A man's plea for the preservation of comfortable clothing

When some husbands want to visit their favorite sport coat, they have to go to some landfill far away, where their wives have thrown it. My wife is much more considerate: I only have to visit the nearby day-care center. There's the former star of my wardrobe, draped around some peanut-butter-fisted four-year-old, his muddy boots stomping all over its 42 -long front.

What is it with wives, anyway? No sooner has a man spent 10 or 15 years getting an item of clothing to where it feels comfortable than his spouse unaccountably wants to throw it away.

It's mystifying to us men. We like to wear comfortable clothing when friends come over, so we don't spend all the time squirming as uncomfortably as an eight-year-old in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. But even this simple wish can result in, shall we say, adult discussions.

At our house, just before friends arrive, my wife emerges, glamorized; I appear, comfortablized.

''You're not wearing that!''

''Is there something wrong?''

''Besides the hole in each knee and the paint stains on your shirt? And are those your old Army boots?''

Like any loving couple, we compromise: I obligingly change to trousers with an aperture in only one knee and an unstained shirt, albeit with saucer-size ventilation in the right elbow.

The Army boots are something else again. We've been through a lot together these last 25 years: snow, mud, and only yesterday a sewer-pipe cleanout. No sooner had I put them back in our closet last night than she wanted to throw them away! Wives simply don't understand the importance of preserving the sartorial status quo.

Oddly enough, visitors sometimes do. Just last weekend a very proper guest insisted I remove one of my favorite winter shirts in our living room and promptly darned together the four-inch hole in an elbow. You'd think a wife would be grateful, but for some reason mine kept glaring at me.

''I was mortified!'' she hissed after they'd gone.

It all makes a husband think fondly of Rex Harrison's wistful wisdom in ''My Fair Lady'':

''Why can't a woman be like us?''

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