The change between my husband and I started with socks. I asked Stanley to put on the ones with the wreaths and the snowflakes, the holidays were approaching after all, and he answered, blandly, “Helen, dear, I’m going to wear the cobalt ones with the daffodils today.”
For thirty-five years, Stanley and I had worn the same outfit, down to the, well, socks. We were a matching set. When we first met, Stanley wore nothing but grey suits and ties, no matter the heat and humidity. I sewed him a breathable short-sleeve shirt in plaid, blues and greens to bring out his eyes, and he must have felt some obligation to wear his new gift. Either that or he wanted to please his new girl. Anyway, I’d bought too much fabric for that shirt, so I made myself a nice blouse to match. Stanley didn’t flinch.
An inventor and artist, Stanley didn’t want to waste much creative energy on his attire. (My husband patented the “State Birds on a Stick” garden decor series.) As time went on, I made more twin outfits, the bottoms matching the tops. Mind you, I would sew dresses and things with ruffles and bows for me, I preferred the femininity, but the fabric chosen for our wardrobe was always the same.
I liked prints the best and I guess I just assumed Stanley did, too. The outfits still hang two by two in our closet—everything from giraffes and zebras to moons and stars to stripes and polka dots to flowers and paisleys to candy canes and Christmas trees to Cat in the Hat and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Before the big change, the first to reach the closet had the responsibility of deciding what we’d wear that day. We’d never stampede or argue about the other’s choice. If we were going out for a special occasion, we’d talk about what to wear like any other married couple, only we’d want to look indistinguishable rather than distinguishable. If Stanley had a business trip, I’d pack his suitcase and tell him which outfit to wear on which day, so we’d be coordinated even when miles apart. Our commitment went as far as eating identical meals. We wore our matching stains on our matching outfits like badges of honor. Then one cold day, BAM!, Stanley just drops this bombshell about the cobalt socks with the daffodils.
I caved, and ever since, he’s gone rogue. First he merely picked out different socks, but next thing you know he’s buying hospital scrubs and leather chaps and alpaca sweaters, and now he says he’s considering leaving me to join a nudist colony (with or without his dental hygienist). Stanley says a man’s life isn’t worth living if he can’t wear his own goddamn underroos. He insists he’s suffering from PTDD (Post-traumatic Dress Disorder).
Abby, am I the one with latent dependency issues? If you want to dress yourself all by yourself, why get married?
—CLASHING IN CANTERBURY, CT.