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Here’s where we answer our our readers’ questions. Please don’t blame us if the suggestions don’t work for you. You’re the one taking advice from a donkey.
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Dear Donkey and Wife
I received a shirt from my wife as a Christmas gift. Sadly, I hate it. It’s not an awful shirt, but it’s striped and the collar is odd. It just doesn’t fit in with what I normally wear at work. My question is this: Should I just grit my teeth and wear the thing? If I do, she may buy me more of the same. If I don’t, she may think I hate her, or worse, that I think she has bad taste… and after all, she did choose me.
He says: Swap or make a statement.
I see two options. First, you could try to return this shirt and get something similar, yet more appropriate. I’m assuming you haven’t worn it yet, so perhaps over time she will forget exactly what it looked like. After another month or two, you will spring out the new shirt you traded it in for and comment to her, “I really like this shirt you got me for Christmas.” Hopefully this plan will work and she will purchase a shirt similar to the one you picked out. I believe that over time you will continue to trade in your clothing until you have something you truly like, and she will be trained to purchase the correct shirts.
The second option is a bit more fun and sneaky. You should avoid wearing the shirt to work, dinner, and any other routine daily activity. But the next time you have a funeral, need to report for jury duty, get questioned by the police, or march in some kind of protest, bust out the shirt and wear it proudly. Hopefully your wife will question you and ask why you are wearing the shirt on what seems to be an inappropriate occasion. You can then respond, “Oh, I thought you bought it for this type of thing.” It might be a hard message for your wife to take, but at least you don’t have to come right out and tell her that she has no fashion sense.
She Says: What is your wife trying to tell you?
When I was a teenager, my mom would sometimes buy clothes for me while she was out shopping. One day after a particularly good sale, she had a heap of clothes waiting for me when I got home from school. I quickly sifted through the items, grabbed what I liked, and put the rest in a pile to be returned. A friend of my mom’s happened to be visiting that day, and she was quite shocked at our interchange: “That doesn’t hurt your feelings?” she asked my mom. “I could have never been so straightforward with my mother about not liking something that she picked out for me.” My mom and I explained that when she brought clothes home for me, she wasn’t saying: Here honey, I went to all the trouble of picking out a perfect outfit for you; I hope you love it. It was more like: Hey, I grabbed a bunch of stuff that was on sale; do you want any of it?
What do you think your wife was saying to you with her gift? Had you mentioned something about needing new work shirts? She may have just purchased the first shirt she found, simply trying to say: Hey look–I remembered that you needed a new shirt. Then again, she may have chosen a specific style, trying to tell you: Here–I really like this and think it will look great on you.
If I were to give The Donkey a few new white dress shirts, he would know I was just doing him the favor of going to the store and searching for his size–if he didn’t like the collar or sleeve style, it would be no big deal for him to ask to exchange it. However, if I bought him a pair of jeans, he would know I was telling him: You are no longer allowed to wear sweats when you take me out to dinner. And he would not have the option of returning that gift.
Try finding out what your wife is trying to say with her gift. Casually ask about where she got it and what she likes about it. Maybe it was just the first thing she found in your size, and she didn’t think you would even notice something like collar style. In that case, she’s probably not too invested in it, and you can talk about exchanging it. But if she tells you about how she went to a lot of trouble to find that specific style and thought it would look really good on you, I think you should try it out. Trust her a little bit–after all, you did choose her, right?