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Stressed to the nines

Barry Smith

I think my chart will do the trick. It’s the winter that’s the worst, the dark-sweater-and-jeans look being the main culprit. My wife and I both have more than one version of this outfit, which means that, statistically speaking, at some point we will be dressed alike. Or at least alike enough. Unfortunately my distinctive fashion inclination – that of wearing the same thing for days on end until I notice migratory birds changing their flight pattern to avoid flying over me – skews the odds. In one particularly trend-setting case, I wore the same clothes for an entire winter. In my wife’s case, who knows? I steer clear of her clothing methods, until they begin to affect me. And when they affect me is when I look down and notice that we are wearing “matching” outfits and are outside of the safety and comfort of the house. Or, even worse, when someone else points it out.”Aww, how cute … you guys are dressed alike,” they’ll say, and I feel my fists clench.”I dressed this way long before she did,” I explain, backing the well-meaning but death-wish-having commentator into whatever corner is available. “I am my own person. I do not dress like my wife. I do not dress like my wife!”Yeah, I know. I have issues. But this one is justified.Now, most healthy, well-adjusted Americans go through life terrified of becoming their parents, and sure, I’m proud to say that I’ve put plenty of time and energy and money into postponing that inevitability, but this is about something else. This is about becoming one of THOSE people. You know the people I’m talking about – the couple that recently took an overseas trip and bought matching Hard Rock Café, London sweatshirts and purposely wears them at the same time. The couples that wear identical powder blue jogging suits when they aren’t actually jogging. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this behavior, or that these people are bad in any way, I’m just calmly asking that the merciful hand of death tighten its grip on my celestial umbilical cord and have its way with my mortal coil before I become one of them. And, in my little oxygen-starved mind, dressing even slightly similar to my wife is tantamount to becoming one of them.But, thanks to the little chart, the Grim Reaper may not be necessary to sort things out.”I think this little chart will do the trick,” I tell Christina, my wife.”What little chart?” she responds. “What trick?””Look,” I point at the refrigerator. “Using some spare material, I’ve made these mock-ups of some of your favorite sweaters and put magnets on them. And see, here are cutouts of us. They aren’t anatomically correct, so I glued pictures of our faces on them so you can tell them apart. Plus, the Barry cutout is taller. Ha, ha … “She sat down.”So,” I continue, “before going to bed each night, all you have to do is select your outfit from these pants and tops and dress the likeness of yourself magnetically and accordingly, then before I get dressed the next morning, I can just come down and look at the fridge to see what you are wearing that day. Every week or so we can switch off, and I’ll pre-dress for you to cross-reference.””Why?” she asked, but I could tell it was an automatic response, initiated by a pause in my speech. She’s trained herself to be able to do this. She is reading the paper.”Why? So we don’t end up dressed alike all the time!””Wait a minute,” she said, actually looking at me, which is never a good sign. “Where did you find this ‘spare’ material that was the same as my clothes?””Look, let’s focus on one thing at a time. Right now we’re talking about the fridge chart.””If you’ve cut little squares out of my tops for your dolly project then you have far bigger problems than thinking somebody is dressing like you.””Good point,” I said. “I actually, uh, hadn’t considered that. I’ll … I’ll be right back.”Next time: Barry devises a little chart to keep his wife from finishing his sentences.


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