“You need a new shirt.”
It never fails.
Just when I finally get my world the way I like it, my wife comes up with something like this.
I do not need a new shirt.
I have all shirts I need. In fact I have a closet full of shirts – though I only wear three.
One shirt is for walking my dog around the block. The thing is, our block is seven miles around, so when Scooter and I get home, that shirt goes into the wash.
The second shirt is for walking Scooter while the first one is in the washer.
The third shirt is for church on Sunday.
All the other shirts in my closet either do not fit or are not fit for walking a dog.
“Why do I need a new shirt?” I ask.
“Because your Sunday shirt is no longer suitable for church.”
“Why? It’s comfortable.”
I admit that the only dress shirt that fits is unraveling at the seams. It is also threadbare, full of holes and permanently rumpled – but is that not the very definition of comfortable?
A well-worn shirt is well-worn because the wearer likes to wear it. Who can argue with that? A shirt that is not well-worn proclaims loudly that it is not worn for a reason.
Somewhere in my closet, there is a shirt like that. It is a long-sleeved white button down dress shirt that I only wear with my blue suit, and I only wear my blue suit to weddings and funerals. The shirt testifies to how much I like going to both events.
“You are getting a new shirt, and that is that.”
At The Outlet Mall
“This is a nice shirt,” she says, handing me a square of plastic bound cloth. I have no idea how she can tell it is either nice or a shirt.
“Try it on,” she says.
Try it on…..
It sounds so simple.
First I must find a place to do it. Stores frown on using restrooms for that purpose, but restrooms are easy to find, fitting rooms are not.
“Where are the fitting rooms?” I ask.
“The men’s fitting rooms are right over there,” she says pointing to an unbroken line of wall displays.
I always marvel at how she knows these things, given that the store is sharply divided by gender and no self-respecting man would dare wander into the domain of women, yet every woman alive seems well acquainted with the men’s section.
“Look closely,” she says, “between the jeans and the dress pants.”
I see nothing but I walk in that direction on faith alone. Sure enough, somewhere between the jeans and the dress slacks, the fitting rooms present themselves.
I located an unoccupied stall, one that has no occupant because the latch does not work – but hey, I am trying on a shirt, not pants.
Next problem: how to get at the shirt?
This is a mystery to me.
The effort that goes into packaging men’s dress shirts is astonishing. The thing comes wrapped in a plastic sheath. It has also been carefully folded into a tight square that is held together by a quiver full of semi-lethal pins. The pins are everywhere. There are pins in the collar, pins in the button holes, pins in the shoulders and pins in the shirt tails.
I suddenly realize why men’s fitting rooms are hard to find. Think of the staff hours required to get a dress shirt back into its original form once a buyer rejects it.
When trying on a dress shirt, the trick is to first remove all the pins. An experienced shirt buyer can do this with confidence, but an old man who tries on a shirt every five years cannot.
Then there is the plastic.
The manufacturer puts plastic in the collar (I suppose to help it keep its shape) and you are supposed to remove it before putting the shirt on. You are also supposed to know you are supposed to remove the plastic.
Keep in mind that dress shirt collars are enthusiastically starched. Working together, the plastic and the starch can make quick work of your neck, and yes, that does leave a mark.
After all of these trials, one is compelled to parade the shirt in front of one’s wife for her approval.
“It looks good,” she says.
“It makes my belly look big,” I complain.
“Because your belly is big,” she says. It sounds like a complaint.
None the less, she likes the shirt.
“Can we go now?” I ask.
“Not so fast.”
“We have to do something about your pants.”
“I don’t need pants, I have three pair.”