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Greg Wallace

Ode to a maroon sweatshirt


The following is a word of warning to any young, single guys out there who like their present wardrobe: Don’t marry a teacher. You’re probably asking yourself “What does the noble profession of educating young minds have to do with the clothes that I wear?” Well listen up bachelors because I was once like you.

You see, my wife is a high-school teacher. High-school teachers tend to get this week-long vacation during the school year called “Spring Break.” During “Spring Break,” married, female high-school teachers for some unknown reason are inclined to take part in an annual ritual called “Spring Cleaning.” When married, female high-school teachers finish the “Spring Cleaning” of the house during “Spring Break,” they tend to go after their husband’s closet. Hence my warning ...

On a recent Friday night (that’s right, a Friday night), my wife told me she needed my presence in the bedroom. As I hurdled the cat and sprinted down the hallway, you can imagine my dismay when I saw the bed covered with clothes. My clothes.

As I stood in the doorway, with my mouth agape, my wife explained to me that we were going to sort through my wardrobe and throw out the things that ... A. Didn’t fit anymore; B. Were tattered beyond repair; or C. Haven’t been in style since the Reagan administration. This had truly turned into a dark day.

As I grudgingly drug my feet across the bedroom floor to clear a spot on the bed to sit, my wife gleefully started holding up articles of clothing. Articles of my clothing. I was informed that my job was to sit there and give either a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to darn near each and every piece of clothing I own to decide whether or not it stayed in a drawer or went to the burn pile. My eyes well up with tears just thinking about it.

Early into the process, I realized my opinions weren’t going to be fully honored. I like comfortable clothes. Sometimes clothes that are comfortable tend to have, for lack of a better term, “holes” in them. At least mine do. Or at least, did.

My wife has a tendency to want to pitch anything that has a “hole” in it. I explained to her that all of my shirts have “head holes,” “arm holes” and “torso holes.” I don’t see what the big deal is about a few “armpit holes.” It seems somewhat discriminating, and there’s just no place for that kind of thinking in today’s society.

And she doesn’t care too much for stains either. You see, I like yellow mustard on my Cold-Cut Combo, and it sometimes likes to leak upon whatever it is I happen to be wearing at the time. Being a guy, I sometimes like to find spots on my apparel and fondly remember those fine sandwiches. Ah, the memories.

After pitching the majority of my shirts, we moved onto the pants. Again, “torso holes” and “leg holes” are acceptable, “crotch holes,” not so much.

But much of the problem with the pants had not so much to do with wear and tear but in the area of do they fit or not. As she sorted through them, she noticed that most all of the pairs were the same size, but some were practically threadbare while others had hardly been worn at all. She couldn’t figure out why I wore some pants to their ultimate demise, while I hardly wore others at all.

For those of you who haven’t purchased men’s trousers recently, the innovation of “stretchy” pants has forever changed what guys wear. Slacks with elastic sides have given us the ability to wear pants that are actually much smaller than what we should really be utilizing. Ergo the reason for the two stacks of pants. The worn out pairs were “stretchy pants” and the like-new pairs weren’t.

As the burn pile grew at an exponential rate and the “keep” pile withered away to practically nothing, I felt the need to point out to my wife that Illinois law requires that I wear some kind of clothing in most public settings. She informed me not to worry. If I was a good boy, we could go clothes shopping and maybe, just maybe, I could get a treat. Just what every 46-year-old guy wants to hear.

The most poignant part of the evening was when I had to say good-bye to a trusted old friend. I have (I mean, had) a maroon-colored Nike sweatshirt that has resided on the top shelf of my closet for many, many years. It’s been with me as I mowed the yard, painted the bathroom and raked leaves onto my neighbor’s property. Every rip, tear and stain tells a story. My story.

But as my wife stood there, holding it up for my inspection, even I knew that the time had come to take it out behind the barn and put it out of its misery. It was literally a bunch of holes held together by some maroon-colored thread. Sniff.

So I am now the proud owner of three shirts and two pairs of pants. Thank goodness we didn’t go through my underwear drawer.

You can contact Wallace at gwallace@bcrnews.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.wordpress.com.