I used to spend about eight hours a day with other adults. I was working out there in the world, mostly with other women. When we didn't discuss our work, we talked about politics, celebrity gossip (including how hot Scott Eastwood is), our families and how great we looked to each other.
If I was having a medium sort of day, it was always nice when Rachel, who sat across from me, said: I L-O-V-E THAT SCARF! Instance boost.
The discussion of shoes and boots-- which are separate conversations, by the way-- ran rampant in our hive.
A new haircut could cause a real twitter of excitement. Discussion of a potential hairstyle change by any of us would result in mad searching on smartphones for options.
In September, I started homeschooling our 8-year-old son. Since then, I spend nine hours a day with him.
In the past, Thorin had shown a real flair for picking things out for me. A few years ago, he was with me as I searched through dress racks trying to find a suitable dress for my sister's wedding. He pulled out a black and white print wrap dress I would have never considered: "Really?"
"Yesith!" (This is before his teeth came in.)
"I don't know..."
He dragged me to the dressing room. When I came out, he made me twirl.
I did get several compliments on the dress at the wedding.
He has picked out jewelry for me, vetoing my husband Ward's suggestions. My favorite present was a bracelet with little green and brown stones I would not have looked twice at that I know think is 'perfect' for me.
This is all to say I thought he could be trusted to have my best interest at heart.
I noticed since we started homeschooling that he offers commentary on an almost daily basis. And it's not always positive.
I came in the kitchen with a head wrap on which I thought very chic and practical, because it was humid and I have wavy hair.
He looked up from his cereal grimacing: "What's that?"
"You don't like it?"
"No, no. Off now."
"Now listen, I like it..."
He covered his eyes: "Very bad. NO!"
He had been right about the other things, so I took it off and substituted bobby pins.
Some days, he might approve my earrings with a thumbs up and a very enthusiastic: "Yay!"
But more often than not, he would criticize. I put on a pair of boots with my jeans tucked in.
"Oh, no. No. Go back."
"Absolutely not. I like this, so there."
"Ick!" Except it wasn't one 'ick,' it was about seven minutes of 'ick'. He can really run with an idea.
We agreed I could cuff the jeans above the ankle. When we showed up late for speech therapy, I said I misplaced my car keys.
I never shared any of these exchanges with anyone for reasons unclear to me.
Ward's father and his wife sent me a lovely vest cut with princess seams. I loved it! I pulled it out of its packaging and put it on immediately.
I called to Thorin to show him my new gift. Who I am I kidding? I was relying on his fashion opinion by then. I wanted to know what he thought.
"It's great, right?"
He picked up the bag it had come in. "Put in here now."
"I love this."
"Bad, bad, bad. No good. Ick."
I decided to ignore him. I wore it out that day. Every hour or so, he would say something like: "Really bad," "Stinky, stinky," and finally, "So sad," even signing the word "sad."
Ward hadn't actually seen the vest on me when he accompanied me to the mall to return it. He was also a little peeved we were using "date time" to return clothing.
As I shuffled through all the vests, trying each on and hating them, I said: "I should have brought Thorin to help me."
The look on Ward's face was one of true concern: "What are you talking about?"
"Thorin likes to help pick out my clothes."
"Kari, tell me exactly why you are returning the vest."
"Thorin hates it."
"Kari! Thorin is 8!" he said. "Put the vest on."
After I had it on, he told me: "You look great. That is a perfect cut for your body."
"Kari how long has this been going on?"
I just couldn't be truthful: "I don't know... a couple weeks."
"Has it occurred to you he may have an ulterior motive in trying to manage your choices?"
"Oh no, he is messing with my head!"
"Like I said, Kari, he's 8. Stop listening to him."
In the car ride back home, wearing the vest Thorin had rejected, I thought about how to handle this whole situation. I realized I mustn't be direct. I didn't want him to know I had been duped. I would just stick to my boots about the vest.
Ward helped me out when we got home by making a big show of how much he loved the vest on me in front of Thorin: "Doesn't Mommy look beautiful?"
"Yes! Pretty Mommy!" he said, beaming.
While Ward was letting the dogs out, Thorin sidled up to me: "Not for you. No, no."
I wore the vest the rest of the night, even sleeping in it. Two can play that game.
We have since struck a collegial balance with regard to wardrobe choices. We each pick out our own clothes. We support our choices in a complimentary manner. We do reserve the right only when absolutely necessary to offer helpful feedback. For example: Thorin's choice of swimming trunks over pajamas when it was 15 degrees out and he balked at my really too pink lipstick.