Eva Mendes set off a predictable Internet firestorm when she claimed in an interview that sweatpants were “the number one cause of divorce in America.” Though she was clearly joking—and even posted an apology to sweatpants on Instagram—I actually agreed with her larger point: Letting yourself go isn’t great for any relationship.
It’s demoralizing to see spouses (of either gender) shuffling around day after day in the same, stretched-out college T-shirts and ratty pajama bottoms. While I personally believe every woman should get a free pass for at least a year after having a baby, I no longer have that excuse. My youngest kid is 8, yet I’m lazy and I work from home. Which means I’m most likely to be found in some variation of sweats: pants made of stretch fabric, topped with a cotton or fleece hoodie.
Is it a coincidence that my husband and I have gotten just as lazy about our marriage? Sure, we agree on the big things, like which TV shows deserve space on the DVR, but I can’t remember what we did for our last anniversary. Or the one before. Romance may not be dead in our house, but it’s definitely on life support.
So what would happen if I stepped things up a notch? I decided to go a full week wearing only “real,” grownup clothes in front of my husband. No elastic waists, no Lycra, no sad, saggy sweats. Would romantic sparks fly? Or would he not even notice?
It’s cold and dreary, and I’m too tired to make much effort with my clothes. I think how much easier this experiment would be if I lived in Los Angeles, where I could prance around in sundresses and capris. But no, I live in Chicago, where half the year you want to wrap yourself in the clothing equivalent of a warm, wooly blanket.
When my husband comes home from work, I’m wearing black fleece pants that I tell myself technically aren’t sweatpants. Still, in my heart, I know they pretty much are the same thing. Day 1 of my experiment, and I’m already a failure. My husband and I spend two hours watching TV, with minimal conversation.
I wake up resolving to do better. I put on my favorite pair of worn-in corduroy pants, then wonder if it’s cheating to match them with a hoodie (which, let’s face it, is a sweatshirt with a zipper). However, my husband seems relatively cheerful when he sees me. Or maybe it’s just because I go out that night with friends and leave him to play on his X-Box.
OK, I’m ready to get serious. Today’s outfit: black jeans and a sweater I like to refer to as “huggable.” No elastic waists or drawstrings or zippers. This is clothing I could proudly wear to an office or church, or even—gasp—a Date Night! I’m all self-satisfied smiles when my husband gets home, but it’s been a busy work week, and my self-conscious posing has little effect. At least the sweater keeps me warm!
I suffer through the day in red jeans that are just a smidge too tight. It’s worth it, I tell myself. This color will grab his attention for sure! That evening, I flirtatiously ask my husband what he thinks of my pants. “Red!” is his factually correct, but not-at-helpful response. I give up, change into pajamas, and finally breathe normally.
I spend far too much time debating whether leggings are part of the sweatpants family. I decide they’re borderline, but can be redeemed if matched with a stylish top, shoes and accessories. I notice that my own attitude changes when I finally get my outfit together: I’m chipper and friendly, and my husband is definitely more cheerful as well. When I get ready for bed, I tell him, “Sorry, but I had to change out of my cute outfit.” He asks, “Oh? What were you wearing?”
Have all my efforts been for nothing?
Two days left, and the stakes are getting higher. For a day of errands and family-friendly activities, I go with skinny jeans, a red sweater and upbeat red shoes. I’m so proud of myself that I smile more than usual, which makes my kids smile, which makes my husband smile. We’re getting along so well! This might actually be working!
I come across another interview with Eva Mendes, in which she shares her love for floral-print dresses. With the clock ticking, I realize this is my last chance. Despite the cold, damp, miserable Chicago weather, I will wear a skirt. All day long.
Because of said cold, damp, miserable weather, I’m forced to wear a maxi skirt rather than one of the flirty dresses Ms. Mendes favors. If this is the price I must pay to amp up my marriage, so be it. And lo and behold, my husband actually utters the phrase, “You look good!”
I smile and blush and do a little girlish swirling of my skirt. When my husband goes on to ask what’s for dinner, I consider the main lessons of my little experiment:
1. It’s all about attitude. While wearing a dress once a week doesn’t hurt, what really matters is how you act, whether you’re wearing a designer creation or a saggy college sweatshirt. My husband may not have whisked me off for a second honeymoon, but there’s no question he picked up on my improved mood, and that made us both happier.
2. There’s really no upside to wearing tight red jeans.
3. Eva Mendes sounds like she has a great sense of humor. I’d love to hang out with her sometime (in a floral sundress, naturally) and get the scoop on Ryan Gosling.