Monday 14 April 2008

A matter of style (And taste. And cost.)

I was recently invited out for an evening to meet some friends in London, and as Nini was a little under the weather and we were struggling to get a babysitter, I went alone. As the occasion involved dinner I had made an effort with what I was wearing: essentially this meant jeans with no holes in the knees, and substituting my Pac-man T-shirt for something with a collar and buttons. At the last minute I decided I would add a suit jacket, just 'to lift the whole ensemble' and as I checked myself out in the mirror I liked what I saw.
Heeey, lookin' good, I told my reflection. You've still got it. You can still bring the magic.
I went downstairs, to where was Nini watching the television. I entered the room with a confident swagger and then performed a slow twirl in front of Casualty. I then turned to her, smirking, with a raised eyebrow in order to receive a heaping amount of lavish compliments.
"You're not seriously thinking of going out like that, are you?" she asked, looking aghast.
This was not the response I had expected.
"Why not?" I asked, genuinely mystified.
"This restaurant you're going to - is it actually still in the 'Eighties? Or is it a theme night?"

This is just the latest battlefront in a long running series of discussions about style, and elegance, and my complete and utter lack of those qualities. Nini was once, not so very long ago, 'Art Director' in a London fashion design studio. She used to spend her days considering composition and the interplay of light and shade, and reading about what was on the catwalk in London fashion week. Hemlines mattered to her. And yet, she ended up married to me - even now, after 10 years together, I can still see the bewilderment in her eyes sometimes when she regards me in my favourite T-shirt (pale grey, collar frayed into tatters, black and white photograph of an endangered tree-frog on the front. Purchased in 1995, so that tree-frog has been with me longer than she has, by a good 3 years). When she gets that look, she might as well have a thought bubble over her head that reads "Ugh, what in gods name am I doing married to him?"

It's true - I don't care much about clothes. I used to (well, at least a little), but I officially stopped caring about them some time ago: it was just one of those things I felt I could happily let go of once I was married (along with going to the gym, or being the one who actually selects, shops for and then wraps my family's birthday presents, or, you know, trying to be polite and get along with people). Also: I'm cheap. My favourite garment ever is a dark grey hooded top that cost me £3 in the Uni-Qlo sale. I like the colour, I like that it's warm and practical, I like that it manages (against almost impossible odds), to make me look faintly sporty, but yes, I also really like that it cost £3.
Nini does not think that way. She believes that you should happily pay for style, even if it costs three times what your husband is comfortable with, and this ethos extends throughout everything she shops for. Perhaps I can best illustrate our differences using the random example of bathroom taps:
Nini: I would like bathroom taps that are elegant, almost architectural in appearance. They should probably be chrome, but not too shiny, and they have to match the appearance of the handles of the bathroom cabinet. I'm thinking New England, I'm seeing beaches and driftwood, clean sandscapes, the sound of the sea. My bathroom taps should evoke the warm feeling of a soft towel wrapped around you as you step from the surf onto a beach of white sand. But mixer tap, or individual? Ooooh, perhaps I should make a mood board, and then cut out pictures of taps from that designer bathroom catalogue to see how well they'll sit with my tiling samples...
Paul: I would like bathroom taps that I can easily turn on and off with my feet, so I do not have to sit up if the bathwater gets a bit cold.

Do you see? No common ground there. Something drastic is obviously required to pull our disparate attitudes together, and I think I have the answer: As an experiment, I am going to let Nini choose my clothes. If I really don't care what I look like, then it shouldn't matter to me, right? And it will make her happy. Plus I'm naturally lazy and can't be arsed thinking too hard about clothes, so I think it's win, win, win - provided I can curb my tendency toward negativity, criticism and outright hostility to change....
Cross your fingers: I'll let you all know how well we come out of it in a couple of weeks...


Anonymous said...

shares in "George" at Asda have fallen sharply at the news,

good luck Nini

Misterimpatient said...

" that tree-frog has been with me longer than she has, by a good 3 years."

One is left to wonder if those 3 years might, in fact, have been the last good one?

Anonymous said...

This cannot end well.

Helen Floyd said...

I have been known to drag clothing home from the store for my husband, after spending considerable time in the mission of chosing his clothes. I spend time feeling the material on the shirts to make sure it isn't too heavy or thin, too easily wrinkled, check that the length will be thought exactly right, that it isn't so big as to 'fit two of him inside it', and finally, that the colour is exactly right, i.e. dark blue.

I bring the clothes home, put them somewhere that he can't help but find them, we collectively trip over them for a couple days until I hang them on his side of the closet, hoping he will notice. In the meantime I have asked repeatedly that he try them on...after a few weeks I wrap them back up, discouraged, and return them to the store before the season that they are meant to be worn in ends, and he continues along wearing his old dark blue shirts.

Thanks for letting me share. I do feel better.

Bluegrass Widow (a.k.a. Helen)