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Posts from the ‘relationships’ Category

Dirty Dancing by myself

There are movies that everyone has seen, like Top Gun. These movies give us a common lingo, a pop culture lingua franca.

When you meet someone who doesn’t speak the language, you notice. My best friend Linds knows me better than almost anyone. But the fact that she’s never seen Top Gun really hurts our ability to ever truly know one another. How can I really connect with someone who hasn’t experienced the agony of Goose dying in that ocean? Someone who hasn’t felt the erotic snap of an in-his-prime Val Kilmer, wrapped in a towel, chomping his teeth at Maverick in the locker room?

Tom is even more aghast that Linds hasn’t seen Top Gun, because he considers Tom Skerritt’s role in that movie to be an archetype of manhood. Simply put, Tom wants to be Viper when he grows up. And I second the motion.

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When I was a teenager, I made a list of all the movies my parents wouldn’t let me see. I planned to view them all in quick succession as soon as I turned 17. I remember nothing about that list except that Tequila Sunrise was at the top of it. And that Dirty Dancing was somewhere farther down.

Dirty Dancing is my Top Gun. I never saw it as a kid. Tom has no interest in seeing it, and it’s not a movie you feel good about watching by yourself. But this last Friday, that’s exactly where I found myself. In front of the TV, alone, watching Dirty Dancing.

Title aside, I assumed the dancing in the movie would be cheesy and awkward. I was not prepared for it to be, in fact, dirty. I mean, the movie was made in like 1985. Had dirty dancing really even been invented yet?

Turns out it had. Patrick Swayze spends essentially the entire movie with his crotch stuck between someone else’s legs. Watching him writhe against Jennifer Grey with “Hungry Eyes” wailing away in the background, I looked nervously around my living room and wondered if I should close the curtains. As if the movie I was watching was actually porn. Unfortunately, it wasn’t porn, because there isn’t even a real sex scene. After an hour of libidinous pelvic thrusting, I felt downright cheated that the sex all happened off screen.

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Still, no wonder my parents wouldn’t let me watch this movie. I mean, if I had seen this movie as an impressionable teenager, I would definitely have spent my late teens and early twenties trying to get laid by a dance instructor.

As an adult, there were many things that I found challenging about Dirty Dancing. It was jarring and unpleasant that the guy who plays Baby’s dad is the corny cop from Law & Order. I found it unbelievable that in the space of three days, Baby went from dressing like Laura Ingalls Wilder to the trampy Sandy at the end of Grease. The scene where Johnny and Baby go into the woods to practice their dance moves on a log? Why would they practice their dancing on a log? That scene sucked and I fast-forwarded most of it.

Speaking of that scene, why does Johnny need to break into his own car to drive it to the forest? I found it hard to believe that Johnny Castle, using nothing but his tender dancer feet, would be able to kick a concrete post out of the ground. I have hit like twenty of those posts with my CAR and they didn’t budge. That whole scene was supposed to tell me something profound about Johnny Castle, but I wasn’t getting the message. Probably because I was too busy focusing on Patrick Swayze’s pants and shoes throughout the movie, which were distractingly cheap and hideous, like the bottom half of a Panda Express uniform. Lastly, I feel pretty damn certain that the real Johnny Castle would not have had a shaved chest. The real Johnny Castle would have had a hairy mat on which to nestle a heavy gold chain.

All told, Dirty Dancing was kind of a scandalous movie, at least to this 37-year old. After all, the events in the movie are set into motion when a character has an abortion. AN ABORTION. Kind of heavy for a movie about learning how to mambo at summer camp.

I pushed the “info” button on my remote control to verify that this movie was PG-13, which it was. My older kid is almost 8. That means he could technically watch this movie in five years. Over my dead body. I made a mental note to add “Dirty Dancing” to the list of things I needed to protect my kids from, right before “carcinogens” and after “girls.” Then I played the whole movie again. For this blog. For research.

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giving up the ghost

This post is about dreams, and letting them go. I spent most of 2013 feeling strongly that I was meant, nay DESTINED, to have three children. I hounded Tom daily for my unborn third child, prompting much consternation and dry-gulping of Advil.

Leaving aside the problem of an unwilling sperm donor, I sensed unease from those closest to me. There were comments that I took as judgmental warnings. “Wouldn’t that mean you have to change your life a lot?” “Don’t you think that would be hard on Tate?” “But things are finally getting so easy!” “WHY do you want to have three children?”

WHY did I want to have three children? Because my first two are fucking awesome and I had a vision of a third awesome kid, poking his head up from the empty back row of my SUV. And maybe this time, the kid would actually look like me. An awesome new kid that looked like me. Was that so much to ask?

Although he did not want another child, Tom still wanted to have regular sexual congress, which seemed a bold and uncompromising position to take, given the circumstances. And that’s where we come to the letting go of Tom’s dreams. The dream of remaining a man in full. The dream of leaving his man tubes uncut and un-cauterized.

The dream of having regular sex while at the same time not having a vasectomy.

Anyway. He’s had the consult. The procedure is scheduled. I know it’s scheduled because Tom sent me an Outlook calendar invite for that entire weekend, the description for which reads “Resting at Home.” The invite was followed by a verbal clarification from Tom. “The doctor said I can’t move around AT ALL because the gravity on the weight in my balls might mess up the healing. Like, I can’t STAND. Or MOVE. So I am just going to be in the TV room that weekend, HEALING.”

The easy joke here is that I already have a third child, and that his name is Tom. The tougher joke is that I’ll spend that weekend solo-parenting my two amazing kids, putting to bed my dreams of a third.

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dad soccer

I really look forward to Wednesdays. Wednesdays are when Tom goes to play futsal with his team, which is made up of dads from my kids’ school. And I submit that hearing the recaps of those games is better than any entertainment you might pay to experience.

But let’s back up. If you don’t live in Portland or some other hipster town (or South America), you might not even know what futsal is. Futsal is indoor soccer, but with different rules, none of which I know. My only real knowledge about futsal is that every adult I’ve met who has suffered bodily injury during adulthood has done it playing futsal. There’s Keil, who broke his toe. There’s Matt, who tore his ACL. There’s Eden, who broke her elbow PRACTICING futsal in her driveway. Tom is not particularly prone to injury, but neither would I describe him as particularly body-aware. So I had real anxiety about Tom playing on a futsal team.

My anxiety ratcheted up to a fever pitch when I found out that Tom’s first game would be played at 10:20 PM. I mean, by 10:20 PM I’ve been in bed for an hour and twenty minutes, if I’ve played my evening right. As for Tom, the only thing I can envision him doing well and with intention at 10:20 PM is watching HBO. Maybe brushing his teeth. MAYBE folding laundry, but only if it’s all towels. But that’s it. Futsal at 10:20 PM!! No wonder people dropped like flies playing the sport.

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Tom wasn’t having any of my doubt. Dressing for the first game, he pulled on his shin guards, which seemed to cover alarmingly small acreage on his long white shins, and a pair of striped knee socks. Then he pulled out a pair of sports glasses. I didn’t realize he HAD sports glasses, and told him so. “Remember,” he told me, rolling his eyes. “I got them for squash.” Tom has played squash exactly twice. Which puts the use-per-wear on his sports glasses, I’m guessing, at approximately $150. More critically, he hasn’t played squash in about three years, so we were working with an old prescription and impaired vision. Jesus! Why didn’t he just stay home and let me break his legs with a hammer? It would be faster and I wouldn’t have to wait up.

Tom left for the game, and I waited at home, anxiously. I looked back at the text I’d gotten from our friend Ethan, who plays in a Monday night league, and had lost his first game only two days before. The text was a photo of his skinned arm, and a message: “They made me bleed my own blood.” I kept waiting for Tom, until about 9:30, when I fell asleep. Around midnight, I was woken up by Tom, who was scarily alert and high off adrenaline. “We won,” he crowed. I dug deeper, and learned that the other team, ManChestHair United—while comprised of younger, more able-bodied men—had had no subs during the game. Meawhile, Tom’s team, with a deep, enthusiastic bench, had subbed players every 90 seconds. No matter. Tom was SO HAPPY. So I was happy.

This week’s game was a different story. The excitement of the first game having worn off, Jeremy, the team leader, was having difficulty fielding a full five-man team for the game. Tom showed me the potential line-up. Tom was listed as a “Yes (but likely drunk),” because he was going to the game straight from a dinner out. Patrick was listed as “Yes (with weird fluid).” Most of the other players were listed as “No” or “???”

“Look at this!,” Tom complained, thrusting his phone in my face. “Just look at it! I mean, I have ass stitches and I’m playing.” Tom had gotten stitches on his ass while skiing the weekend prior, and now he apparently intended to lord those ass stitches over achier, more exhausted teammates. I asked him about Patrick’s weird fluids–what kind of fluids? Were they from last week’s game? And how could fluids last seven days? I mean, I practiced yoga with Patrick. How could a dude that bendy have been wrecked by a single futsal game? Another teammate, Todd, could apparently barely walk. My old doubts started to come back. Maybe these guys WERE too old to play futsal.

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patrick. warmups.

But they’d won their first game, hadn’t they? I watched Tom leave for his second game (start time, 11:00 PM), and tried to put my fears to rest.

Well, they lost. Recapping the second game, Tom focused less on his team’s performance than the fact that two of the players on the other team were full-time soccer coaches. “Division 5! It’s total bullshit that those guys signed up for Division 5! I mean, I’m a lawyer!” Tom told Finn the score was 7-1 and mentioned that the other team had cheered when Tom’s team scored, so it didn’t sound TOO bad. I mean, the cheering from the other team sounded fun, if a little pathetic. But Patrick told me afterwards that they have to stop keeping score after a certain point and that the score was more like 20-1. Which makes me want to cry.

But it’s ok. Tom’s not injured (so far) and he’s having fun, and really, that’s all you can ask for when it comes to dad soccer.

pants on fire

On the list of undesirable behaviors, lying has never seemed that bad to me. I mean, I’m a mom. Honesty may be the best policy, but sometimes, lying is just easier on everyone. Like when my seven-year old croons “I put your faith to the test, when I tore off your dress” along with Jason Isbell in the car and then asks me what the song is about. There’s only one answer to a kid’s question about the meaning of a country song. “America,” I always answer, looking off into the distance, imagining I’m in a Chevy commercial. Seems appropriate.

Anyway, it’s January. And January means resolutions. This year, I’d settled on “chew slower” when I overheard Finn and Cuz talking about lying. “I never lie,” Cuz said. And boy wasn’t that the truth. Three weeks ago, I’d passed by her on the stairs in a new backless top, late for a party. “How does it look?,” I asked, twirling.

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cuz and me, new year’s eve

Cuz made a face and looked pained. “You aren’t tan enough,” she offered, apologetically. Changing in my closet, I cursed her under my breath while pulling on a mechanic’s suit that covered every inch of my mid-winter skin. But Cuz was right. And if she’d lied, I’d have inflicted my pasty back on a whole room full of party-goers. So maybe there was something to this honesty thing.

Over the next few days, I thought more about resolving not to lie. Maybe it was time to go back to the basics. After all, I’d lied recently to a total stranger and it had gone very badly for me.

My car was in the shop and the dealership had shuttled me to a rental agency. There, I met Kevin, the most falsely chipper employee I have had the misfortune to meet. You know the type. Sunshine on the outside, but inside is a black, rotten core, and it’s cursing your mother. I endured about three dozen of Kevin’s questions at check-in with a stoic calm. Right up until Kevin asked for the name of my employer.

“Why do you need that info?,” I asked, incredulous. “For the computer, Ma’am,” Kevin answered, his fake smile slipping just a hair.

I don’t know why, but I did not want to tell Kevin where I worked. For what possible reason would Enterprise Car Rental need to know where I worked? They had my name, my address, my telephone number, my credit card on imprint–why?? WHY?? And now he was calling me MA’AM?

Something inside of me snapped.

“I don’t have a job,” I said to Kevin. Once told, the lie felt bold and bracing, as if someone had splashed a bucket of ice water on my face. It felt wild and crazy and amazing. Until, that is, Kevin gave me a fake look of sympathy and said, in a stage voice three times as loud as the one he’d been using up until then: “I’m sorry, Ma’am. It’s a tough time out there.”

What the hell. Why would he assume I was looking for a job, and not happily unemployed, like a good portion of the populace? Was Kevin fucking with me? Was he purposely trying to embarrass me? I turned around and noticed, for the first time, four other people in the line behind me, who had observed my testy exchange with Kevin and were now leaning in for more. Did these people think I was jobless? I wasn’t jobless. I had a job. I had a job!!!!!

I turned back to Kevin and leaned over the counter. “Actually,” I said, “I have a job.” Kevin raised a skeptical eyebrow that I visualized wiping off his face via shovel. “Yes,” I said, loudly. “In fact, I’m a lawyer.” I heard a snicker behind me, followed by a loud throat clearing and some shuffling. The four eavesdroppers were standing so close behind me that I could feel all four of them breathing on the back of my neck. “No really, I am,” I said, to Kevin, but mostly to the room. At this point, I was fully aware that I sounded like an ass hat, but there was no turning back. “I’m a lawyer. I really am.”

“Uh huh. Ok, ma’am,” said Kevin, not even bothering to ask me for the name of my fake employer. “Would you sign here for the rental protection?”

Back to my resolutions. I’d lied at Enterprise Car Rental, and the result had been ignominy. But that grown-up lie was certainly different from the little white lies I told my kids. Wasn’t it? I’m thinking now about the twenty or so little lies I told my kids TODAY, starting with “Bummer, the person in line in front of me bought all the cake pops” and ending with “All toy stores are closed on Mondays.” What will I do when my kids are older? They won’t buy these lies forever.

So. I am resolved. Slower chewing. Less lying to the kids. Bring it, 2014.

spinning to nowhere

Used to be, you couldn’t mention the word “bike” without prompting Tom to launch into his standard tirade about bike commuters. But listen. Tom’s white. He’s an attorney. And nearing middle age. You put those three things together in a Venn diagram and the overlappy bit in the middle will say “soccer” and “bikes.” So the bike thing was inevitable.

Tom started getting into bikes last summer, when he began riding his giraffe bike to and from Timbers games. We call Tom’s silver Globe the giraffe bike because if a normal-sized person stands next to it, it looks freakishly tall. It also weighs approximately what a giraffe weighs. I’ve seen people try to hold it up only to have it topple onto them.

“YOONA!! You don’t even know how awesome a Timbers game is until you’ve ridden home with the Timbers masses,” he told me. “Mmmm,” I’d respond, having tuned out everything after the word “Timbers.” He started to treat his buddy Ethan like he was a loser for driving a car to the stadium. “ETHAN! You HAVE to ride your bike to the game. Stop being so lazy.” Ethan, who rode his bike to and from his house way back in law school and once had the nerve to show up at my house in a bike unitard, would become visibly annoyed in the way that you get when a friend becomes newly and loudly obsessed with something that you discovered ten years ago.

giraffe bike

Next, Tom started spinning. I don’t regularly work out with Tom, but I’ve worked out next to him in hotel gyms, so I know what that intense regimen looks like. 15 minutes of a loping, horse-like canter on an elliptical trainer while paging through the New Yorker, followed by a couple sets of half-hearted chest presses with eyes glued to ESPN. Rinse, and repeat. I’d observe from a distance and wonder how he didn’t gain weight during his workouts.

But once Tom got a taste of spinning, he became an animal. Not having broken a sweat during a workout in years, he viewed all the new-fangled wicking fabrics with the skepticism that the rest of us would reserve for, say, a muscle tank made of mesh. “Now, Dri-Fit–do you think that’s trying too hard??,” he’d ask. I didn’t have the heart to point out that the only other guys at the gym still wearing cotton t-shirts were all 80 years old.

Tom started making his own spinning playlists, which I only learned about when I received an email receipt for my Amazon account with a bunch of song purchases. I took a quick look at the email and concluded that my account had been hacked. I forwarded the email to Tom and Cuz, both of whom have access to my Prime account, before I called Amazon’s fraud alert line. I got an immediate response. “That’s for my spinning playlist,” emailed Tom. Spinning playlist? I took a closer look.

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Ah. This explained why he’d been turning up “Royals” whenever it came on in my car, eyes rolling back into his head. “I LOVE this song,” he’d moan. Tom habitually discovers a pop smash three to six months after it first becomes popular. A month ago he turned up “Get Lucky” and gave me a knowing look. “You’ve heard this, right? It’s awesome.” I expect he’ll discover “Blurred Lines” sometime in early December.

I looked again at his spinning playlist. Eminem, ok. As a white guy from the wrong side of Detroit (Ann Arbor), Tom has long identified with Eminem. Ke$ha is like, workout gold, so I respected that. But Bryan Ferry, for SPINNING? The Smiths? What kind of depressing workout was this? And what about Gordon Lightfoot? Who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot during a workout?

Anyway. The bike thing’s not going away. On his trip to Ann Arbor last month, Tom mailed back to Portland his dad’s Schwinn Le Tour III. Once it arrived, he texted our friend Dieter, who gave him advice about how to (pay to) convert the bike into a single-speed. I observed it all with amusement. But when he brought it home from Velo Cult, I got it. It was orange, a very good color. For a 35-year old bike, it seemed rather elegant. Best of all, it was a connection to Tom’s dad, who I never got to meet. A man who was responsible for raising my irrepressible, inimitable Tom.

So welcome to the family, Mr. Schwinn. And do watch out for the giraffe bike in the garage.

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how to lie about your shopping problem

When it comes to material goods, Tom’s needs are aggravatingly few. He saves the energy he might spend on coveting things for himself, on me. And by that, I’m not talking about him buying stuff for me. He hasn’t bought me a real gift since I lost the Hermes watch I scored for giving birth to his precious firstborn. No, I refer instead to his constant vigilance in spotting and calling out my new purchases.

“Is that new?” I have grown to hate and fear these three words. Usually when you hear them, they are asked by a friend who is about to validate your purchase by complimenting you. When Tom says the words, they come laden with innuendo, and enough guilt to kill.

I have four methods of dealing with this most annoying of questions. I’m not suggesting that these methods will work for you, but then again, they have served me well in the 15 years I have known my husband. So you might give them a go.

Hypnosis

Your success with this method will vary, depending on your guy’s relative knowledge of fashion trends, and the strength of his memory. Also, your skill at lying. Basically what you have to do is convince the guy that he’s not really seeing what he’s actually seeing.

In this, you will be aided by the fact that most of what you buy looks a lot like something you already have sitting in your closet. So when Tom points to my new black sweater, made of the softest, loftiest merino wool and asks, “Is that new?,” I can look over his shoulder at the nasty old black merino sweater I bought last year, and say, “No, I’ve had this for a year.” The beauty of this method is that in that moment, the hypnosis is working its magic on both of us, because in my mind, the two sweaters really do become one. Then, when Tom’s gone, the one sweater magically separates into two sweaters again. So I’m not really even lying.

This method works especially well with jeans. I could be married to Tom Ford, not Tom Johnson, and he’d still have problems telling the difference between my three pairs of ink blue J Brand skinnies. I mean, sometimes have trouble telling the difference. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need all of them.

Bribery

You can buy your husband’s silence by throwing him a bone, which for me usually involves stopping at H&M on my way out of Nordstrom, to buy a t-shirt that costs $9.90. L’Occitane soaps are also great for this. They cost ten bucks and have the added advantage of being soap, a product your man probably actually uses. And they smell really strong, which seems to have a mildly debilitating effect on my husband that allows me the 8 seconds I need to cram my shopping bags behind the laundry hamper in my closet.

If you’re shopping in the evening, treats work well. Tom gets so happy when I walk in the front door with an Oreo McFlurry that I could be dragging a new Lexus behind me and he wouldn’t notice.

Diversion

Your success with this method will also vary, depending on your guy’s attention span and your proximity to a television. In my house, it works like this.

Tom: “Is that new?”

Yoona: “Is what new?”  (Reaching for remote).

Tom: “Is THAT new.”  (Pointing to new bag).

Yoona: “Is WHAT new?”  (Turns on TV, to Channel 735).

Tom: “Wait a second, is that the Pats game?”

Like taking candy from a baby.

Role Playing

Sometimes Tom actually gets angry about a purchase, and then I have to work extra hard to justify my decision. Last Friday he beat me home and opened a heavy Amazon box to find a new pair of Fryes. While generally clueless about the relative cost of women’s fashions, Tom knows enough about women’s clothes to know how much Frye boots cost. I mean, they cost as much as one pair of his dress shoes, but whenever I say that he lashes out that he buys one pair of shoes every year. Cruel words that always strike me as a non-sequitur.

Anyway, all he saw when he opened that box was a pair of boots. What he did not see was that the boots were the culmination of two years of me searching for the perfect flat black boot. TWO YEARS. He had no idea how many heavy boots I’d had to purchase, then return.

He also had no inkling of the pain and mental trauma I suffered each time that I tried on boots that were unflattering. If you’re a guy, you might think I’m exaggerating, but you can be damned sure that every woman reading this post knows how it feels to try on something that is so bad that it makes you re-evaluate your life and how you’ve been living it. There are certain things you have to be very careful about trying on. Bikinis, natch. Skinny jeans, of course. Crop tops. Puffy sweaters. FLAT BOOTS.

So anyway, I basically had to lay out this entire sob story for Tom until he felt what it was like to live the experience of my search for the perfect flat boot. By the end, I felt like he not only approved of my purchase, but that he wanted me to have them.  Needed me to have them.

And that’s why Tom, and my new boots, are awesome.

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my boots, with the world’s cutest pregnant person

sexting for married people

No one ever tells you how hard it is to blog during the summer, when there is life to be lived. When I thought up this post a month ago, Anthony Weiner was big news. What I wanted to say a month ago is this: there are about 20,000 things I’d rather receive via text from my husband before a photo of his penis. As it is, I find my husband’s penis pretty inescapable. I don’t need it following me around in my phone.

Instead of your penis, how about texting your spouse some pics that will really make them happy? Like so.

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“I thought of what to feed the kids and then fed them”

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“Hey, love the new bag! It really fleshes out your handbag options”

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“We’re all packed for the beach. I have towels for the kids and a change of clothes and some healthy snacks. But what am I forgetting? Sunblock? No, got that too”

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“Water! Drank some today!”

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“Tate put his shoes on. By HIMSELF”

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“Noticed the padding in your bra came out in the dryer. So I popped those suckers back in for you”

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“Finally got around to organizing that Tupperware drawer like we’ve been talking about. Felt GREAT and now I’m moving on to the tile grout”

 

 

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.

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linds. and tom, in standard tom dress

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.

bike racks and other marital traps

There are things in life that I try to avoid because of how much tension they cause between me and Tom. For instance, H&M t-shirts. Tom insists on hang-drying his so they don’t shrink, but sometimes I forget and put them in the dryer along with every other piece of clothing I wash, and then he gets really mad. I’m sorry that I ruined your shirt, Tom. Luckily, it cost $4.99 and there are another 3,000 of them at the Lloyd Center H&M.

Or how about grilling, at parties. I don’t enjoy throwing parties at which meats must be grilled, because Tom gets really tense if anyone even approaches the grill while he’s at work. When that happens, he gets a weird performance anxiety, and then we usually end up with under/overcooked meats. Our grill (a “Charbroiler”) is a true POS so it’s not really Tom’s fault—one side of the grill has never worked, and the starter is broken so you have to light the whole thing by turning on the gas and throwing a flaming paper towel into it from a safe distance and hoping for the best, and it’s just…not a good scene.

But listen, I have a vested interest in the outcome of the grilling. I’ve planned the menu and cooked the sides, and I’ve procured and marinated the very expensive cut of meat. So I can never help reminding Tom not to overcook the meat, which sounds to my ears like a friendly “Tom please don’t overcook the meat” but apparently sounds to Tom’s ears like a mocking “Tom, your penis is so very tiny.” Now that I think of it, it’s not just Tom. Most men I know are extraordinarily sensitive about grilling. My friend Ethan has an outdoor turkey fryer and when we do Practice Thanksgiving we all just watch him from inside the house, nursing our beers, because he’s super sensitive about being second-guessed on his frying time.

Grilling, however, is nothing compared to the marital stress bomb that is our bike rack. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you have witnessed my evolution from bike-hater to bike-rider. While we’ve had our bike rack for a while, this is the first year that all four of us have bikes. In advance of our first summer trip to Central Oregon, I took our bike rack, which has a 1.25″ fitter, to get it fitted to our new 2″ hitch. “Are you sure that’s going to stay on?,” I asked, as the employee affixed the rack to the hitch with a single, puny screw. He had his face turned toward the car so I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure I heard him roll his eyes. “Yep,” he said, grabbing the rack and pressing down on it for good measure. It seemed steady, but then again, he was a small guy. “Ok. But I have four bikes,” I said, nervously, leaving out the fact that Tate’s bike didn’t have pedals and weighed about 4 pounds. “Well, good thing about this here rack is that it’s made for four bikes,” he said. I narrowed my eyes, sensing sarcasm. “Anyway, it can hold up to 200 pounds,” he said. I perked up. 200 pounds! That was a lot. And this guy knew bike racks. He worked at a bike rack store, after all. I left feeling reasonably assured.

But then Tom loaded the bikes on the rack. And while I trust my husband, I didn’t feel good about how the whole rig looked. Worse, I had no experience with bike racks, so I didn’t know if all loaded bike racks looked so terrifying. But wait a second, this is why Facebook was invented, right? I snapped the photo below and posted it to my wall, asking whether the rack looked normal. I sat back, and awaited the reassuring commentary.
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The first comment came in, from my friend Tim. “NO WAY THAT’S STAYING ON.” Well. Alarming, certainly. But if I had to name one person I knew who seemed less outdoorsy than me, I would have chosen Tim, maybe after my Mom. It’s not like I’d ever seen a bike rack on his Boxer. So I ignored Tim and waited for other comments. More comments came in. Becky asked if that was a basket on one of the bikes. What did that matter?? Patrick commented that his bike rack had once fallen off on I-405. By this time we were on I-405, and I could see the bikes bouncing up and down through my rearview mirror. I looked on FB again. Ethan had commented. “DUDE.”

Fuck. Ethan is pretty outdoorsy, and grew up in Denver. More importantly, Ethan spends a lot of his free time on the Internet and has a lot of useless knowledge about random things. So I dialed Ethan from the car’s Bluetooth. “Does it really look bad?,” I asked. Tom sat next to me, fuming. The boys sat behind us, sensing drama. As for Ethan, he had no idea that he was on speaker, or that Tom could hear the conversation. “Well, I mean, why are the bikes sitting so far away from the car?,” Ethan asked. What did he mean? I hadn’t even thought about THAT. I had only worried that the bikes would fall off. Now I pictured them tipping my car over. I started to ask Ethan follow-up questions but then noticed Tom’s arm, gripping the console in rage. “Ha ha, it’s all good, Ethan,” I said. “I mean…” Ethan continued. Then I hung up on him.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” I muttered to myself. And it was fine. The bikes bounced a lot but made it all the way to Sisters. And back. And hopefully they will make it all the way to Bend next week, and back from Bend. I assume they will. Because Tom says they will. And like a ringer, Tom tends to be right when it matters.

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smells like a dad

Every day is father’s day in my house. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

Unfortunately, there is an actual Father’s Day on the calendar, and it’s Sunday, June 16, and if your husband is like mine, he’s been dropping hints about his gift for a solid month.

To be fair, Tom stopped dropping hints when we got our last Amex bill. Now he drags a huge imaginary cross across the floor saying things like “I don’t need presents,” or alternatively, “We can’t afford presents.” The latter is particularly cutting because the implication is that we can’t afford presents because I spent all our money on fripperies. Wait, where was I going with this post?

Right, Father’s Day. It’s in the works. Tom requested a ratchet set, so I’m working on that, even though every time I buy tools for Tom I feel the money would be better spent as kindling for a bonfire. When we first got married Tom bought a bunch of tools at Home Depot. I remember an orbit sander, in particular. He sanded a lot of stuff for a while, down to the nub. Today, despite the fact that he never uses his own tools, he continues to light up when he hears about the tools of others. “Wait,” he asked our neighbor Bill last night, while taking out the trash and discussing (theoretical) shelf-building, “You have a chainsaw?”

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Tom’s not getting a damn chainsaw for Father’s Day. He’s getting a ratchet set, as soon as I figure out exactly what that is, and assuming Amazon Prime sells it. And then he’s getting some cologne.

Tom has come a long way in his personal grooming. When I first met him I would watch in horror as he would wash his face with soap and then strip it with cotton balls soaked with Kiehl’s astringent. That was it. No moisturizer, no after shave, no nothing. The cotton balls would leave little puffs of cotton residue on his dry, thirsty face. I have no idea where he learned to do that, but it was less a skincare regimen than an exercise in self-flagellation.

He’s come a long ways, my Tom. But he’s always dismissed cologne as an unnecessary step in his grooming. And you might agree. But scent is a dangerously powerful thing. My first boyfriend wore Obsession, an ambitious choice for an 18-year old, but the scent of it on his skin has left an imprint on my brain and I can’t shake it no matter how hard I try. And don’t get me started on Drakkar Noir. My love of Drakkar Noir and the songs of Nickelback are the two things that most negatively impact my self-regard, but the heart wants what it wants.

Anyway, Tom seems to want some cologne. A few weeks ago, while we were getting ready to go out, he grabbed a scent out of my hand and spritzed it on himself. It was amusing the first time, but then he kept doing it. I love Tom but there’s a chance that the cologne could smell better on him than me, and I can’t have that. So I’m on the hunt. To find Tom’s signature scent. Something that makes him smell like this:

More or less, anyway. I’ve admired this ad for years but I fear that M7 may not be the cologne for Tom. The ad copy promises that M7 embodies “male sensuality,” but I don’t know if anyone at Tom’s office needs to experience that. I’ll probably go with something cleaner, more bracing. I’m soliciting recommendations. Please help.