It all started after we got engaged. At first, the comments were cute attempts at subtlety, “So...how long have you had those shoes?,” “You must love that dress,” and “When was the last time you went shopping?” It didn’t take long, however, before new brand-name clothes showed up at my house, and I was all but escorted to the trash can to entomb my favorite pair of shoes. Once he popped the question, the truth came out with it: He thought it best that I didn’t dress myself anymore. In this Daniel gave me a beautiful foretaste of martial love, for despite my wearing shabby cardigans in 80 degree weather and baggy, decade-old jeans, he still wanted me. Even more, he chose to pledge his life to me knowing that I will always be at least five years behind any fashion trend, if, that is, I catch up at all. He would take me in fancy’s finest or fashion faux pas until death do us part.
How we got here
Three years and at least five fanny packs later, the fashion situation in the Stidham household has taken a decidedly ironic plunge. The man I married, endlessly gregarious, affectionate, and fun-loving, is like a walking sunburst fueled by equal parts spontaneity and self-propelled enthusiasm. And yet, when we met he was also suave and debonnaire, the young JP Morgan banker who strolled into 600 Travis St. each morning in a perfectly trimmed suit and a freshly steamed shirt, a walking Brooks Brothers magazine cover...almost.
In hindsight, his ties were the overlooked harbinger. While many of his ties were classically professional, others were quietly quirky, my favorite of which is mustard yellow with partridges and pear trees. Then there were his growing stockpile of overly vibrant and patterned socks. This, however, was mistaken as a millennial craving for individual expression, the negotiation of a quasi-hipster identity in the workplace. And then...the neon undershirts, obnoxious hues of yellow and pink only barely obscured by his button-down. In hindsight, each of these clues strain out from underneath the professional exterior like tendrils of a starved plant gasping for air. If only I had known.
People often ask me if Daniel started wearing the fanny pack before or after marriage. The answer is most definitely after, specifically in that first tender year when a new wife doesn’t quite have a grasp for the extent of her proper influence. In my defense, I thought it was a fad, a week at most. Famous last assumption.
What's a wife to do?
It wasn’t until a few weeks went by that I began to fight an irresistible desire to melt into the floor in almost any social situation. I was asked countless times what I “thought” of Daniel’s fanny pack, and I found it most irritating that people insisted on asking a question the answer to which they already knew. Out of necessity, I started to strategize. My first attempt is a small-talk maneuver I call “Introduce the Elephant.” By calling attention to the fanny pack first, as I reasoned, I could save myself the anticipation of the subject and the other person the mental gymnastics involved in deciding whether or not to comment on such a glaring oddity. I mean, Daniel’s handsome, alright, but there are many things a charming face can’t fix, and a fanny pack is one of them. No matter which way you tilt your head or how hard you squint your eyes, it is nearly impossible to conjure any image other than a strange apparition of a fashion nightmare from the ‘80’s.
And then I learned: all forms of resistance are futile. Truth be told, the fanny pack makes sense. It is just enough out-of-sync with the watching world to be at home on Daniel Stidham. It’s just audacious enough, just strange enough, to achieve his goal of breaking through the veil of shallow niceties that often shroud social settings. He’s simply not interested in collecting two-dimensional clippings of people’s lives; he wants to know people, to understand them, and, in so doing, to befriend the true person. While I will be the first to agree that the fanny pack is, at best, a ridiculous back-door approach to friendship, I will also be the first to testify to the great joy of being known by someone who is without pretense.
Author’s Note: I was just informed throughout this post I used the incorrect designation for my husband’s fashion appendage. Where I have written “fanny pack,” please read “fifth pocket.” :)