly blurts out, "Can I help you find something?"
I swear that this gum snapping, disgustingly skinny, butterfly tattoo'd, overly ambivalent, future spa receptionist, simply moves from one store to another to mock me. She knows I am waiting for my wife to finish her pants marathon and she is simply messing with my mind. How I want to say, "Yes, I am looking for anything that is not a doll's dress that might fit your disgustingly frail frame." Alas, I timidly answer, "No, just waiting for my wife." Why are these teenage snobby girls so darned intimidating?
Finally, as my stomach grumbles to warn me of dinner time, my wife emerges from the golden changing room gates; bright eyed and smiling like she just lost a bet. But what's this - NOTHING? But she went in there with 45 pairs of pants... NOTHING? Perhaps she was abducted by pant's stealing aliens while she was in there?
She has an excuse for every pair; the hips were too wide, the legs too tight, the fly was a button fly. I ask, "Well what about the Levi's? I had high hopes for those." She always sighs before providing the excuse. It's as if the sigh is the preparing me for the horrible news by providing a buffer of sorts. "The Levi's were too tight on my thighs." "Oh", I say. "Well, we can't have that." There is 45 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
My favorite excuse is, "Those jeans ride way too low." This seems to be a fairly common excuse nowadays as low riding jeans have become an unfortunate fashion trend. My wife is not a plumber and she does not have a large butterfly tattoo on her lower back, thus rendering the low-rider jeans completely useless and unsexy on her. It is time for this trend to die.
Sometimes there is another man sitting on the changing room bench reserved for men. We always give each other the obligatory nod. It's as if we are the two new guys in prison, waiting for our turn in the lunch line. We do not speak as it may jinx our presence, but we are connected by a common bond that will share for the next 45 minutes.
45 minutes and not a single pair of pants fit. When I tell this story to other women they say, "You don't even know... you don't even know." And you know, they are right, I don't know. Selecting pants is easy for a me. I know my exact size and which brand fits the best. It is an easy chore to accomplish. It has gotten to the point where I can enter the department store, tell the lady at the counter, "Size 32 Silvertabs please", and she will direct me to a stack. I will pick the one laying on the top and proclaim, "PANTS SHOPPING DONE! LET'S GO!"
When I do actually go into one of those tiny dressing rooms, for some reason I am always concerned about 3 things: The lock, the space below the door and the space above the door. Why can't they just put a full door that goes to the floor in these things? I guess I worry about a small child climbing under the door and screaming at the pale, naked man standing before them. Or even worse, I worry about a tiny, pervert midget looking for a man with extra hairy legs. They do exist!
While I am changing and I hear someone new entering the changing area, I make sure to give out a few coughs and grunts, just to know that this here area is TAKEN. Don't even try and open my old west saloon door or look through the semi closed blinds.
Things have changed at these places since I was growing up. The doors now have locks and they are controlled by who else - the snobby, teenage, nazi girl. If I want to try anything on, I have to search the store while yelling, "SKINNY GIRL? SKINNY GIRL?" It is tough because sometimes I mistake the clothing racks for the skinny girl. I once turned bright red when a group of girls caught me asking a metal rack if she might have a key to the fitting room.
Cathi hates shopping, which does not help the situation at all. She becomes easily frustrated by clothes that do not fit and she will often give up before trying everything on. There are some stores that I know never to even mention. Old Navy and the Gap just cannot, for the life of them, produce a pair of pants that will effectively fit her body. Strangely enough, she finds that Target, of all places, has their finger on her pant needs.
Of course, there have been the very rare cases when she actually purchased a pair of pants that looked less than flattering on her. She uses these cases as proof to the frustration of buying pants. I might say, "Those pants make you look like you sat in a frying pan." (I don't think I have ever really said that.) To which she would reply, "I know! I hate these pants! I told you, I just can't find pants that fit me! Stupid stores." I know now this is a path of dialog I do not want to go down ever again.
Fortunately, most of the pants she does eventually select look smashing on her. In the right pair of jeans, she looks like a sleek, salacious jaguar on the prowl. I then realize that the quest for the perfect pair of pants is indeed a righteous one that benefits us both. If I truly desire her to look good, I must endure the hours of affliction outside the waiting room. This reminds me of a quote that I just made up: Behind every successful women stands a man, browsing for push up bras, while she is trying on pants.