My husband, Frank, had a birthday last week. It wasn’t a big one that ended in 0 or 5 — the only ones that can REALLY be celebrated after 21, according to the “adulting rule book.” And that was just fine because my usually upbeat husband didn’t really seem to want to celebrate his 47th birthday.
“I don’t know what it is, but this one is just starting to make me feel old,” he said. “It’s just so close to 50 and when you are in your 40s you can kind of convince yourself you’re not old by tucking that number away somewhere in the back of your brain, but 50 … I just don’t know.”
Everyone says 50 is the new 40, and there is some truth to that. When I think about my grandparents in their 50s, they were definitely already doing old people things, like shelling peas and canning vegetables, just sitting on the porch staring out at the street, and my Grams was already getting her hair “set” at Lucy’s Beauty Shop every week.
Many of my friends have already crossed over into their dreaded 50s and none of them have a whiff of oldness on them yet. Not even close. And neither does Frank.
But I do know how he feels. We are at that point in our lives when you really start thinking chances are you have been living on this Earth longer than you have left on it. And you start wondering if you have made the most of this life you have been given. Have I accomplished everything I wanted to? Will I travel to all the places I said I would? Will I live to see my children grow up and be happy (hopefully)? Will I get to see my grandchildren? And just how many years do I have left before my body starts really falling apart?
Of course, not a single tomorrow is guaranteed. On any given day of the week, you could get hit by a bus or a toilet could come flying off the back of a truck in front of you on I-10, killing you and three others (but, of course, not the driver of the truck, who I am sure was also texting!).
But if you can avoid buses and flying toilets, you do begin to wonder what “natural causes” may take you out and which one you would prefer. (I am personally leaning toward heart attack while sleeping.)
As Frank was starting to try and pep himself back up on his birthday morning, he began saying, “You know I feel really good though. I don’t feel almost 50. And I haven’t really had anything wrong …. ”
I interrupted him before he even had a chance to stupidly tempt fate. “Shut up. Don’t even say it. The minute you say it, you know what will happen.”
He nodded in agreement and I told him happy birthday, and he still looked pretty hot … for an old man.
He wanted clothes for his birthday, so I decided since he was feeling a little old I would try and hip him up a bit. I mean, I swear I have bought the man so many blue-striped, long-sleeved dress shirts that every time I buy another one, I think to myself, “Didn’t I already buy him this one?” No, not exactly but the answer might as well be, “Yes, yes you have.”
So I made it my mission to buy him some cooler duds. I wasn’t planning on getting him something the 18-year-old leader of a punk rock band might sport, but maybe something a nice singer/songwriter in his 30s would wear. Or something you see youngish men in coffeeshops wearing. Yep, the vibe I was going for was definitely singer/songwriter/coffeeshop dweller. This would certainly make Frank feel like a new man.
But I did not know how hard this was going to be.
When I entered the store, I bypassed all of the sensible, striped blue shirts and ventured into the part of the men’s department where men with facial hair who drink chai lattes definitely shop.
It seems what makes these men’s clothes cool is pearl buttons and patterns of tiny cool and/or ironic objects like skulls, bicycles, headphones, Teddy Roosevelt’s head (seriously), guitars, flowers, fish and other critters, etc. You get the idea.
There were so many options it was overwhelming.
Then I started wondering if Frank needed a direct connection to these patterns. Should he really be wearing a guitar shirt since he doesn’t play guitar, and while he wears headphones, it’s usually to listen to podcasts on a plane, not to produce the world’s next greatest album. And the headphones on this shirt definitely had more of a Rick Rubin vibe than 40-ish podcast dude. If I bought him one of these shirts, would he look like a poser? Because we couldn’t have that. Nothing is sadder and uncool as that — except maybe wearing your favorite band’s T-shirt to their concert. (Shiver!)
So I played it safe and went with the skull pattern (because he has one) and the bicycles (because he did ride one until it got stolen from our former home in Oakleigh around 10 years ago).
But I wanted to get him one more ensemble, and that’s when I saw him — the sexiest, hottest, coolest-looking, headless male mannequin a girl could ever lay eyes upon.
This decapitated hunk of seductive plastic looked like he had just thrown on his outfit after banging a model in his industrial loft apartment, where he had spent most of the previous evening playing his vinyl collection and serving her small-batch bourbons. I mean, I’m not going to lie, he was kind of turning me on.
This was definitely the look my Frankie needed.
So I scooped up Headless Hunk’s outfit, which included a dark blue shirt with a leaf pattern on it and a blue sweater to go over it — the sweater did look a little Mister Rogers, but if Headless looked this good in it, so would Frank.
After I checked out and re-examined it in the car, I began to worry he would not wear this. It was, admittedly, a bit of a bold print.
I needed a second opinion so I took it in to see what the men folk in my office thought. I showed the pieces to one co-worker. He didn’t mind the bicycles or the skull shirt so much, but he said no way Frank was going to like the leaf shirt Headless had been wearing, and then he added that when you’re a guy, there’s just a certain pattern you associate with old men wearing and that was it.
Whatever dude. Headless was not a grandpa. Headless was spectacularly cool stud in every way. His model girlfriend obviously loved it! What did he know anyway? I went home and proudly wrapped it up.
Later that night, when Frank opened his present, I could tell he was disappointed. He at least tried on the skulls and bicycles, but claimed they didn’t really fit well (they fit just fine). But he wouldn’t even try on the leaf shirt, saying “it looks like something my dad would wear.” (Apologies to my father-in-law. Your son said it!)
I tried to explain to him how mod and natty the stylish mannequin looked in it and even said if I wasn’t a married woman and I had seen Headless in a bar in this outfit I would have been trying to get in his pants, well, except Headless was just a torso, so he couldn’t wear pants, but you get the idea.
Frank was not convinced.
He did keep the Mister Rogers sweater, but took everything else back and exchanged it all for a new pair of the exact type of shoes he has been wearing forever.
He knows himself and so do I. And that self doesn’t wear leaf shirts, but still looks pretty damn good in a blue-striped one, even at the ancient age of 47.
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