Today, however, a new fate awaited and it caught me unawares. I was running errands with my wife, who has Thursdays off generally, and we wanted to get some groceries and she said she had to stop at Target. The word itself made me tingle. I felt my heart leap against my ribs and repeated the word after licking my lips, like a soldier in the trenches aware he has no choice but to go over the top. “Oh,” I said. “OK, we’ll go….to Target.” I considered the possibility of a Starbuck’s Coffee because, of course, there’s one in Target. But I’d already had coffee. I considered the possibility of an Icee, my go-to junk food choice, but it wasn’t quite 10:30 in the morning and, well–that much sugar at that hour might cause a coma-inducing diabetic shock. I felt better at the prohibitions I had thrown up against myself and in to the store we went.
Sue delicately pointed out that the men’s clothing area was that way and I said, “Oh, OK, thanks.” But I wasn’t planning to shop for clothes. I knew she was tense, then as I followed her, sheep-like, to the women’s section. I was unwelcome at this point. Women do not want their men to come clothes shopping with them. They know that we’ll whine about how much time it’s taking and we’ll not respond correctly when we’re asked if we like something, grunting something about baseball scores or staring inappropriately at the bras.
For my part, I was full of dread wondering what my life had come to and then I realized, it’s August. This is what happens in August. One steps outside one’s door and casually goes about errand-running and winds up in the women’s clothing section at Target. It’s then one questions one’s choices in life. You have to–the unexamined life and all that. So I turned to her and said, “you go where you need to, I won’t bother you.” And just like that, she was gone. Like something out a Harry Potter movie, she up and disappeared and I was turning in 360 degree circles looking every bit a drunk man who didn’t know what dimension he was in. Some other women walked by me and looked at me, some with pity, others with knowing disdain. Unforgiven and repentant, I sauntered to the men’s clothing area.
I had done the great purge of my closet earlier in the summer, throwing away clothes that had no business being in there. I must have donated 100 pounds of clothing to the local Goodwill and as I folded them neatly into garbage bags, I wondered whatever possessed me to buy them in the first place.
Left unfettered and to my own devices, I started looking at what Target calls fashion. I’m not a Target guy, generally. But that’s not important, as I said earlier. It’s August–and when one saunters out on errand-running with one’s wife, one is likely to end up at Target. It is the way of things. Let that go. I found some nice clothes that I thought were sort of, well, “hip.” I teach high school, so you know it’s not Brooks Brothers and Men’s Wearhouse, it’s jeans and t-shirts and stuff. I liked this rather rugged pair of black jeans that were sort of faded and pock-marked and I thought, “these would go great with that green short-sleeved button down I saw.” Mind you, they probably didn’t look good together at all, but I figured solid colors and rather drab–how could I go wrong? I took both to the fitting room, a sort of hard-plastic EZ-up in the middle of the floor, locked the door and disrobed–uncomfortably. When you’re 17, you get to buy new clothes and look at yourself in the mirror. It’s glorious. At least I think it was. At 53, I’d just as soon the mirror weren’t in there.
I pulled the jeans on and realized my first error. They were slim-fit jeans, but built to my size. No one with a 38 waist should wear slim fit jeans, though I will admit, they were comfortable–those things hugged my ass like a hooker in a cheap Minneapolis motel room in February. Man did I like how that felt. But I recoiled in horror at how it looked. If I’d have put my blue sneakers on, I’d have looked like my legs were charred from a horrible bbq accident and the pants had burned away.
I tried on a few more things, without relish, and without looking in the mirror too much. By then, Sue came over as she had found a lovely outfit that suit her nicely. The tables were now turned and she was “assisting” me in clothes buying, but I knew how this would go, too. I’m a sensitive guy. I need big, bold emotional strokes. If I say, “do you like this,” and her answer isn’t an emphatic and panting, “YES!” then I know that, in fact, it does nothing for her. Tepid responses of, “that’s OK,” or “Um, yeah, it works…” are not what I am after. A full-throated shout of “Huzzah! You’ve found your style!” is all I need to hear and if I don’t, I’ll hang it back up.
The only thing we settled on was a harvest-khaki colored pair of pants that fit well, didn’t make me look like Ozzy Ozbourne’s illegitimate off-spring and were a decent price. She LIKED those. The rest was tepid and, in one case, hostile.
I was excited to check out at the self-checkout stand because they have my favorite mints and sometimes they’re on sale, the only time I’ll buy them actually, and I consoled myself with the thought of a container of them. But, as it happens, Sue’s gift-card required a Ph.D. in computer science to use, which meant I was useless and that sent my head spinning off in the direction of how much I hated Target and that it was actually unfair that the place still existed. In my mind, it should simply disappear. They can’t even get their damn gift-cards right and…”Oh, you’ve got it? Right, well off we go.”
August, my friends. September isn’t far off.