You know the romance is gone when your husband buys you flannel pajamas for your birthday. Yes, it’s cold and you live in a big drafty house, which he hasn’t been making any warmer lately, but how does he expect you to get the home- fires burning while sporting a pair of blue and white checked pj’s and the big floppy slippers that are probably in the other box? Nothing says “I’ll be staying home tonight washing my hair” like flannel. Might as well just microwave a huge bowl of popcorn and settle in for a rousing night with the TV guide and the remote control, ready to snuggle in later with a good book, a cup of hot tea and the cat. That’s what flannel says to me.
I wonder if he’s making a point, is just clueless or a little of both. What happened to the lacy under-things and silky robes that used to grace the insides of these boxes? Knowing that he would be taking off the little bits of lingerie he gave me as soon as I’d tried them on was the real present, let’s face it. The trouble with flannel is that it can be the standard against which to measure your womanliness, and at this rate I am registering a big fat zero on the va-va-voom scale.
I look from the pajamas, which scream-out lonely, dried-up loser, and back to him. I want to say “Thank you” as if I mean it but have no words. I am wordless. Can he see the blood draining from of my face? Does the rage that’s slowly building in me register on his Richter scale? It’s hard to say, because I can’t see him through the veil of fresh hot tears that are standing between us. “What’s wrong?” he pleads. OK. So now I know: he’s clueless. He clearly doesn’t know that what he’s saying with this gift, really saying, is that he isn’t attracted to me anymore. So I tell him. “You don’t want me anymore.” I wait for him to deny it but now he’s the one that’s wordless. Suddenly, I can envision scores of future gifts I have to look forward to if I am right: A year’s supply of assorted batteries, an oven mitt, a set of jumper cables, knee socks.
And then I realize that this isn’t the first time he’s given me a gift that says one thing and means another. Like the time he bought me a bicycle because he wanted me to lose weight. It wasn’t like he had a bike and wanted us to share a hobby. He just wanted me to have thinner thighs. That bike was the flannel equivalent of a conversation he didn’t want to have and these pajamas are another; the show-and-tell of his unconscious.
I remember a friend of mine whose boyfriend used to regularly seek out her flannel nightgowns and shred them with a huge pair of scissors. Not with her in them, of course, but he hated it when flannel came between them. Now that was love! Cutting something up with a pair of scissors sounds pretty good to me right now but it won’t be the pajamas. I’ll be taking them back and exchanging them for something I really want; A new husband, perhaps.