the puffy shirt
When I first started dating Tom, I immediately began trying to expand his fashion horizons, but I shot out too fast from the gate. My first gift was an oxford shirt. It was a normal oxford shirt, in blue cotton, unremarkable in all aspects except that it had a ruffly tuxedo panel on the front. It sounds bad but take my word for it that it was cool—a casual tuxedo shirt, meant to be worn with sleeves rolled up and khakis or whatever guys were wearing on their legs back in 1999.
Our relationship was nascent, and Tom was eager to please. So he feigned awe/delight at the shirt, and then shoved it deep into the back of his closet where it rested against his pile of bootleg Phish cassette tapes.
I think what really stuck in my craw about the tuxedo shirt is that I could have returned it. I have written before about my talent—nay, GIFT—for returning things. I would have returned the tuxedo shirt, albeit pissily. But he said he’d wear it, and never did. Eventually, the shirt became more than a shirt. It became a sign of my generous willingness to help guide Tom’s fashion choices, and his ungrateful rejection of my benevolence. To this day, any time I try to get Tom to try wearing anything different, he drags out the dead carcass that is the Memory of the Tuxedo Shirt. “Yoona, I can’t wear this! It’s like that tuxedo shirt.” Or, “Yoona, remember the tuxedo shirt. I never wore the tuxedo shirt. And I’m sure as hell not wearing THIS.”
You’d think I was trying to convince him to wear, like, a cape. Or ass chaps. But it’s usually something completely innocuous, like a t-shirt in a smaller size, a size that fits. I just want him to try something outside of his normal casual wardrobe, which is either jeans and button down, or shorts and a too-large v-neck t-shirt. He always looks good. But he could look GREAT if he’d just push the envelope a bit.
Last week I saw a blue and white striped boatneck shirt at H&M. You know, the type sailors wear. I’d been trying to get Tom to try one, for years. The last time, we’d been at American Apparel and I knew it was pointless to even ask, because it was hanging between some men’s v-necks cut to the navel and a rack of neon banana hammocks.
But this time, I felt like I had a shot. After an initial struggle, Tom had recently worn a t-shirt with a wide scoopneck that showed off a mantastic amount of chest hair. With that victory in my mind’s eye, I paid for the sailor top and drove home, considering my approach. I couldn’t make a huge production of it. Best to go lo-fi. Under the radar. To present the shirt as if he had twelve other striped boatnecks sitting in his closet.
“Hey babe,” I said, passing him in the doorway. “Oh,” I said, tossing him the yellow bag. “I picked this up for you today.” And then I went to the kitchen to start making dinner. But he followed me, agitated. He held the shirt away from his body as if it was a lace thong. “What’s this? I can’t wear this. It’s a girl shirt.” I began talking, fast. “Tom. It’s not a girl’s shirt. It’s a sailor shirt. Male sailors have worn them for years!!” Tom looked unconvinced, but confused. Confusion is always the first sign that Tom’s resistance is weakening. So I went for the jugular. “I mean, Tom, do you want to look like everyone else?”
Tom, like most men, has a streak of vanity, and I could tell by the set of his jaw that by God, Tom didn’t want to look like everyone else. When victory is imminent, you have to just leave it alone. Press too hard, and they can turn on you, like some feral animal. I walked out of the kitchen and went to water the plants at the front of the house.
Next thing I knew, Tom was on the front lawn, looking mouth-wateringly good in his striped sailor top. He looked like a Kennedy. A hot Kennedy, not a puffy one. Even better, he had a sheepish, tentative smile, as if he was getting comfortable with the notion of looking that fine.
And then my damn six-year old ruined everything. Finn ran over from a lawn two neighbors down as if his hair was on fire. He screeched to a halt right under Tom’s chin. “DADDY.” Finn’s expression was alarmed. “Why are you wearing Mommy’s shirt??”
Tom swore under his breath and turned back for the house, already pulling the shirt off his torso. I resisted the urge to kick my own son in the shins and ran after Tom. “TOM!! Don’t listen to him!! He’s SIX for godsake. Look how HE dresses!!” I heard Tom run up the stairs, likely in search of one of his boring too-big t-shirts. And then I heard another voice, hammering the nail into the coffin. My three-year old, Tate, stopping as he passed Daddy on his way down the stairs. “Daddy! Why you wear Mommy’s shirt?”
Tom stormed the rest of the way up to our closet. When Tate got to the bottom of the stairs clutching his Pokemon binder, I observed that his penis was dangling out the bottom of his Gangnam Style t-shirt. I couldn’t believe Tom was listening to this pantless freak, instead of me.
I eventually got Tom to wear the sailor shirt out of the house, but I had to use some serious emotional blackmail. In all, the process was very exhausting, for a shirt that cost $24.95. He says that he’s never wearing the shirt again, now that I’ve written about it here. He wouldn’t wear his calculator watch for months after I wrote about it. But time heals all.
And he WILL wear the shirt again. You can help by not commenting on this blog post if he does.