My wife and I were getting ready to go out with another couple for dinner. She was changing, and I was just lying on the bed, playing with my phone. She asked me if I was going to change. If I hadn’t gotten the feeling she was trying to send me a message, I might have been more open to the possibility, but I did get that feeling, and I ended up telling her I was probably going to go the way I was.
This was after, earlier in the week, I left the house to go to work dressed in a way she didn’t feel was appropriate. We disagreed then too, and I left without changing.
I’ll admit, I become kind of obstinate in those circumstances, maybe because so much of my life is out of my control. Whether it’s managing my business, taking care of my family, or maintaining our home, how I conduct my own life is the only thing I actually have control over. So maybe I have a heightened awareness of not giving any of that control away. Which doesn’t mean I’m totally self-centered. I just want to be the one who is in control of me, without feeling obligation to someone else’s judgement.
Either way, my wife reacted by getting angry and telling me it seemed like I didn’t
care anymore about myself or how I looked. I know this was more than a “that moment” thing. It was the culmination of earlier in the week when I didn’t change before going to work also. But in the one moment when she responded like that, she really showed her frustration. Which upset me in return because for one, she’s my wife and I care about her feelings. Also, I didn’t think I was wrong, so I needed to give thought to where the discord came from.
As I lay there pondering all of this, I came to the realization that, while there was an element of truth to the idea that I didn’t care about how I looked, it wasn’t necessarily because I had stopped caring about me, as much as it was because I had, to a great extent, stopped caring about what other people thought of me. I realized it had taken me a lifetime, my lifetime, to finally get to the point where I didn’t feel I had to live up to other people’s expectations. I’ve lived my entire life often feeling like an imposter, like someone who didn’t “match up” to others. And now, finally, I had gotten to the point where I’m comfortable with me. I like myself. I’m okay. How I dress is okay, as long as I’m okay with it. How I act, how I dress, how I comport myself amongst others, it’s all absolutely fine with me, as long as I feel I’m living up to my own values and being true to myself. This doesn’t mean I can be inconsiderate to others or dress in rags at funerals. It wouldn’t be right to do those things, but not because others would judge those things wrong. It wouldn’t be right because I wouldn’t be living up to my own values.
That night, we went out to eat and ended up having a great time. I was gladdened to see others in the restaurant dressed similarly to me. Sometime later in the evening, my thoughts returned to my wife’s reaction, and to my realization of how I’d finally become comfortable enough with myself to not care (as much) about other people’s judgements. And I think this is why older men feel perfectly comfortable wearing black leather loafers, black knee-high socks, Bermuda shorts and sleeveless undershirts. They’re fine with that because they don’t care what others feel about the way they dress. Maybe the wisdom of their years brings them the freedom to prioritize their own values.
Which is a little worrisome for my future. Yes, I will admit that, and I will be watching for that. But all of this… this change in me that’s been so evolutionary I only recently realized it… is quite freeing. Good to know. Makes me smile understanding I’ve finally gotten to this point.
By the way…. that day my wife mentioned how I looked before I went to work…. I did not change when I left the house. But I did think about my own values, and of what she’d said, and before I saw my client, I took off the ratty T-Shirt that was showing from under my sweater. And that night before going out to dinner… I changed the sweater I was wearing into something a bit nicer. Not because I felt I needed to, but because it’s okay to take suggestions, and to acknowledge something else might be more appropriate. There’s a balance there, and I was still being true to myself. It’s always okay to understand your own values, but it’s also okay to do something just to make someone else feel better. That’s part of who I am also.
David S. Chorney
This is where I'm supposed to write something about myself. I still have some hair left. I am still undecided which I like better, photography or painting. My four major food group are seafood, melted cheese, pasta, and Advil. I love the hunt of a finished piece of art. All quotes, essays, stories, and any other written piece on this website, are original and written by yours truly, unless otherwise noted.