By the time we get to the mall, her mood has softened. She’s accepted the fact that it’s going to be a fun, romantic night, and the unknown element is undeniably exciting. I don’t bother opening the door for her – we’re still in “casual married people mode” but we do hold hands as we walk inside.
I lead her directly to the door of her favorite store. I’ve done enough research to know which one in the mall was most likely to be able to have everything she needed. She pulls me excitedly inside and starts to head for the clearance rack. She worked several retail jobs in college and she always goes for the bargains first.
I didn’t budge, and when she tried to lead me away by the hand she came up short like a dog that’s run out of leash. She looked at me, confused. I dropped her hand and fished out my wallet.
“Here,” I said, handing over the card linked to my freelance account. “I’m not going in with you.”
“Wha—?” Her mouth is open. Pricelessly adorable.
“You have exactly—” glance at watch “exactly ninety-four minutes to find and purchase attire suitable for going out to a five-star restaurant.”
“Huh?” she replied, eloquently. Our conversation has attracted the attention of both of the store’s sales clerks, who wander close enough to overhear.
“Ninety minutes. Five star restaurant. I want you to look hot.”
“But . . . but . . . where are we going?”
“It doesn’t matter if we’re going to McDonalds in the food court,” I assured her. “I want you to go buy a complete outfit, down to your unmentionables, and be dressed and ready to go in . . . ninety-three minutes, now.”
“Are you fucking serious?” she asks, shocked as she realizes that yes, indeed, I am fucking serious.
“Try to keep it under $300.00,” I say, casually, as I kiss her on the cheek. “And try to be punctual.”
Then I turn on my heel and walk out. No further explanation required.
I stole one last peek before I disappeared around the corner, and saw Mrs. Ironwood excitedly explaining what her mission was.
You see, I hate shopping.
So does she, but she also understands how shopping is not only a necessary aspect of professional womanhood (personal presentation is very important in her field) as well as an essential social requirement for female socialization. She’s not a “power shopper” by any means. She eschews jewelry altogether (her father was a jeweler, once-upon-a-time . . . daddy issues) and she’s got weird feet, so she isn’t as mad about shoes as some women. That doesn't mean I don’t have two-dozen pairs of her shoes in the bottom of my closet, but after talking to some other men, I only have two-dozen pairs in the bottom of my closet. If my wife has an accessory fetish, it’s purses and handbags.
But she hates trying to buy clothes. Like most women, she’ll try on a dozen things and usually settle on one of the first things she saw. But the entire process can take several excruciating hours and is, from a male perspective, hopelessly inefficient. This way she has a) a deadline b) a budget and c) a very specific mission, to get an outfit for a night out. Better for me, I wasn’t subjected to said excruciating hours standing by in quiet Betatude, bearing her purse as a symbol of my subjugation. I went shopping myself.
I have a lovely black suit, tailored, that I picked up at a going-out-of-business sale a few years ago. Classic cut, clean lines, and it’s suitable for nearly any occasion. But my dress shirts were abysmal. Believe it or not, most porn companies don’t require suit-and-tie for everyday business (and no, they don’t require raw-silk shirts opened to the waist and a couple of gaudy gold chains peeking through your chest hair, either – I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt). I hadn’t bought a new, nice shirt in ages. No funerals or court dates lately, and the last wedding we went to I was performing the ceremony and wearing a clerical collar.
It only takes me moments to run out to the car and grab the garment bag with my suit and shoes in it. I roll into Macy’s, feeling like John Travolta in the opening scene of Saturday Night Fever (minus the paint can). You can almost hear the disco music as I strut.
Back to the Men’s Department – wouldn’t you know, they’re having a buy-one, get-one sale on shirts and ties. It takes me all of ten minutes to find a white shirt and a light gray shirt in my size. Another ten to find a belt and two ties – one blue and silver, one gray and silver. I look longingly at a brown felt crushable fedora, but it not only doesn’t go with my outfit, it’s far too expensive. I’d drop that kind of dough on a blocked black fedora in my size, perhaps. I let my own hamster spin for a moment, and then shut it down when I look at my watch. I’m on a Mission.
I pay for my stuff, spending about a hundred bucks, and then use the changing room to put on my suit. I go with the gray shirt and tie, as it brings out the gray in my eyes and that tends to inspire more romance than the blue in my eyes. More importantly, gray and black make me feel dangerous and sexy. I come out a few moments later and get appreciative looks from the dumpy older saleswoman and the horny old queen at the register. Admiration from both sides of the gender spectrum let me know I look good.
Self-Confidence Buff: Objective SR +1
If I went in as John Travolta, I come out as Frank Sinatra. I own the joint. I don’t try to disguise the even more confident strut in my step as I cross the mall. I absorb a few more desiring glances along the way as I make my way into only bar in the mall.
Why a bar? I was dressed and ready to go, but there was still more than forty-five minutes to her deadline. I called to confirm our reservation while the bartender brought me a Jamesons on the rocks. Only one drink, but the smoky taste of peat-fired Irish whiskey is like an instant shot of masculinity in my mouth.
Side Note: Gentlemen, when approaching a bar to purchase a drink, know what you’re going to order from the moment your foot crosses the threshold. There is no worse negative Beta presentation than standing in front of a bar with a perplexed look on your face while you mentally debate the merits of some chick beer with an orange in it or an apple-tini. KNOW YOUR FUCKING POISON.
You enter a bar, you walk confidently to the bar, cash or card in hand, you take up as much space at the bar as you can to attract attention, you patiently wait while the patrons with bigger boobs than yours are served, and then you order your drink, decisively and resolutely. Make it simple: a highball is about as complicated as you want to get. For presentation’s sake, stick to a single liquor on the rocks or neat. I usually recommend against beer on Date Night simply because of the awkward potential for gas. “Jameson’s, Rocks,” and a self-assured toss of your head should be all the discussion with the bartender you need. But it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you nail it and move on.
I nursed my drink for half an hour, checking with the sitter, checking email for the final time in the evening, and checking traffic on the way to the restaurant. Gotta love a smartphone.
At fifteen-minutes until deadline I finished my drink and went outside for a smoke. I was relaxed, I looked good, I smelled good, dammit, I felt good. I felt like James Bond in that suit. I tried to nurse that vibe, incorporate it into my presentation. Bond. James
I arrived at the store ten minutes early, on the off-chance she was ready. She wasn’t, of course, but I got to spend that last ten minutes bantering and flirting with the two salesladies while my wife got dressed. They were positively gushing with how freakin’ romantic I was and how lucky she was to have me . . . with her overhearing every word in the dressing room not twelve feet away.
Preselection Buff: Relative SR +1
PLUS, she got the undivided attention of two salesladies who had elected themselves her honorary handmaidens that night. She got to feel like a princess – a stressed, anxious princess trying to get her Spanx on before deadline, but a princess nonetheless. The attention paid to her femininity by those two women helped inflate her own self-confidence, pushing up her own Sex Rank by at least a point.
When she got out . . . it was well worth the wait. She looked gorgeous. A pretty white top with large blue flowers and yellow highlights, something that suggested far more cleavage than she was showing (or even has). Tight black skirt, knee-length, and black hose. With her work shoes, which I think are the most attractive on her, and her hair and make-up fixed . . . she looked good enough to molest right there and then. She had accomplished her Mission, and with three minutes to spare.
“Twirl for me,” I instructed, smiling, with just a little mocking in my voice. Instead of a snappy retort she swallowed and turned around. That skirt did amazing things for her ass. “Outstanding,” I pronounced, “you look gorgeous!”
Blush. I’ll take the point on that. “Thank you,” she says, demurely. “Oh my God, you changed into a suit? Did you buy a suit? Jesus, Ian, how much—”
“So much that you’re going to be feeling very grateful later,” I say, confidently. She blushes. The ladies behind the counter giggle girlishly.
“Well, you look HOT,” she says, putting lusty emphasis on the last word. I give the sales ladies a glance, and then strike an overly-dramatic GQ pose.
“What do you think, ladies? Am I earning my hourly rate?”
They assure me that yes, they would indeed rip off my clothes and hump me until we’re all sore, in politely-worded feminine code. Any doubt about the Preselection buff is gone. Mrs. Ironwood’s eyes are flashing and she’s biting her lip.
I’m about to hand them my credit card when I see a pile of panties towards the back. I stride over and very quickly select three pairs (to qualify for the sale price) that I like, two black, one nude, and that I think will be both sexy and comfortable – and yes, I know the correct size. I’ve done my research.
“Add these,” I say, casually, and they do. Total bill is just under $200. Even with her padding it a little with a few hosiery items. Mrs. Ironwood has done well.
“You’re buying me panties?” she asks, surprised.
I shrug. “Who says they’re for you?” I quip, as I grab the bags. I offer her my elbow, and she takes it. She thanks the ladies profusely for their invaluable assistance. She feels even more like a princess as we’re leaving.
“So you got me all dressed up to go to Ruby Tuesday’s?” she chuckles. “That’s adorkably romantic!”
“Yes, it would be,” I say, as I lead her firmly past the mall restaurant and out into the parking lot. “But I upgraded from ‘adorkable’ to ‘elegant’. Hope you don’t mind.”
“Ian,” she says, suddenly back on unsure ground. “If we’re not . . .where the hell are we going?”
“To dinner,” I say, as I open the passenger side door and help her in. She needs help, too. Between the Spanx and the skirt, she can barely walk, let alone mount a SUV.
“Are you going to blindfold me?” she jokes.
“We don’t have time,” I say, as I close the door. “We have a 9:30 reservation.”
That’s got her attention. Usually the only restaurants we go to where you have to make a reservation involve giant mechanical instrument-playing mice and really bad, over-priced kids' pizza.
“So where are we going?” she pleads, excitedly. “And who the hell makes a 9:30 dinner reservation?”
“I do,” I say, smugly, as I slide into the driver’s seat. “And you make that late a reservation when it’s Valabar’s.”
“We’re going to Valabar’s?” she asks, excitedly – and no, before you Google it, that’s a made-up name. The name “Valabar’s” is from the classic Steven Brust Dragaera fantasy series, and it describes a restaurant of surpassing excellence. I use it here to guard both my identity and its. But when you hear “Valabar’s”, just imagine the swankiest joint in your town. That’s the place. “Well why didn’t you say so?” she asks, reverently.
“Because that would have ruined the surprise,” I point out.
“Oh.” She thinks for a moment, and then grabs my hand. “Yeah, I guess it would. We’re going to Valabar’s!” she says, excitedly, and giggles. Yes, it’s that big a deal.
“We’ve got twenty minutes before we get there,” I say, casually, as I crank the engine. “Music?”