After my first visit to Abercrombie & Fitch in 21 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s basically a strip joint that sells clothes.
I’m old enough to remember when Abercrombie & Fitch sold safari gear, guns and other cool stuff. I bought a pair of hiking boots there when I was 13-years-old before going to Boy Scout camp. After college, I went into a local A&F store in 1992 to see the changes and check out all the cool grunge, flannel stuff. Well, things have changed again.
Recently, my girls pressured me to go back into an Abercrombie & Fitch. To begin, it looks like a strip joint from the outside complete with blacked-out windows, barkers trying to get you inside, and the occasional pair of barely-dressed Ken and Barbie hotties standing outside the door live and in person.
I walked in only to find another person in the doorway. I thought maybe I had to pay a cover charge or something. She waved me in, and the entrance opens up into nightclub/strip joint scene complete with smoke, that smell they pump in, low lights and LOTS of bass. Instead of one open store, it’s a series of dark rooms, so I can’t tell if I’m at the bar or in the VIP lounge. Which side is guys and which is girls? It all runs together. I figure the cool lighting is intended to make you look better in their stuff than you would in the light of day. Sort of like some hail-damaged dancer on the main stage that turns into a MUCH better version of herself when the lighting is just right. Now that I think about it, I think it made my bald spot disappear.
Lucky for me, all of the stuff my girls were interested in was on the sale rack. This is the stuff that didn’t sell – aka… clothes that have enough material to cover what they are supposed to cover on a 13-year-old girl. Then, I had to figure out where to pay, which somehow seems more confusing in that store than in other stores (maybe that’s part of cool factor). After the easily confused, but VERY good-looking, girl running the cash register finally got us squared away, she hands me a bag with some naked dude on it.
As is usually the case, the girls are leading me to the next stop in the mall while I carry their bags. However, this time I get to walk around the mall carrying a giant bag with a naked guy on it that screams, “HEY, I JUST WENT SHOPPING AT THE STRIP JOINT.” If that’s not bad enough, now everyone is looking at me like I’m the pathetic middle-aged guy shopping at A&F as a way to deal with my mid-life crisis (don’t worry A&F, your stuff doesn’t fit me – just like you planned). Seriously, I’ve never wanted to carry a Forever XXI bag so much in my life until the day I walked through the main part of the mall carrying a huge shopping bag with a naked guy on it.
And if there’s any doubt you’ve actually spent time in A&F, then just walk up and smell my clothes. I’ve never wanted to smell like smoke and keg beer so much in my life. If you spend ANY amount of time in there, you will totally have THAT smell on you. So, even after you’ve hidden the naked guy shopping bag in the trunk of your car, anyone that gets close enough will like at you like, “Dude, you smell like you just went shopping at the strip joint in the mall.” …The shame
© Johnny Hea – 2013 All Rights Reserved
It’s like I’ve said before. Guys don’t have much bandwidth. Not only do we have a limited number of words we can say on a given day, but there’s also a limited number of words we can hear in a given 24-hour period. I recently figured out there’s also a limit to how many questions we can answer…
Questions are a natural part of any conversation (and maybe it’s me), but it seems like women want to understand the intricate details of a story or situation. And for this to happen, there are a LOT of clarifying questions that get asked in an effort to bring these details to life.
This recently became clear to me in the middle of the night. You see, because I ride my bike early in the morning, I leave the door to our garage cracked so the door chime doesn’t wake everyone up when I leave (our alarm makes that loud dinging sound that echoes throughout the house when a door opens). I think this feature on the alarm is to let you know if one of the kids leave the house or someone comes home. In my wife’s mind, the purpose of the door chime is to let you know someone is breaking into our home to steal our kids. Sometimes, if there’s a storm or a lot of wind, it will move the door to the garage enough to make the chime go off. Well, this happened the other night at 3:00 am. The first ding woke me up, the second ding irritated me, and the third got me out of bed to check it out.
After fixing the problem and finally getting back to bed, the questions start… “What was the problem? Why did it take so long? I was worried about you. What exactly happened? Is it fixed? Did it wake up the girls? What about the dog? It’s hot in here. Do you think the air is too cold for the girls in their rooms? Should I go make it warmer for them? I think I did something to the alarm. Why won’t the light on the alarm keypad turn off? I was about to come down and check on you. Tell me again why it took so long….”
It’s like I’m being deposed. Notice how some of the same questions get asked in different ways. It’s like she thinks I won’t answer the question unless she asks it the right way. Or, maybe, she wants to get a jump on her 20,000 words for the day. Either way, do you really want to burn through that many questions when I’m not awake to answer any of them? Doesn’t she know it works against her question quota for the day? Why not wait and ask me questions when I’m awake and I can actually answer some? I think it’s because she (and most women) just need to ask questions, say words and talk. It’s like they’re anxious they won’t get all of those words out tomorrow and need to start talking tonight.
After almost 20 years of being married she knows that if she strikes up a conversation in the middle of the night it will wake me up and I’ll be irritated that I can’t go back to sleep, but she asks anyway. Just like a junkie can’t help but pick up that crack pipe, the conversation starts. I remind her in the most patient way I know how that I will give her all of the details in the morning. And next time, if she hears a commotion or scuffle, please make sure that I have totally bled out and I’ve completely stopped breathing before you come downstairs to check on me because I really can’t handle all of the questions.
© Johnny Hea – 2013 All Rights Reserved
For generations, married men have found themselves spending their Saturdays working through their list of, “Honey, do this for me” or “Honey, do that”, which is more commonly known as the ‘Honey-do’ list or the list of Honey-do’s. In the heat of the summer, I was working on item #176 of my Honey-do list (aka – wrestling apart the trampoline and hauling it to the trash), when I asked myself, “Where did this list come from? How is it that I’m wrestling a trampoline and battling heat stroke to get this thing checked off my list?” Much like trying to understand the origins of humankind and space before that, men have been grappling with these questions for as long as history itself.
The Honey-do list is a very complex document with a myriad of unspoken, unwritten rules that govern it. It’s important to know and abide by these uniform rules despite the absence of their codification. To begin, each husband must understand and properly rank the priority of the items on the list, and the ranking is dynamic, so you must know when priority changes occur. Your wife is not required to notify you of priority changes, however, it is your responsibility to adjust the list in real-time to account for these changes or ‘adjustments’ (her word not mine). If a husband fails to accurately adjust the Honey-do list in a timely manner, then know that at some level you were not listening, paying attention or unable to recall a conversation that alluded to changes in the list weeks or months ago. Also keep in mind that you will be reminded by your wife that you were notified of the change and did, in fact, hear and acknowledge the change. (I use the word ‘wife’ loosely here because during this discussion your wife is no longer your wife and becomes your roommate you are not getting along with very well.)
Do not mix the lists! I realize you have your list and she has her Honey-do list, but for the love of God do NOT merge the lists into some sort of master list where YOU have ranked the order of priority! It’s important to understand that in your wife’s mind, you do not have a list. It is non-existent. She has no concern for the items on your list. Something like fixing a broken sprinkler line because the quarter-inch pipe is gushing hundreds of gallons of water per minute near the foundation of your home three times a week and not only risks damage to your home but is costing you a small fortune in water each month. No. That can be done on your own time after her list is complete. Your best bet is to somehow convince your wife the broken pipe issue should go on the Honey-do list, and then you can accomplish this task in daylight. Otherwise, you will be doing this repair in the dark while holding a flashlight in your teeth. If you decide not to fix the pipe or somehow can’t get it on her Honey-do list, then you will undergo questioning in a couple of weeks as to why the side-yard grass is dying, her hydrangeas don’t look right and why this wasn’t addressed sooner. Remember that her list is primarily about aesthetics, and your list is about function. If it doesn’t make things looks better or help deal with something she feels is a concern, then it goes on your list. So, sell your pressing issue accordingly if you want it to move onto her list.
Enforcement of the Honey-do list is brutal. Guys have not only a limited ability to talk, but also a limited ability to listen. I believe most guys would rather be water boarded at GITMO than have their wife keep bringing up the same topic over and over and over… I know some guys believe they can ignore an item on the Honey-do list, or the whole thing all together. This will not happen. You will be subjected to increasing pain and misery until you relent. It begins with soft, gentle reminders accompanied with a, “please, Honey.” The ‘please’ is soon dropped, and the next thing you know it is a full-on, unrelenting NAG. It’s misery worse than endless water boarding. You will hear her ask, talk about, discuss, remind, revisit, readdress, ask again, bring it up again, remind you again, talk about how nice life would be if only this one, small thing was done… etc. until you go insane. You know what I mean. It’s that female OCD, Rainman thing where they obsess and talk about something CONSTANTLY until it’s fixed or goes away. Do yourself a favor, and just work through the list.
Now, it’s not as though I’m handed a written list of items. No, it doesn’t work that way. I’m given a steady stream of verbal requests. The frequency of certain requests points me to the order of priority, but I write them down so I can keep track. This is why it is technically ‘ME’ creating ‘my list’ of things to do around the house and not my wife (because no wife wants to be known as the wife that hands her husband a list of things to get done). Then, my wife will occasionally see my list and begin to ask me about it, or turn to me and say, “Honey, will you please add ______ to your list.”
So, how did all of this start? The answer came to me when talking to my nephew who recently got engaged. He said, “…Yeah, these days not only do we talk about the wedding all the time, but the other day she gives me this list of things I need to get done before the big day.” Yes! A wedding list! That’s when it starts. The wedding! It’s brilliant! Like a frog boiling in water, you don’t even know it’s happening. You are given a list of things to do (verbal, of course), and you think it’s just this one time. You know, for the wedding. Then there is a post wedding list, a thank-you note list, a move-in list, a clean-up list, a clean-out list, a let’s organize the kitchen list… etc. And then you stop one day and wonder how long this has been going on?? For me, it’s been almost 20 years.
I have a theory on the evolution of the modern woman’s purse as it’s known today. I believe that some guy invented the purse with A LOT of input from his wife.
I think the modern day woman’s purse has its roots in what’s known today as the backpack. A backpack is the most practical solution to carry around your stuff since you use two straps to carry it on your back thereby leaving BOTH hands free to do other stuff. I believe that some guy was watching how his wife was using the backpack and made some modifications to it. He noticed she carried it around only by one strap on one shoulder, it was never zipped closed and she constantly complained about the color.
The evolution continued with daily input from his wife that began with the five words that are like nails on a chalkboard when uttered by a spouse, “It would be nice if….” “it came in a different color, it wasn’t leather, it had a wider strap, it had a shorter strap, it had an adjustable strap, it didn’t have a strap, it wasn’t so big, it wasn’t so small….etc. etc. etc. blah… blah… blah….”
All of these iterations were cast aside in attempt to incorporate his wife’s feedback, and were the origin of all of the purse styles our wives speak of today when looking through an issue of InStyle magazine and reading the captions out loud… hobos, totes, clutches, satchels, evening bags, shoulder bags, exotic skins, editor’s picks…
In an attempt to anticipate his wife’s ever changing desire for functionality, he began adding practical features to the purse such as dividers, zipper closures, various pockets, a place for keys and eventually a special pocket for a phone. It’s some of these features that were important clues that eventually led me to the basis of my theory. You see, the phone pocket (much like a place for car keys) makes so much sense, but only a guy would use it. For example, my wife finds it exceedingly difficult to use such a feature. She prefers to drop her phone (and car keys, or worse, my keys) into the black abyss of her purse only to dig through a maze of dark pockets when someone is blowing up her digits. This is why it’s only on a rare occasion that my wife actually answers her phone before it rolls to voicemail. This is also why I, and many other husbands, prefer to text. The phone makes its text ringtone, and, 10 minutes later after my wife has found her phone, she answers my text. The zipper doesn’t get used either, but I don’t have space to list all of features that go unused.
I can’t pinpoint when, but I think this guy along with others got frustrated with trying to create features, colors and styles that would satisfy their respective wives and stopped making purses and adding features. After all, women are constantly changing purses, which is good because if they didn’t I’m convinced you would find a pacifier in my wife’s purse from when my 12-year-old was a baby. I’ve had the same wallet for almost twelve years. Purses have a useful life of a year… at best.
I have come to my conclusion that guys stopped making purses based on a couple of observations. The first is the absence of a light inside the purse. I wish had a dollar for every time my wife got frustrated looking for something like car keys or glasses in her purse only to dump all of its contents out and search through a pile of personal items. The lighting feature is the logical next step and would be the equivalent of a closet light inside a purse, but they don’t exist which tells me guys are no longer involved. My final clue is the latest style of popular purses known as the Neverfull. It’s just a big bag without pockets or a zipper. You just drop stuff in it, and it opens wide so you can easily see to dig through your stuff.
The human race has come a long way from the backpack, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much because whether it’s a backpack or a purse every guy in the world would still be listening to their wives dig through their bags like a badger in search of grub worm and mumbling, “Where’s my phone?”
© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved
Next time you see the guy that invented the Jack and Jill bathroom, please do me a favor and kick his ass for me. This is a perfect example of an idea that works really well conceptually, but is an absolute failure in real life.
The Jack and Jill bathroom is a brilliant concept that gives kids their own sinks, but they share a shower and other stuff. Even the name uses fairy tale characters to convey a sense of idealism and subconsciously make you believe this modest Shangri-La is custom made for your little blessings. At my house, this is where Fight Club happens.
Other than some liquored-up moms at their daughters’ cheerleading tryouts, I honestly can’t think of a better recipe for a nasty fight to break out than to have two girls, that are two years apart in age sharing a Jack and Jill bathroom. It’s like a cage fighting octagon for little girls. In real cage fighting, at least the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters respect each other and hug after beating each other to a bloody pulp. In a Jack and Jill octagon, after the fight is over they just go to their corners and devise a new scheme to get back at their sister. I also think that a bloody, sweaty octagon is probably cleaner than my girls’ bathroom setup.
The crazy part is that the bathroom fighting and chaos erupts randomly. It’s like a car bomb exploding in a crowded market. One minute, life is normal, the girls are saying nice things to each other, sharing their hair de-tangler and reading each other stories. Then, out of nowhere…. BANG!!! Noise, fighting, slamming doors, crying, hair-pulling and yelling explode out of nowhere, and I’m running down to their room like a fight just broke out among the general population in the prison yard. In a word… chaos. At least the guards have pepper-spray. Me, I face the shanks un-armed. Although there is no pattern to the time of day when emotions will come unhinged, you can usually count on it happening at the worst time possible. I’m either pouring my first cup of coffee or they are getting ready for school when – BANG!!! – they are going at each other like kids after a piñata. Some pattern to all of this would be too easy to fix. Instead, there is no buildup and no warning.
I think it has to do with just being sisters. They don’t hit each other. Instead, they shred each other to pieces with their words. To make matters worse, their emotions have no restrictor plates. So, when a certain something is said their emotions go from 0 mph to 100 mph in less than a second and it’s officially “ON”, and it escalates from there.
Sisters know each other’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. And I think it’s this knowledge that gives them the power they can’t resist. Inside, they must be thinking…. “If I say her _____ is ugly, I know she will go ballistic.” They learn there is a lot of power behind being able to push that button, and it’s usually too tempting not to go ahead and push it.
© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved
You’d think I’d be used to the noise by now, but even as my girls get older it doesn’t seem to go away – it’s just different and louder. Not a day goes by that it doesn’t sound like there’s a spring break hotel party happening on the girls’ side of the house complete with music, yelling, dancing and fights – just no foam …yet.
Ever since my girls were born, it doesn’t matter if it’s a car ride, restaurant, church, wedding, mall… etc. they are loud. It’s like they learned to whispere in a saw mill. When they were little, it was crying (mostly me), baby-talk and all sorts of silverware, dishes and cups bouncing off the floor. Now it’s loud conversations, arguments, laughing and music. You don’t even realize how loud it is until that rare moment you’re in your car or home by yourself and all you hear is the ringing in your ears. It’s like I live in a room where someone is running a table saw or hard wood floor sander 24/7. And once I’m outside, I realize just how loud it was. It’s constant sensory overload made worse by music, computers, Wii, televsion, Xbox… etc. all hitting you at one once. By the time I finally get them in bed I feel like a riot officer who just got the demonstrators dispursed – except I don’t have the benefit of riot gear and pepper spray to control the situation.
What’s amazing to me is how quickly things can spiral out of control. One minute we are having a great time, and the next thing you know – a flash and a bang. One girl says something to the other and it’s like a car bomb just went off – chaos. No warning. It happens in under 2 seconds. One Mississippi, two Mississippi… two girls and mom all yelling and trying to talk over each other at the same time – I don’t even know what just happened much less do I have any ability to get control of it. I’m disoriented, confused and trying to orient myself.
Just recently, we all went to powder our nose at church and the next thing I know I can hear my girls yelling at each other through the bathroom wall. I felt like a prison guard in a secure room with prisoners rioting in the next cell block while my wife is held hostage in her stall. Church?? Really?? Work with me.
It would be hard enough if the yelling and noise happened only when they’re fighting, but they’re just as loud when they’re having fun together. I’ve gone to their rooms’ on more than one occasion feeling like I was about to walk into the octagon to break up a fight only to see they’re having fun.
My nerves are so fried that I’m like a scared alley cat that jumps at the slightest sound. I now accept that when I’m old I will either be the old guy you see nodding off in the corner of a wedding reception, or a nice person in white scrubs will be pushing me around a lovely facility in a wheel chair while I enjoy the fresh air and feed the ducks…. if I could just work one weekend month into my calendar maybe the shakes and bad dreams would stop.
© Johnny Hea – 2011 All Rights Reserved
Before you get married, everyone says you each need your own toothpaste because if you squeeze the tube from the middle and she squeezes the tube from the bottom you will end up having an argument. For an extra $3, this is an easy problem to solve. How the coffee is made, well that’s another story.
Someone once told me that marriage is not a 50%/50% proposition. It is actually a 100%/100% effort, and if each of you isn’t giving 100% to the other then it gets really hard. Well, it’s all hard at times and all great at times, but what you aren’t prepared for is all of the small things that annoy each of you. I think that is where the toothpaste advice came from. The good news is we both squeeze from the middle, however, the problem in our house emanates from flavors and technique. I prefer a strong and minty flavor while my wife likes the sweet, citrus variety. The real problem comes with technique in that I apply my toothpaste directly to the brush, neatly close the top and brush. My wife prefers to stick the end of her toothpaste dispenser in her mouth, squeeze in some toothpaste and then brush. She then tosses the toothpaste tube back into HER drawer with the top still open. I know the girls have adopted her technique as their bathroom drawers are full of crusted-over toothpaste containers that usually don’t have a top.
This problem is easily addressed at very little cost. However, the daily pot of coffee has become complicated over the years, and I am the high-maintenance one. When we first met I didn’t even drink coffee. The absence of coffee in my life was central to my simple and minimalistic lifestyle that included plenty of sleep. I slept in a sleeping bag for years because it was easiest, and I had only about 10 items in my refrigerator mainly because I didn’t use condiments. I preferred the natural taste of fresh bread and fine meats on my sandwiches, and I didn’t want a meal disturbed by the lathering of sauces and jellies all over everything. So, you can imagine my horror the first time I grilled a steak for her and she asked for steak sauce. This set the tone for our relationship, and now we have a cornucopia of condiments and seasonings for all types of fare. The other aspect of becoming more like my spouse was the introduction of coffee into my life.
I think coffee, like heroine, does not have a natural appeal. It’s an acquired taste, so my gateway drug was cappuccino. I worked in a restaurant that served cappuccinos, and the early 1990s was the beginning of the coffee shop craze where we would often go on dates. Now the problem is that I’m 20 years into my addiction, I have moved on to the hard stuff, and I have a lot of opinions on how I want my coffee. Since my wife uses huge amounts of cream and sugar in her coffee, she will drink about anything poured through a filter – like meat slathered in sauce, she can’t really taste the coffee anyway (you should hear her Starbucks order). Even the truck-stop coffee that has been on the burner for 9 hours doesn’t phase her. I have a more developed palate, and I like my coffee really strong, fresh and very hot with a touch of milk and a moderate amount of sweetner – she would say it’s black. Finally, my wife likes to walk down to the kitchen with a pot of coffee waiting for her while I prefer for my coffee to be freshly brewed. You can see the problem here.
So, like in most marriages, we have an extraordinarily complicated solution. The coffee is made the night before, but since I get up first – I start the coffee. And since we use a stronger roast (for me), I pour my coffee about half-way through the brewing process so that my cup is stronger and hers is weaker. It’s every man for himself when it comes to dialing-in the color and taste. Somehow this seems easier than buying a second coffee pot, but the new problem I can see coming is that my older daughter has been introduced to the black nectar, and I’m confident that she, like me, will soon be full of opinions.
© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved