Some years ago, our family was enjoying a trip out west. We stopped at a diner in Arizona and were sitting at a table chatting when an older couple came through the front door and headed to a table, too.
I glanced at them and then did a double take. The husband and wife were each wearing matching pink sweat pants and sweat shirt outfits, on which dozens of oh-so-cute teddy bear patches had been sewn. The wife walked in first with a big smile on her face, with the husband trailing behind. It looked as if she had created the outfits herself, perhaps in a sewing or crafts class at their nearby retirement community. I’m sure she thought they were just frigging adorable, but they were so bright and saccharine and embarrassing it was painful to even look at them. I pointed the couple out to Kish and the boys, and we all got a good chuckle about them as we sat at our table and ate our meal.
Still, there was a serious aspect to this comical incident. I felt sorry for this old guy, because I was reasonably confident from his demeanor that wearing matching pink teddy bear outfits with his wife to a local diner wasn’t his idea. I’m sure he loved his wife, and I’m guessing that she wanted to make the outfits and brought it up until he yielded as the path of least resistance. But there was an obvious issue of self-respect involved, too. Once, I thought, this older gentleman had had a successful career as a business executive or banker, a man who was admired by his colleagues and neighbors. Now he was out in public at an Arizona diner, wearing a garish, overly cute outfit that he wouldn’t have been caught dead in just a few years earlier. It wasn’t a pretty picture.
Later that night, Kish and I talked about it. We agreed that she would never suggest that we wear matching teddy bear outfits — or for that matter, any matching outfits — and I agreed that if I ever indicated an interest in doing so, she could put me away for good, because the matching teddy bear outfits test would show I had finally and irretrievably lost it. It was one of those small but significant agreements and accommodations of which successful marriages are made.