What to Wear, What to Wear

It seems to me that an important question in the minds of most women is, ``What should I wear?'' This, at least, is on my wife's mind a lot. I hardly ever worry about what to wear. This is because, since we've been married, my loving wife picks my clothes out for me. I therefore never have to worry about what to wear because every morning there it is on the bed waiting for me. I never asked her to do this and I don't think I ever gave her a reason to do it, either--I never wore orange and pink in the same outfit, for example. My tie is never mismatched with my suit--but then, I never wear a suit or a tie.
  But Dawn worries about what to wear. And never has what to wear been as problematic as it is at the clothes of the first trimester. (Sorry about that.) While it's still too early to say she's showing--our baby is maybe two inches long at this point--Dawn's womb is already stiffening her lower abdomen and her breasts are already getting a little heavier. As a result, clothes which used to fit comfortably are beginning to get a little tight--although, they're also getting loose, as Dawn's weight rearranges itself. Her pants are all actually looser now everywhere but in the waist, where they're getting too small.
  What this translates to in practical terms is simple: Shopping!
  Even at this early date in the pregnancy I'm coming to realize that nine-tenths of being pregnant involves shopping in one way or another. Once again, I'm unsure of whether this is something central to having babies or whether it's imposed on us by our culture, which may very well be intent on making us into credit-card addled conspicuous consumers. Perhaps this is one of those culturally invariant things, and even in neolithic times the first thing a woman did upon finding herself pregnant was go off in search of a new pair of shoes. I don't know--I left my degree in anthropology at the corner bar. Which is only one of the many places I'd rather be instead of shopping.
  I'm not a shopper. I'm not into shopping. I don't enjoy it most of the time. Very rarely, very occasionally, I'll actually want to go out and just browse through stores in the mall; but almost all of the time, I'm just not interested. When I walk into a mall, it feels as if gravity has doubled and not even the lure of the food court is enough to motivate me to walk any further. As I shamble in from the beautiful bright sunlight and fresh air through which I had to walk the mile and a half from our parking spot, as I shamble inside into the canned breeze and fluorescent lighting, hunched over, I try to conjure up in my head visions of french fries and pretzels with butter and pizza and fried chicken; but it's no use, my legs get too heavy. It's all I can do to shuffle to the bench by the fountain and collapse like a middle class hobo.
  Don't misunderstand me, though--I'm not opposed to shopping malls in principle. As far as I'm concerned, the mall is the pinnacle of Western Civilization. I mean that. Consider that the shopping mall is exactly what humans have been striving for since they split off from the ape genetic tree those millions of years ago: Clean water, ample food, a wide choice of clothing, comfortable temperatures all the year round, good lighting, companionship, and very few predators. And then consider what Western Man has been striving for: Economic freedom, abundant resources, freedom of speech and religion. The shopping mall fulfills all of these dreams, and most do it all with convenient parking. So the good news is we've achieved all of our race's ambitions; the bad news is it's still a shopping mall.

Out of all of the things you can buy in the mall--food, drink, shoes, sports equipment, office plants--surely the queen of them all is clothes. They say clothes make the man, but what they really make is the mall--and most of our economy too, I'd bet. And the mall is the center of our economy and as such is the Mecca of the clothing industry. So it was only right that Dawn and I be in the mall in search of maternity clothes.
  I used to think maternity clothes were just clothes for fat women. I have been disabused of this notion. Maternity clothes, like many other things which look simple but turn out to be complicated products of evolution, are more specialized than that. And there are maternity versions of every item of clothes in a woman's wardrobe, because a pregnant woman cannot simply wear a non-maternity scarf or hat.
  As you might imagine, the pants and skirts are the most changed. The waistbands are heavily elastic, of course, and generally they have what is universally referred to as a ``panel''. I was momentarily overjoyed, thinking I was finally going to get a control panel for my wife; but this panel turns out to just be a section of very stretchy material. This is so, as the woman's belly grows, the pants can stretch. Most women don't have a built-in panel, which is why they get stretch marks.
  The maternity stores also have jeans, which are really just bastard children of jeans and sweatpants. From about the middle of the pockets up the jeans stop and the rest of the garment is made of stretchy cotton and elastic. These only look like jeans if the woman wears a long baggy shirt over them.
  They have maternity pantyhose, too. I think this is weird. My wife thought it was weird, too, until she just bought bigger pantyhose than usual. They got all baggy and she walked around all day pulling at her thighs trying to keep them from bunching around her ankles. Not surprisingly, one of the main things on our list was maternity pantyhose.
  Even maternity pantyhose, though, have that silly chart on the back to tell you if they're the right size for you. Men's clothes are simple: We have maybe five measurements total. If men wore pantyhose, they would simply go by waist and inseam, just like our pants. But men, in general, do not wear pantyhose, so the system is more complicated. Reading the size chart on pantyhose is like an eye test and an entire college entrance examination put together. ``Okay, if I'm five foot one, weigh less than 201 pounds but not more than 167.38, have a light frame, blue eyes, and the woman in the house next door to me has yellow hair, how many years was Abraham Lincoln?'' When the saleswoman was no help, Dawn turned to me.
  ``What size should I get,'' she asked, ``Large or extra-large?''
  I've been doing this a long time. I know a loaded question when I see one. ``I don't wear pantyhose,'' I replied.
  After Dawn had picked out pantyhose, she got to choose a pile of clothes to try on and model for me. She came out in a nice black skirt and overlarge shirt.
  ``How do I look?'' she asked.
  ``You look pregnant,'' I answered truthfully.
  ``Well I hope so,'' she said.
  Interestingly, by the time she had picked out some maternity clothes to wear, she had a better wardrobe than she ever had when she was not with child. She's going to be much better dressed now. And she'll have an easier time getting a seat on the subway. If she weren't going to swell up like a zeppelin, I'd be jealous.

A little while later and we were standing on line in the Large Woman's Store to return the unused portion of the Large Woman's Pantyhose that Dawn had found to be inadequate. I grew bored and decided to let Dawn wait on line while I wandered around the mall just outside the Large Woman's Store. It was a few moments before I realized how ridiculous I must look, as an unescorted male walking around with a shopping bag on which was written in large letters, ``MOTHERHOOD''.
  I realized at this point that there is no store called ``Fatherhood'', no ``Modern Paternity'', no paternity clothes. There's nothing at all for me to get out of this except the unequalled joy of shuffling aimlessly around the mall with a bag the size of a billboard advertising ``MOTHERHOOD''. I don't get any attention, no one gets an urge to rub my tummy, I don't get to spend all sorts of money on new clothes, no one mails me little baby booties.
  Just like I wanted one of those ``Baby's First Year'' calendars, I found myself yearning for a ``Fatherhood'' store. I can't imagine what they'd sell there, but whatever they'd sell, I'd buy it. Maybe a shirt with an arrow pointing to the side reading, ``YES, IT'S MINE''. Maybe my very own gynecological examination set. Daddy's own stethoscope for hearing the baby's heartbeat. Camouflage diapers for when the baby's born. And a sherpa to carry all of the packages when my wife takes me shopping.
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