Several weeks ago I made Wifey an offer that she couldn’t refuse: in order to minimize the amount of packing we had to do, I’d buy both her and I nice clothes so that we could go to church with my parents in something other than shorts.
Then I’d forgotten all about making the promise. Turns out she hadn’t, though, and this morning she decided to call me on my offer to go shopping “somewhere nice” so we could find some fancy clothing. So, it was off to the stores, just the two of us.
We went to a store called Goody’s, which if you don’t know is a store common in the South where you can find nice clothing that isn’t terribly expensive. Wifey is very choosy, but she managed to come up with several items that she liked enough to try on.
This is a big deal, since Wifey typically finds one item, tries it on, and hates it. But this time she had about eight different things she wanted to try on. We located the dressing rooms easily enough, despite the fact that there were neither customers nor sales associates to help us navigate the tangled store. It was like Omega Man.
“The sign says only five items,” she said. “Can you hold some while I go try these on?”
“I ain’t holding nothing,” I said. “Just take ‘em in. What are they gonna do, throw you out of the store?”
“I guess,” she said reluctantly. Wife always wants to follow the rules. I, however, am a scofflaw.
After looking around, I realized that this was simply too good an opportunity to pass up: an empty store, lackadaisical help, and Wifey willing to try stuff on. I picked out the trashiest dress I could lay my hands on and tossed it over the dressing room door.
“Here,” I said. “I saw this and thought you might like it.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Do it as a favor to me,” I said.
She sighed. So many things start out that way, after all. But like a good wife she tried it on and, if I do say so myself, looked quite fetching in it. At least, I wanted to go fetch her, but the dressing room door locked. So I had to content myself with peeking in through the two-inch gap around the door.
Thank goodness for poor maintenance, I kept telling myself.
“You gonna get nekkid in there, or what?” I asked her.
“I’m not going to get naked,” she said. “Go away.”
“What if I stick a dollar in through the door slat?” I said, pushing in a bill. “Could I at least get a little nipple?”
“Go away or I’ll call security!” she said. For the record, though, she still took the money.
“In Goody’s, no one can hear you scream,” I said. “You wanna join the dressing-room club?”
At that point a hangar hit me in the eyeball. I swear, that woman doesn’t ever want to join any clubs. I’m beginning to think she’s a violent loner.
Eventually she chose out some clothing she liked, a red paisley skirt and black top that made her look vaguely like a 19th-century school marm. I picked out a fishnet stocking/black garter belt combo to go with it that she promised never to wear, but we’ll see. I can be very persuasive when I beg.
For myself, I went with the classic black shirt/gray slacks combination. No need to mess with a classic, right? Plus, it has the added bonus of making sure that every single flake of dandruff that falls off my head is advertised to everyone within eyesight.
And that’s gotta count for something.
Then it was on to shoe shopping, or as I like to call it, hell. There is no single thing I like less in the world than shoe shopping. Here’s why:
When a man buys shoes, he goes to the spot in the store where they have that kind of shoe, he picks some out, he tries them on, and he buys them. That’s the end of it. So I did this: go to black dress shoes, do not wander around in sandals and boots, do not spend $200.
Women in a shoe store are like Jeffrey in those Family Circus cartoons where he goes all over creation to go from point A to point B. Wifey wandered all over, looking at every conceivable style and type of shoe that they possibly offered.
“You’ve never worn four-inch stiletto red heels in all your life,” I said when I caught up to her. “Unless you worked as a prostitute for a while that I never knew about.”
“I was just looking at these,” she said. “I’m searching for a comfortable pair of black dress shoes.”
“You’re not going to find them in the slattern section!” I said.
She grumbled something about how unhelpful I was and wandered off.
Because shoes were buy one, get one half price, she ended up buying two styles of black shoe: regular and open-toed. I picked the open-toed shoes out over her protests, as she’s never worn that style of shoe in her life. But I thought it went well with the fishnets.
Finally we were finished: one pair of clothes for each of us. Total time: three hours. Ay, carumba. So we went to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch, one of the few restaurants where we hadn’t yet eaten.
The waiter was a nice guy and did a good job, other than right at the beginning where he brought me a coke instead of an ice tea. When I pointed it out to him he furiously apologized.
“I’m so sorry about that,” he said. “I know better, too. You guys always order the same thing.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we’d never been there before. Of course, it’s possible that Ruby Tuesday’s waiters have a group mind, and he was recalling collective memories from all our other visits to other Ruby Tuesdays in other states back when we still lived in the US.
But somehow I doubt it.
That afternoon, we had a mini family reunion. My cousin, his girlfriend, and each of their daughters were coming over to play with my children, along with my aunt (his mother). In order to help wear out the children, grandma and grandpa set up the Slip N Slide in the front yard.
It was quite a complicated affair, a three-lane behemoth that ran about ten feet and ended in a small pool at the bottom. In flagrant violation of the instructions, we set it up to run downhill so that the children could gain maximum speed and increase their injury potential.
Once we had that set up, we were ready to go.
First one up: the boy. He ran, jumped onto the slide, and immediately smacked his head against the ground. Springing up, he declared it the devil’s toy and refused to step foot on it again for the rest of the afternoon.
Next up was the younger of the two cousins. She ran at it, jumped on her stomach, flew to the end, flew off the end, and skidded five feet on the ground. She declared it the coolest thing ever.
Then came my daughter. She hesitantly stepped on it, crab-walked down the length, and said it was okay.
Finally, the older of the cousins. She sat down and scooted down the length of the slide like a dog trying to wipe it’s ass on the carpet. She said it was too difficult
I had had enough. “Out of the way!” I bellowed. “I’ll show you how to play with this toy!”
I ran at it and dove stomach-first, intending to slide to the end and show them that it takes speed to do this properly.
What I actually showed them was that the ground is hard, and when you weigh more than forty pounds it hurts like hell to slam yourself into it. I felt the impact all the way to my armpits, and by the time I got to the bottom I worried that I had permanently injured myself.
The children were amused. “Again, again!” they cried. The boy even insisted on riding me down, like some sort of perverse water park ride designed to punish unruly prisoners.
Every time I went down the slide I could actually feel my bones fracturing and muscles tearing. I eventually had to take breaks to chug a gallon of milk to stave off osteoporosis. When I finally convinced them to release me from sliding, every part of my body ached, including several places I was unaware that I had.
In total, I slid about four times. Finally in too much pain to continue, I crawled to the shower and put myself under the hot water.
“Sore?” Wifey asked when she came in to check on me an hour later.
“Uh-huh,” I said. “How are the kids?”
“They’re still sliding,” she said. “They’re not old men.”
“I’m not old either!” I said.
“You’re the one soaking his feet in Epsom salts, not them.”
When I’d finished, I hitched my pants up to my armpits, went outside and sprayed them all down with the hose. Damn kids were on the lawn, after all.
After dinner we caught up with my cousin and his family, having a good time.
The evening went on and on. I was sore, and very tired. But everyone was having too much fun to leave and let me go to bed. And I’m too young to have to crawl off to bed just because every muscle in my body aches like I’ve been run over by a steamroller.
So I did the next-best thing: I sent the kids to bed. Oh, sure, they protested because it was 7:15 and well before their bedtime, but I had to have some reason to chase everyone off and go moan myself to sleep.
After all, I’m not getting any younger.
Damn slip and slides should come with a warning: DO NOT USE IF YOU ARE OVER 10 AND HAVE ANY SENSE OF SELF-PRESERVATION!
Tomorrow: Catching Up is Hard to Do