My boyfriend's kinda adorable. He’s a science geek, working on his PhD in biomedical engineering. His idea of a wild time is building computational models of invertebral discs. And in his world, “dressing up” means ditching his jeans for the one pair of khakis in his disorganized closet. His most difficult wardrobe decision is choosing whether to wear his white sneakers or his black ones.
None of this would be as funny if I, his girlfriend, weren't a fashion student.
Our conversations about clothes range from arduous to hilarious to downright absurd. He never seems amused when I point out that his “red” shirt, is, in fact, maroon. The differences between lime green and lemongrass befuddle him.
The fact that he only owns two belts -- an everyday belt for his jeans, and a black-and-brown reversible “church” belt -- absolutely boggles my mind. I own SEVENTEEN belts, and counting.
My belt wardrobe is down to 17, after two were lost in back-to-back freak accidents. Boyfriend owns a total of two -- well, three, if you count the fact that one is reversible.
Recently he couldn’t understand why, when he invited me on an alumni boat ride, I was horrified to learn that the dress code allowed jeans.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with that?!” I exclaimed on Gchat.
“Put on jeans?” was his only suggestion.
“It’s an evening cruise!” I huffed. Jeans and a shirt was a far cry from the black jersey dress I was planning to wear. My boyfriend didn't see the difference and I briefly considered subjecting him to a Style Network marathon.
So imagine my delight when, after an impromptu stroll through H&M (where I nudged him to try on a slim-cut charcoal blazer), he turned to me and asked, “Will you come help pick out clothes for me?”
YES! Finally! A project! I get to dress my man! I started dreaming about rolled-up shirt sleeves to show off his forearms, shades of blue and slate that would complement his chocolate brown skin, jackets that would make him look like a J. Crew model and--
Wait. Did I really want to do this? Did I really want to upgrade my boyfriend? I love Beyonce and everything, but what's good for the pop diva isn't always good for the broke grad student.
Boyfriend practices closet apartheid, with work clothes on the left and casual clothes on the right. My closet is a bit more... um... colorful?
Sure, I found myself instantly lusting after my man when he finally tried on his first fitted jacket, but what if I’m not around when he actually decides to wear it -- you know, like outside where other people can see him? All I could imagine was a gang of horny women following my man around the city, drooling over all the hard work I put in.
And then what? Jail time for me? I'm in grad school I can't afford the jealous girlfriend lawyer fees.
My boyfriend assured me that I have nothing to worrying about. That no one really notices him now, and probably won’t really pay attention to him later. I called him Pollyanna. At the risk of making a very broad, sexist and probably not-true generalization, I told him women are sneaky as hell.
“They'll hit on you without you knowing it. They will cozy up to you and not give a damn about whether I exist or not, even when I’m there.”
I’ve already had to deal with one of his former flings flipping her hair at me (a classic act of female aggression). I was more amused than offended, seeing as how she was flipping synthetic extensions -- but still. And yes, I realize that pointing out that another woman’s hair is fake is also a classic act of female aggression.
Did I mention that, unbeknownst to most people, I’m can be a jealous girlfriend? It's a slippery slope between a guy introducing me to his “good” female friend and me going all Elin Nordigren on his ass -- not literally, of course, just in terms of my internal rage.
And if you ask me why I have said tendencies, I won’t have a clear, salient answer for you. My best guess is that it’s a remnant of PTRD -- Post-Traumatic Relationship Disorder -- that I suffered in my early 20s. You know, when you date the asshole boyfriends who don’t compliment you enough, make more than a few uncomfortable comments about other women, and otherwise go out of their way to make you jealous.
But of course, you’re only 22 and this is your first real boyfriend and on Mondays and Wednesdays he promises to marry you, plus he calls you crazy when you bring it up, so you don’t say anything at all. Or was that just me?
The most annoying part? It's knowing that these Mean Girl feelings are insane -- that they're more a result of some ridiculous conditioning that pits women against one another, and not actually based in any kind of reality. I know intellectually that women aren't these catty, competitive beings whose only mission is to steal men from each other, as if: 1) men are territories we've planted flags on in the first place, and: 2) we don't have better things to do. Which is why when I find myself wanting to Hulk smash another woman for simply admiring my significant other, I'm left feeling silly, conflicted and just plain stupid.
But green-eyed Hulk girlfriend tendencies aside, I honestly like my man the way he is.
I like the fact that he has one fedora for "special occasions." I always know when I see him in the red-but-actually-maroon shirt, that he's dressing up for me. And that pumpkin-orange sweater he wears whenever the temperature drops below 65? It's a reminder of the first time we met -- a chilly night in November.
So while I’ll be thrilled to play June Ambrose and pick out a few new shirts and fitted jacket that even Steve Harvey couldn't sneeze at, I’m in no rush to turn my man into the next Blair Underwood. I’m perfectly fine with telling my science nerd which sneakers to put on when he gets dressed in the morning -- knowing that he'll look great while getting over my jealousy.
“Black, baby. White will clash with your cream sweater.” He's learning, and so am I.
What about the rest of you xoJane stylish significant others? Does your better half's fashion choices make you cringe? Do you even care?