Yes, dear readers, it’s time to discuss something we all have and yet very few people see. It usually comes out the minute we get home from work and stays with us until the time we go to bed. It’s not something we’re proud of, but it’s something we love and make a point of choosing every day. And yet it almost never comes up in conversation.
Until last week.
I was out walking with my girlfriend who we’ll call Fallula. It was a pretty day and we were, of course, talking about our husbands. I wish I could remember how the subject meandered in this direction, but before you know it Fallula was telling me all about what her husband changes into when … dum, dum, dummmm … he gets home from work.
Yes, the after-work outfit. The little workhorse that waits on the chair in your bedroom all day long and is almost never folded properly. The one that gets washed every week, rain or shine. The one that’s been with you for upwards of a decade. Whose shirt is made of the softest cotton and is frayed at the neck. Whose pants are a little too short and allow for excessive eating. Ah yes, the after-work outfit.
I’ve come to believe these little darlings make up, quite literally, the fabric of any good marriage. It is, after all, only your spouse who is truly privy to the ins and outs of this outfit. Only your wife knows you come home and you put on your special after-work pants but you keep your black, gold-toed at-work socks on because changing your socks seems like a waste of both energy and laundry. Only she knows that, if you’re in a pinch, you pair these socks with your Nike slides to go and get the mail, moving fast because you don’t really want to run into the neighbors.
Or conversely, only your husband knows that sometimes you love your after-work outfit so much you sleep in it and, if it’s a Saturday the next day, you don’t change until Sunday. Only he knows that you’ve gone to the grocery before in your after-work shirt but stuffed it in your pants and under your jacket, even though it wasn’t cold enough for one, so no one would see it.
No person truly likes their spouse’s after-work outfits, I’d wager to say. In fact, if we thought about it, we would probably all agree that that outfit is actually annoying. Because why the basketball shorts again? Why the paisley button-down? Why the University of Michigan sweatshirt whose yellow lettering is crusting off? But we’re so used to these pieces of clothing, we rarely even see them anymore. They are such an essential part of who we are they become unnoticeable. Like our ears or our elbows.
Obviously, I haven’t seen a lot of after-work outfits, since they tend not to leave the house, but since I’m in a betting mood, I’d again wager to say there are few outfits that were better than my mom’s in the 1980s.
My mom’s favorite color is and always has been orange, which my dad always attributed to her colorful French-Canadian heritage. As such, this color popped up a lot in her closet and, frankly, around the house. But in no way more memorable than in her 1980s jogging outfit, in which she jogged not once. The pants were orange and tight at the ankles so they poofed over them pantaloon-style. The sweatshirt was striped orange, red and blue and was likewise tight at the wrists. Luckily my mom is a very slim woman so can get away with almost any pattern, but no bum in the history of bums looks good in orange.
What happened to the sweatshirt is anyone’s guess — it disappeared about five years in. But those jogging pants, man, they hung on like barnacles, appearing every afternoon around 5:15, getting slightly shorter with each passing year so that, by the time I was 15, they were mid-calf.
That’s another thing I should mention about after-work outfits. Spouses are privy to them, but teenagers become especially sensitive to them too, namely because you get to the point where you have to ask your parent (very politely or you’ll be accused of being lippy) to not wear her orange jogging pants in front of your friends.
Luckily, my mom always complied and I try to do the same with my stepdaughter Gabrielle, though, frankly, I feel my after-work outfit is rather innocuous: black yoga pants and a t-shirt with little holes around the stomach area that mysteriously appear in almost all of my t-shirts. Granted, the yoga pants are so old they’re boot-cut, which Gabrielle has politely (“Don’t be lippy!”) pointed out. But at least they’re black. At least they don’t glow.
As for my husband, well, he’s about the most stylish man in Pulaski County so he doesn’t have an official outfit. He used to have the U of M sweatshirt, but I think he shamed himself out of that one. But whatever the outfit, as is the case with Fallula’s husband, the at-work socks stay on.