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In My Next Life: A saga about a tuxedo, getting dressed and the right detergent

Posted By Karen Young On October 6, 2009 @ 11:09 pm In Features,In My Next Life,spotlight | 12 Comments



Pioneer environmentalist and noted cranky-boots Henry David Thoreau once said “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”  Now I don’t know that he was addressing himself to middle-aged widowers who’ve dared to start a new life with a style-conscious dynamo (or dynama – whatever the feminine version is), but he sure could’ve been.

 It started with the tuxedo.  A few months after the lovely N. inexplicably took me on as a restoration project, we were invited to a black tie charity dinner.  It was the first major event we’d be attending as a couple and N. wanted to look her best.  I wasn’t worried about her but she was worried about me.  Apparently a guy sporting a tux purchased during the first Clinton administration isn’t exactly the glamour accessory today’s chic young woman wants dangling from her arm.  So suddenly I’m at Fashion Square trying on monkey suits that cost more than a decent used car.

Understand I’m from the Midwest, which means the whole idea of owning a tuxedo in the first place makes me feel vaguely guilty and presumptuous.  I’m worried people will think I’m just waiting around, expecting somebody to give me an award.  Nevertheless, N. gently guides me toward a couple of options from Paul Smith, a very cool English designer I hadn’t encountered before.  I try one of them on and secretly suspect it makes me look rather dashing.  I decide to share the secret.

“This makes me look kind of like James Bond, don’t you think?”  N. nods in agreement.  “Absolutely.” she says.  It’s the same tone of voice parents use to assure a three-year-old that the dish towel cape around his neck makes him look exactly like Batman, but I choose to believe her anyway.  So the clerk rings up my black silk Toyota-on-a-hanger and off we go.  Naively, I assumed that was that in the wardrobe update department.  The laughter you may be hearing about now is Old Man Thoreau chortling away up there in the Great Cranberry Bog in the Sky.

I’ve mentioned before in this space that my late wife was in the fashion business.  But any knowledge I have in that area is secondhand and strictly theoretical.  When it comes to actually figuring out what to put on in the morning I only know as much as the next guy.  And unfortunately it turns out the next guy is a clueless moron.  Consequently the revolution in my closet that began with the Great Tuxedo Expedition of ’09 was followed by the terrifying Purge of the Pants and ended with the bloody Battle of the Elderly Shirts.  Resistance was futile.  Yes, I tried the “That was very fashionable when I bought it” defense.  But when your opponent responds by launching the devastating “I remember, I was in ninth grade” missile, it’s all over.  Just sign the treaty and go quietly into exile.

N. and I have this part of our lives down to a smooth routine now.  I get dressed.  She looks at me with an indulgent smile and shakes her head.  “Honey…no.”  I get dressed again.  She gives me the once-over.  “Hmm.  Getting there.”  I start the fine-tuning process and generally can be on my way in less than 45 minutes.

The final stage in my Re-education has to do with how all the clothes that have received the Seal of Approval are cared for.  Shortly after N. and I started dating, The Boy announced to his mother that whenever I came to call their whole house smelled like Tide and fabric softener.  This was not intended as a compliment.  After explaining the environmental virtues of the organic laundry products his Mom used, he looked me in the eye and gave me the most sober piece of advice I’ve ever received from an eleven year old.  “You need to go natural, man.”

After we combined our households the Tide went out permanently and the fabric softener was right behind. N. and my loyal housekeeper of twenty-some years enjoy speaking Spanish together and apparently the detergent decision was made during one of those conversations.  Sadly my own understanding of that beautiful language is confined to “abierto,” “cerrado,” and “Casa Vega,” so a lot goes on that I can’t really follow.  I do know there’s a fair amount of discussion regarding my appearance, dietary habits, and vast array of eccentricities. They say Spanish is the loving tongue. But when the two of them get together and look in my direction Spanish is definitely the laughing tongue.

 Anyway, here I am, thoroughly entangled in an enterprise that requires new clothes.  But it seems to me it’s a fine and encouraging thing to have people in your life who actually care what you look like when you walk out the door. Thoreau can be skeptical if he wants but I’m pretty grateful.  So this is where he and I have to part company.  But don’t worry.  I’ll make it up to him.  From here on out I intend to go natural, man.

David Nichols is a TV writer and producer who has worked on such shows as “Caroline In The City”, “Grace Under Fire”, and “Evening Shade”. When he’s not waiting around for someone to give him an award he can be found buying ECOver laundry detergent, fabric softener, and other natural man products at Whole Foods on Riverside Drive. They are abierto most of the time.

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