I took my husband shopping at a major department store during the President's Day sale, hoping to maximize the value of our dollar. He needed the basics: a couple of pairs of jeans, some khaki pants, and a few plain cotton oxford shirts. In essence, the gentleman's uniform (he forbade me to use the word "outfit" when referring to his wardrobe).
We scoped out the men's jeans first. Well, we found jeans alright; purple jeans, green jeans, black jeans and brownish-blue jeans, all thoroughly faded and well worn by the rodeo clown that works days at the manufacturing plant. (I wonder if the shift supervisor knows that dude borrows things off the line for gigs.)
"Over here," I called, to my bewildered spouse, "I think I see some blue jeans." When we drew closer, however, we realized the blue ones just wouldn't do, either. The anxious stock boy had spent hours upon hours rubbing his sweaty palms down the legs, removing most of the color.
"$125 for this crap," my mate yelled, and then politely asked a passing clerk to direct us to the unused-denim department. She wasn't aware that such a place existed.
But she did kindly offer to help us find a few things she thought might look nice on my beau. She held up a denim jacket and hoodie ensemble (he banned this latter word, too), looking pleased with her selection.
"Are these all seconds," I asked her, trying to sound cheerful.
"Oh, no ma'am, this is first rate, top of the line merchandise," she shot back, with a detectable note of arrogance.
I only asked because the jean jacket looked like it fell off the back of the truck into the mud, just before all those cars ran over it. And the sewing machine operator at the textile mill had accidentally sewn only a partial section of the red-in-a-past-life sweatshirt to the interior of the jacket.
The salesgirl dragged my bedraggled mate away as I stared, dumbfounded, at the price tag: $85. Choke, gasp, sputter, this is the big one Lucille.
When I found the twosome perusing a rack of sports coats, I thought maybe the chick had at last examined her customer and come to her senses. She had her back to me as I sidled up beside my husband, who tried to communicate "help me" with his eyes. But before we could make a break, she turned with a grin on her face and offered up a lime green, corduroy coat with ghastly wide lapels and silk pocket flaps. "This designer is fabulous. He has a pulse on what today's gentleman wants. And the versatility of this jacket allows the man to transition from the office to an evening out, without a glitch," she advertised.
If you're Willy Wonka, and you work in a chocolate factory, I can see her point.
Price: $205. Seeing my husband dance through the dressing rooms singing "The candy man can . . .": Priceless.
Our exuberant guide through the odd, strange and unbelievable, must not have noticed me rolling my eyes. She darted away and returned with a spritzer bottle, which she unloaded on my reflex challenged spouse. "Don't you just love it," she squealed. "It's Donald Trump cologne for men."
It had the odor of filthy money pried from a sweaty palm.
"I guess," I said, taking the bottle from her, as if I had some interest in it, "if my husband can't look like a million bucks, he can at least smell like 50 billion green backs."