Clothes trauma can be traced back to Smelly Ralph’s hand-me-downs

Burt's Eye View

“Would you like to shop for your own clothes?”

My wife asked this with a straight face. I waited for the punchline. None came.

“I’ve got stuff,” I said.

“No, I mean we could go shopping together for new shirts and pants for you,” Terry said.

She couldn’t be serious. Could she?

“I don’t wear half of what I have now.” I flapped my newspaper to indicate that I was too busy reading the comics to talk about silly stuff. She missed the hint.

“Exactly,” Terry said. “Picking out your own clothes means you’d own things that you would wear.”

“I already have clothes that I wear.” I rustled the newspaper pages. “I’ve worn some of them for 10, 15, 20 years. They’re comfy. Molded to my shape. Ventilated.”

“But what if you need a new pullover?”

“That’s what Christmases and birthdays are for.”

She sighed. “Have you EVER bought new clothes?”

“No need. Stuff just shows up.”

“Because,” she said, “I buy them and hang them in your closet.”


“But I never know what you’ll wear.”


“So if you come with me, we can spend a whole day trying on everything. You can get everything you like.”

“Uh-oh.” I slouched behind my newspaper.

Terry yanked the paper out of my hands. “Name one thing wrong with shopping for clothes.”

“It’s mind-numbing and pointless.”

“That’s two. Now hear this: Trying on new things is fun.”

I shuddered. “Like getting locked in a pen with an angry bull while wearing red long johns.”

She rolled her eyes. “What, were you traumatized by clothing as a kid?”

“Actually, yes.”

She sighed. “OK, tell me what horrible thing happened in your childhood.”

“You didn’t need to hook air quotes around the world ‘horrible,'” I grumbled.

“Just spin your yarn.”

“I grew up with scads of cousins. Every so often, an aunt would jam all the clothes her boys had outgrown into big ol’ bags and drop them off at our house.”

“Sweet,” Terry said.

“Torture,” I corrected. “I was forced to try them on. Every. Single. Thing. When they get too old for Barbie dolls, grownup girls play dress-up with their little boys. Yuck.”

“Didn’t you want to know if the clothes fit?”

“Not all at once.” I shivered. “One time, Grandma was over when the dump came. Mom and Grandma giggled like school girls. ‘These are from your rich cousins,’ Grandma cooed. ‘Finally, you’ll have decent clothes to wear.'”

“That sounds nice,” Terry said.

“You never met my cousin Smelly Ralph. Mom and Grandma shucked me into every single one of Smelly Ralph’s old T-shirts. All 37 of them. It was the only night I didn’t argue about taking a bath.”

“So you won’t go clothes shopping with me because of Smelly Ralph?”

I reached for my newspaper. It was time to end this clothing nonsense and get back to the very important panel of the “Curtis” comic strip I’d been reading. “Tell you what, I’ll buy you a Ken doll and a bag of outfits for Christmas. Knock yourself out.”

It wasn’t herself that she knocked out. So, what do you think of my new shirt?

— Shop with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.


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