I realize I should have seen this coming. Alice, though stylish herself, takes a hard line when it comes to men’s fashion: In her opinion, it is simply not masculine to express yourself through your garments. It is better, she believes, for a man to look normal—which is to say, invisible.
In my new configuration, I am very much not invisible.
After she tells me I will have to get my hair fixed as soon as possible, we have a fight. I tell her I no longer want her to come with me to the parties. In a huff, I sit at my computer and start e-mailing random people—my sister, my boss, distant friends—photos of my new look. Everyone sends replies telling me I look great. “You look like you’re going to turn into a superhero,” says one friend. “This is very, very cool!” By the time night falls, I have come back around to feeling sure I have never looked better in my life. Alice, meanwhile, seems to have grudgingly accepted the new me, at least for the evening. She even agrees to come into the bathroom and help me apply a second coat of Mr. Natty to my hair, though later I will notice that she has left the tin very close to where we keep the garbage can.
As Alice and I leave the apartment, I catch one last glimpse of the strange man in the mirror and think to myself, I am about to blow so many minds. But a funny thing happens when we walk into the first party of the evening: The host, Miriam, says hello, helps me stash the beer we have brought along, and then...gives us a tour of her apartment. I nod and smile while thinking, But isn’t there something you want to ask me, Miriam? I run my fingers through the wave in my hair to make sure it’s still there. Finally, I tell Miriam, sheepishly, about the crazy thing I did earlier in the day. She rushes to admit that I do indeed look spectacular—better than any other guy at the party and better than she has ever seen me. Then a handsome editor named Chris says that looking at me is making him feel underdressed. Glancing down at his own straightforward outfit, he says, “I usually dress better than this.”
For the next several hours, in one conversation after another, I find I have to tell everyone, “Guess what, I got a makeover today” to prompt them to weigh in on my look. “This is very dapper,” says one so-called friend. “You look smashing,” says another. But these are small victories. I am not fucking on fire, and I feel no desire to text Ruben.
As we head home, Alice sees me sulking and asks what on earth I thought was going to happen. I tell her I don’t really know.
“Think of it this way,” she says. “The fact that nobody reacted all that strongly is actually a good thing. It doesn’t mean your outfit’s not stylish—it means they don’t think it’s that strange for you to be wearing it!”
I like where she’s going with this.
“So the reason no one cares about how fashionable I look is that, in their minds, I’m just that kind of guy?”
Alice nods and smiles.
As we get ready for bed, she asks if I’m still upset with her for not being into the new me. “No,” I say. “It’s nice that you like the old one.” After all, the suit does have to go back to Freemans. Once Alice falls asleep, I think about her remark from earlier, about “fixing” my hair, and I wonder if she’s really going to make me go to a normal barbershop the next day. I can’t tell yet if I’m going to let this happen. But just in case, I get up and grab the tin of Mr. Natty and stash it in my underwear drawer. I might need it again.