My wife & I were watching Modern Family this past Wednesday night. There was a scene where Phil Dunphy (played by Ty Burrell) shows his wife, Claire (played by Julie Bowen) some embarrassing photos of his youth-- prior to meeting her and thanks her for saving him from himself.
The scene made me laugh, largely because of all the characters in any sitcoms I've ever seen, I can relate to Phil Dunphy better than any of them (my wife has said Phil Dunphy scares her because of how much he reminds her of me). The scene also made me recall a similar sentiment expressed by John Birmingham and Dirk Flinthart in their humorous yet useful tome, How To Be a Man.
In fact, there's a theory that suggests that were it not for marriage most men would front up at the office in some variation of cum-stained, thread-worn tracky dacks* and an 'I'm with Stupid' T-shirt. -- How To Be a Man (Birmingham, Flinthart, p. 7)One of my coworkers once suggested it might not be the best idea to let others know that I actually own such a book... on purpose (that is to say as opposed to receiving it as a gift or purchasing it ironically). I'd counter that, unfortunately, in my generation there is a segment of our demographic that may be men biologically but maturity wise many are of my peers are in a prolonged adolescence.
Truth be told, I extended my own adolescence into my mid-twenties. But, in all fairness, I was a bit of a late bloomer and didn't really start to sow my wild oats until college. So extending my adolescence into my mid-twenties, while not necessarily excusable, I would argue is somewhat understandable. At the time I purchased the book I was still in my early to mid-twenties. I'd highlighted the passages I had found to be either useful, humorous, or both. The chapters on fashion and cooking/nutrition are actually quite interesting and informative but I doubt I'll ever need to put to use the knowledge of how to properly land a Jumbo Jet or execute a bootlegger turn (although stranger things have happened... knowing my luck I might someday have to execute a bootlegger turn with a Jumbo Jet).
At the time I purchased the book I was involved in what I consider to have been my final "adolescent" relationship. That is to say, I was seriously involved with a girl, but we were in that tricky and awkard stage of life where we hadn't quite shaken off the vestiges of our youth nor had we fully become acclimated to our relatively new "adult" status. There was still that youthful innocence present but with that bubbling undercurrent of possibility that the relationship could evolve into something that might make us both more closely resemble the adults we were in the eyes of the law and of Mother Nature.
When the relationship ended after eight months I felt a bit knocked off my moorings and stuck in a bit of a rut and I was suddenly in a place where the book was useful to me. Little did I know at the time how much the little nugget on marriage from the opening pages would ring true for me.
My fashion sense was non-existent. While I never did "front up at the office" in "cum-stained, thread-worn tracky dacks and an 'I'm with Stupid' T-shirt" I did once show up for work at a retail job wearing an ensemble that prompted one of my coworkers to ask, "Florida practice?" (knee-socks & sandals with shorts and a polo... all I was missing to pull off the septugenarian Floridian snowbird motif was a pair of Blueblockers). I did also willingly accept some of my then manager's hand-me-down clothes that he was passing along largely because he'd acquired some fashion sense and was in the process of shedding off the vestiges of his youth. Luckily I was rescued from the indignity of mustard-yellow button fly jeans by the woman who later became my wife long before I ever actually wore them in public. Somewhere out there is probably a homeless person wearing one of the cast-off puffy shirts from Seinfeld with my old mustard yellow button-flys and he's probably pulling off the look far better than I ever could have hoped to.
When you add to that my theory on hairstyling was "economical/low-maintenance" causing me to go from the extreme of short spiked hair to a long thick head of hair (at times even resembling a mullet) before I'd get it trimmed back to the spartan almost military length I'd been at four to five months earlier... at the time of my last haircut. The short 'do-- it works for a lot of guys. Unfortunately, it did me no favors and served only to accentuate my ears giving me a look that suggested I'd had an ear transpant from a Ferengi.
While my fashion sense has improved substantially I still from time to time commit the ocassional fashion faux pas or sacrelige-- white after Labor Day, brown socks with black shoes (or vice versa), striped shirts with argyle sweaters, and outfits exhibiting colors insulting to nature, or silk shirts with leather vests parachute pants and aviator style sunglasses. I could go on but I'm pretty sure you've got the idea.
But the days when I actually look good. When I manage to put together a rather tasteful outfit please don't compliment me. It's my wife. It's her blood, sweat, tears, toil, and frustration that lifted me from my fashion abyss and magically made all the offensive clothing in my closet disappear only to reappear on racks at the nearest Goodwill store. It's her I have to thank for saving me from myself.
*Tracky Dacks - (Aus. Slang) Tracksuit Pants