Beach and moan

“You’re not wearing that, are you?” Sue was looking at me as if I were wearing a large flounder on my head.

“What?” I knew what she meant, but I wanted to hear her say it.

“That shirt.”

That shirt? This shirt was one of my favorites. It was actually made in Hawaii. How often are you going to find a Hawaiian shirt made in Hawaii? Once in a lifetime? Twice? It’s all cotton, not rayon like most of them nowadays. It is a work of art, the Rembrandt of my closet museum.

“It makes you look fat.”

I looked in the mirror. The shirt did not make me look fat. My fat made me look fat.

Sue has said, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” so often that I don’t really hear it any more. Sometimes I think she would say it if I were wearing a tuxedo to a formal dinner at the White House.

“You’re not wearing that?” she would say moments before we stepped out of the house, leaving me not enough time to change, but plenty of time to wonder if I was making some horrible fashion faux pas as we made our way through the D.C. traffic – like wearing white after Labor Day or leaving a price tag hanging off my sleeve.

The Hawaiian shirt had a bright unnatural blue background with large black and ivory colored leaf designs all over it. The word “bol”’ comes to mind. The words “devil-may-care” come to mind. The word “beachcomber” comes to mind. The words “the Hawaiian Punch cartoon character” come to mind.

“I think there’s a ukulele in the attic,” Sue said. “You want me to wait while you go get it?”

“Do you think it’s too dressy? I could change into something more casual,” I tossed back. I don’t know if there really is anything more casual. No shirt at all, I suppose. Or maybe one of those hospital gowns that doesn’t close down the back.

We were going to the neighbors for dinner. If you can’t wear an aloha shirt to dinner with friends, where can you wear one? It’s not as if I was wearing my pajamas to the office or a pair of buckskin pants to a PETA rally.

“Didn’t you get the memo?” I thought but did not say. “They’ve got this new thing now. It’s called ‘Casual Saturday.’ Basically, it says I get to wear whatever I like and nobody can say anything about it, especially my wife. I’ll e-mail you a copy. It’s signed by Jimmy Buffet. You can see how casual clothes wrecked his career.”

I know there are men out there who let their wives pick their clothes for them. I figure it’s the first step toward having the complete sex change operation. Next comes the hormone therapy, then the breast implants, then the ... well, never mind. Sorry, it’s just not my thing. I didn’t marry a woman so I could become one.

But it’s not just that. Can you imagine a man saying to a woman, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” Not twice, he wouldn’t.

Sue knew I was not backing down on this. I had drawn a line in the laundry basket. I was wearing this Hawaiian shirt and that was the end of the discussion.

“Wait a minute,” she said and went back up stairs. In two minutes she was back, wearing a Hawaiian shirt of her own. Bolder and sillier.

“Oh no,” I said, “I don’t want to be one of those couples that dresses like twins. People will make fun of us behind our backs.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that,” she said, “I’m sure they already do.”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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