Husbands: The Fashion Fail-Safe System

The Middle Age Follies

A Slightly Skewed Look At Life

By And For Those Of Us On The North Side Of 50

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Few things terrify men more than this question: “Honey, how do I look in this outfit?

There are dozens of possible replies. Not a single one of them is correct, and each one is so loaded with the potential for instant hostility that a series of stammers, the combo shoulder-shrug and ill-defined hand gestures with the uncertainty of miscellaneous head-bobs usually serve as the safest, default reply.

Of course, the default reply to that is usually something like: “Really?” After all these years, I’m still not entirely clear as to whether or not that means: “You actually think this looks good on me, you moron?” or “I just spent two hours putting this outfit together and all I get from you is a response I’d expect if I threw a toaster in your bathtub!” (It should be noted that on at least four separate occasions I’m pretty sure my wife muttered to herself “I need to test that option….

Does anyone know which is the better reaction? I don’t, although it seems fairly clear that neither one of them is a “good” response to our sincere efforts. For me, forty minutes of glaring afterwards is the usual sign that my fashion sense is still a sore spot in our relationship.

But over the years, I believe we’ve come up with a more peaceful, and almost accurate fail-safe approach. I think it’s worth sharing. Here’s how it works:

My wife will allot herself a sufficient amount of time to shower; fix her hair; “do” her makeup; tinker with the aforementioned efforts for a while; spend an hour or two in the closet to decide which of the 762 outfits would look best for the event at hand; make her selection; devote no more than thirty-five minutes to the actual dressing up part with the obligatory frowns and muttering to herself (and at this point, it should be noted, we are now officially two hours and fifteen minutes late); remove one or more articles of clothing so that they can be re-ironed (although it should also be noted that as soon as she sits down–anywhere—her clothing will instantly wrinkle, but you don’t think I’m going to point that out, do you?); re-put-on her outfit, examine every square inch of said outfit in front of the mirror (and simultaneously, of course, study every hair strand, makeup electron, etc.), pronounce herself satisfied with the look (she’s right!) and then one of two things will happen:

Damn it, I picked the wrong shoes!

I will now lay down, which almost-always returns my blood pressure from the typical 900/430 reading to my preferred 120/80. I then go through the mental calculations to determine if showing up for the aforementioned event seven hours later is still socially acceptable, and then I will read … an entire book; a thick one … with small print.

The alternative is the one which has come to define our fashion collaboration, and I think it’s the best one:

Once we’re both fairly certain that we’ve whittled down the wait time for me to less than two hours, my wife will again pronounce herself satisfied with the results of her efforts (yes, she does look great as always!), and then stand before to ask my opinion.

Having now learned the proper response—the ONLY proper response, mind you—I’ll offer up a confident and convincing “Fantastic!

She will then beam at my said proper reply, and immediately announce that it is definitely not the right outfit, and the problem has been solved with not a single bad word or evil glare exchanged. Fashion Fail-Safe!

So I will then go out and paint the house while she puts on the correct outfit, and our evening is just hours away from beginning!