Barbarella
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Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. — Mark Twain

"Jane’s waiting for me downstairs. I’ll see you in a few hours,” I said, kissing David on each cheek.

David pulled back and gave me his serious face. “Just…be careful,” he said.

“I don’t know what you’re so worried about. It’s going to be fine.”

“I’m not so sure about that. Last time you went shopping with friends, you came home with something brown.”

“First of all, Jane is more than a friend: she’s my sister. Secondly, she feels the same way you do about brown. And she’s way up on the latest fashions.”

“That’s what scares me,” David said. I laughed and rolled my eyes. For a guy whose go-to uniform comprises jeans and a plain black T-shirt, my man is awfully attentive to the aesthetics of others’ attire. I suspect David inherited his affinity for elegance and simplicity from his grandmother, who owned a designer-clothing boutique in Chestnut Hill, a ritzy area he describes as the “Del Mar of Philadelphia.”

“Don’t worry, Posh, I promise not to buy anything Britney might wear.” I smiled to let him know I wasn’t miffed by his lack of faith in my fashion sense and then disappeared out the door.

Jane had been campaigning to go shopping with me for the better part of a year. She had once worked at Nordstrom, in a position that was the culmination of a clothing-centric calling that began when she was in high school. At Nordstrom, Jane had accumulated clients for whom she was a personal shopper. She wanted to be a buyer for the store, responsible for choosing the designs featured in every department. But she ended up in the pharmaceutical industry, even though her passion is, was, and always will be, for fashion.

Jane has — on several occasions and with no subtlety — suggested I check out a show called What Not to Wear. “Not because you don’t dress well,” she insists, “but because they make people stretch their comfort zones and try things they wouldn’t usually go for.” Apparently, my wardrobe restrictions (i.e., no ruffles, patterns, or bling, etc.) are, in Jane’s opinion, way too limiting.

Jane was so excited when we got to the mall, you would have thought she was the one who was about to dust off an old credit card to stock up on new threads. In each store we entered, she ransacked the racks with the precision of a SWAT team extracting hostages. Once I was in a dressing room with more hangers than could fit on the hooks, Jane served as my runner, collecting my spurned items, retrieving alternate sizes, and proffering more options from the other side of the door. So efficient was she, a continuous stream of other shoppers mistook her for an employee. From within my mirrored box, I kept hearing her say, “I’m sorry, I don’t actually work here.”

In exchange for Jane’s help, I made one major concession, and that was to be open-minded. She pushed me to try on all sorts of frilly tops — blouses with ruffle-y bits hanging off the front or long, flowing sleeves. I humored her but rejected anything I knew would make David flinch. In a bid to earn my trust (and David’s), Jane abstained from patterns and pastels.

After an hour of Jane throwing clothes at me, I settled on a pair of dark blue jeans and a dusty-olive-colored jacket. On a whim, Jane selected a red-sequined top that, to both of our surprise, we loved. I collected my “yeses” and was heading toward the checkout counter when Jane stopped me.

“You have to try this on,” she said, already exchanging the pile in my arms for the two pieces she’d just found.

“Are you kidding me? Jane, this is a tracksuit.”

“No, it’s a sweatshirt and sweatpants, and it’s made by Seven7.” She showed me the label. “You can’t always wear a black button-down; you need stuff for all occasions. Every woman needs an outfit like this — it’s so comfortable, and this one is cute. Look at those rhinestones and that cool velour detail.”

“You’re not selling me,” I said. She pushed the clothes further into my arms and gave me a look. “Fine, I’ll try it on. Then we go.”

A minute later, I opened the dressing-room door, wearing the black sweatpants and matching sweatshirt. “Oh, my God, this is so comfortable. And I kind of like the way it looks on me,” I said. “But I couldn’t possibly... I mean, it’s a tracksuit. David would have a conniption.”

“It’s actually really flattering on you,” Jane said.

“It’s more comfortable than my robe. This could be for, like, watching movies, cuddling up, and organizing stuff around the house. I don’t own anything like this.”

Jane nodded. “You need this,” she said. “There are some things that our men will not like but that we get anyway because we like it. Simon doesn’t care for my new business suit, but I feel good in it, so I wear it anyway.”

“Yeah, but I bet Simon doesn’t sigh and shake his head the way David does when he doesn’t like something,” I said. “Doesn’t matter. I’m sold. This is going in the ‘yes’ pile.” Jane beamed all the way to the register.

Once home, I saved the tracksuit for last as I modeled my purchases for David. He, too, liked the red-sequined top once he saw it on me. For a while, David had a look on his face that stated, “Maybe I was wrong about Jane.” That was until I pulled the tracksuit out of the bag.

David reacted to the sweats the same way my father had reacted when, as a teenager, I came home one day with a pierced tongue. He hung his head and seemed to wonder where he’d gone wrong. “You are not bringing that on our trip,” David said. (We were two days away from packing to leave for Washington, DC.)

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Comments

zuzzette Nov. 10, 2010 @ 2:58 p.m.

Barb, what a controlling "moron" David is, what right does he have to tell you what to wear or not to wear, and "he will not let you go shopping again without him", wow is this kid you married immature!! Liberate yourself and put his bald head and pasty white butt on the curb. What an absolute jerk he is. Who the heck does he think he is Mr. "FASHION POLICE" and he wears what, a darn tee-shirt and jeans, what do you see in this insecure,controlling, whinning, immature shadow of a spouse.

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Javajoe25 Nov. 10, 2010 @ 10:39 p.m.

Don't pay any attention to a word Ms. Zuzzette has to say, Barb. This lady has obviously not been a relationship in 10 years or more. She hasn't a clue that a relationship these days survives on the give and take of power, privilege, and pleasure, and who gets what and when, and who has the say over what and when is carefully measured out and provided by each to each according to a very secret formula developed by and only known by those whose hearts have become entwined with one another.

Ms. Zuzzette may not see what makes your relationship with David work so well, but for those of us who have been reading your columns for awhile, it is obvious that you both have found what works for you. Those who are not in a relationship, or those who have problems maintaining a relationship, may have not yet realized that in a successful one, things are not always completely equal all the time; it shifts, and you shift with it, sometimes to please your partner and sometimes to please yourself. The love you share will keep things in balance. Enjoy what you have, and don't let bitter losers cause you any doubt about what you are doing. From where I'm sitting, you guys have it just about right.

Part of the pleasure of reading your columns is that you do allow your readers an occasional peek into that world that exists between you and your spouse, and how you both find ways to keep one another happy. Considering the times we live in, successful relationships have become more the exception than the rule, and yours is truly delightful to read about (even if you are a jaded hipster with a bee-bop attitude and Rootie Kazootie smile) Keep the tidbits coming.

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bohemianopus Nov. 11, 2010 @ 8:12 a.m.

I think that when you work in art, you become so tuned into shape, form, color, design and proportion in everything you do. So, it is not surprising that a photographer as talented as David is would see everything in his environment in those terms.

I must admit, I am addicted to "What Not to Wear." Since my background is in graphic design, I never paid much attention to the three-dimensional form. This show has taught me how to apply many of the two-dimensional concepts in a new way. The one thing I don't like about it is that they don't seem to keep the person's basic original taste in mind when they are updating their style.

Why don't you post some pics of the track suit and let's us in on the controversial garb?

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Evelyn Nov. 11, 2010 @ 8:25 a.m.

ohh, that's a great idea bohemian!

and re the controversial first comment, David not liking something Barbarella wears is no different than a wife not liking an ugly old shirt her husband wears.

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David Dodd Nov. 11, 2010 @ 10:01 a.m.

I think if one pays close attention to the story, one will note that the only difference between Jane and David is their taste in how clothing looks on Barb. Point is, interpreting David as some sort of a chauvinist for his insistence in directing Barb's wardrobe is misconstrued. Some men have an excellent fashion sense. I have none whatsoever.

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David Dodd Nov. 11, 2010 @ 10:09 a.m.

And a note to zuzzette: David, controlling Barb? It has been my experience that Divas are not controlled. Divas are best handled craftily; it is knowing when and how to press your opinions with them and when and how to keep silent. Risk vs. reward. I have had great friendships with divas but have always realized that I lacked the craftiness to have ever entered into a relationship with one. Go back and read some of Barb's older columns and I bet you'll change your mind about David.

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Reader_reader Nov. 11, 2010 @ 12:06 p.m.

What's wrong with brown? Did I not get the memo?

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a2zresource Nov. 11, 2010 @ 12:41 p.m.

It could be that brown is the new Borat mankini green...

http://www.giftmonger.com/acatalog/borat-mankini-very-nice.jpg

Is it possible that Borat wearing very little has had more international influence than Mark Twain would have allowed?

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zuzzette Nov. 11, 2010 @ 12:51 p.m.

All: Have any of you met David? Well, I have met the jerk! Barb can't do anything without the approval of this bald nut-job! Where are you going and "WHEN" will you be back, is the consistant refrain from David anytime Barb wants to step outside and take a breath of fresh air. David on behalf of myself and the many friends of Barb, you are kindly requested to . . ."GET A LIFE" . . .

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jenihana3 Nov. 11, 2010 @ 1:40 p.m.

Zuzzette, you seem very angry. There is nothing abnormal about a husband asking his wife where she is going and when she’ll be back, and there’s definitely nothing abnormal about a husband asking his wife not to wear a particular type of clothes. It’s the same as me asking my husband not to wear his old sweats. I’m now questioning if you have ever been in a relationship because you clearly don’t understand the dynamics of one. Knowing David for years, I can tell you he is anything but possessive of Barbarella. I think you are missing the point of the story, it’s all in good fun. Relax.

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MsGrant Nov. 11, 2010 @ 1:43 p.m.

Yikes! Every relationship is a dance, and who leads changes according to certain aspects. I am THRILLED when my husband tells me something I bought is a "toss". Many men could not give a rat's ass about their wive's lives. Refried, you of course are an excellent cook, and therefore your lack of fashion sense with regard to your wife's wardrobe is most likely a non-issue.

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a2zresource Nov. 11, 2010 @ 2:56 p.m.

I'm not married, but the one I've been seeing for ages and I manage to "dance without leading"... it means I get to pay very, very close attention to her...

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bohemianopus Nov. 12, 2010 @ 7:48 a.m.

...and as for the dance, make it a tango..

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zuzzette Nov. 11, 2010 @ 2:44 p.m.

Regarding comment #10 from jenihana3, you obviously will not be getting one of my shirts that I will be distributing around town that states:

               "FREE BARB FROM DAVID"

Some women allow themselves to be tied-up and tickled on their feet, this does not make it right! This is abuse. I have had many men "try" to tell me how and what to do with my life and I told each one of them do not let the door hit you on the way out. I do think it is now obvious that I am no longer attracted to nor do I date men. I am a lesbian and fully commited to freeing women like Barb from the clutches of the animals or so called husbands like barb has married. My partner and I have an equel relationship based on mutual respect and love for one another. Women who marry men who verbally "belittle them" aka abuse them like David does to Barb, should spend a day with me, I would teach them how to treat a lady.

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David Dodd Nov. 11, 2010 @ 3:25 p.m.

"I am a lesbian and fully commited to freeing women like Barb from the clutches of the animals or so called husbands like barb has married."

:eyeroll:

The word 'committed' is misspelled. Good luck with your attempt at ridding the world of men, it reminds me of religions on their quests to rid the world of heathens. Of course, once the heathens are gone, they turn on each other. For a lesbian - a group of people who have undergone extreme intolerance by those who are not lesbians - apparently you haven't learned a thing.

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 11, 2010 @ 3:52 p.m.

I am a lesbian and fully commited to freeing women like Barb from the clutches of the animals or so called husbands like barb has married. My partner and I have an equel relationship based on mutual respect and love for one another. Women who marry men who verbally "belittle them" aka abuse them like David does to Barb, should spend a day with me, I would teach them how to treat a lady.

========================== I think I love you!

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zuzzette Nov. 11, 2010 @ 4:09 p.m.

SurfPuppy619 and refriedgringo: Your endless comments week after week after week to everyone and anyone who writes an article for the Reader gets real old real fast. Do either of you actually have a life or is your life just a series of comments about articles in the Reader. My advice to both you idiots, finish your G.E.D., get a bus pass and come out of your mothers basement long enough to take a class at Grossmont College. In other words: GET A LIFE

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David Dodd Nov. 11, 2010 @ 4:31 p.m.

"Your endless comments week after week after week to everyone and anyone who writes an article for the Reader gets real old real fast."

Wow, are you speaking for everyone? I never knew. No one has ever become upset with me on the internet before. Allow me to shed a tear. Okay, finished.

"Do either of you actually have a life or is your life just a series of comments about articles in the Reader."

You really should learn to finish sentences that are questions with a question mark. I hear that Grossmont College has some excellent courses in English.

"My advice to both you idiots, finish your G.E.D., get a bus pass and come out of your mothers basement long enough to take a class at Grossmont College."

Oh, that's where I heard about Grossmont. Um. Let's see... I finished college in 1983. So far as a bus pass, the buses only accept cash here. I prefer taxis anyway, thanks just the same. I've never seen my mother's basement, only pictures of it. I haven't been back in Tennessee since they moved there. Does that count as 'getting out?'

"In other words: GET A LIFE"

Yeah, well, I'm not the one who climbed in on my man-hating high-horse and told everyone here how to act. You might want to take your own advice on that one. Or, perhaps, take an anger-management class. And seek counseling, you obviously have unresolved issues.

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a2zresource Nov. 11, 2010 @ 5:34 p.m.

First off, I Like Barbarella just the way she is. Wouldn't change anything about her. To me, it's about acceptance.

In a situation like this, I'd quietly count to ten while remembering that city employees in certain overstaffed municipal departments are kind of stressed out right now, as some of them... maybe a lot of them... just might be shortly experiencing the kind of job-search blues like a lot of the rest of us in the private sector have already.

On an entirely different note, I am shyly hesitant to express my animalistic desire for SurfPuppy's profile pic...

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 11, 2010 @ 7:09 p.m.

My advice to both you idiots, finish your G.E.D., get a bus pass and come out of your mothers basement long enough to take a class at Grossmont College. In other words: GET A LIFE ==========================

That confirms it, we need to get hitched- I cannot go thru my dull life w/o you sweetay!

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Barbarella Fokos Nov. 11, 2010 @ 5:18 p.m.

Dear Zuzzette, from your comments it is clear to me that you do not know David. This love of my life couldn't possibly be more attentive and caring. If he wonders when I'm going to be home, it's not because he's controlling, but because he's trying to plan out the time it takes to bake me something special or arrange the house to my liking for when I rejoin him. In fact, it's ridiculous how much the man serves me in every way imaginable. Your anger is misdirected.

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zuzzette Nov. 11, 2010 @ 6:09 p.m.

Barb: I am speechless, as long as your happy, well ok then, but remember this, Ted Bundy was also a charming women pleaser.

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a2zresource Nov. 12, 2010 @ 4:07 a.m.

Thanks to this entire comment thread, I now see Ted Bundy, John Gardner, Charles Manson and Bernard Madoff all in a brand new light. Mindy and Zuzzette's truth has set me free from my bad self.

I feel like volunteering some time to the Innocence Project and getting those boys the hell out of prison. Despite their obvious but over-emphasized faults, we are all God's children: God bless us all.

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bohemianopus Nov. 12, 2010 @ 7:55 a.m.

Barb,

Maybe after all this commotion, you should just return the track suit? Just sayin'.

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Barbarella Fokos Nov. 12, 2010 @ 8:55 a.m.

Bohemian, no way! It's totally comfy. ;) And David has no problem with the sweatshirt (I wore it to the Rally to Restore Sanity), he just thinks the entire outfit (top and bottom together) is too casual to go out in, more pajamas than dinner-wear. In that regard, I actually agree with him. He's always got my best interest in mind.

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bohemianopus Nov. 12, 2010 @ 5:12 p.m.

Okay. As Tim Gunn always says, "Make it work."

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 12, 2010 @ 10:09 a.m.

Dear Abby had a letter in today's column that is very on topic here-and I agree with her (as always);

DEAR ABBY: I am a woman who married for the second time after 54 years of marriage. I was 71 and had been a widow for only one year. I had married my late husband at 16, and thought I could not live alone.

Do you have any words of wisdom for someone such as myself? Older people are so set in their ways that blending is so very difficult. -- HAVING TROUBLE IN FLORIDA

DEAR HAVING TROUBLE: If you remarried only because you were afraid of living alone, then you did it for the wrong reason. There are worse things than living alone -- and one of them is being married to a person who is unwilling to compromise.

*** The keys to a successful union are affection, communication, respect and compromise. **

If both parties sincerely care about and respect each other, the union will be successful and lasting.

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SurfPuppy619 Nov. 12, 2010 @ 10:11 a.m.

See, that is also why I am incapapble of having a long long term romance, I am fine with the affection, communication and respect part-but I cannot compromise.

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ParahSalin Nov. 12, 2010 @ 10:59 a.m.

Re # 23: Golly gee, the mama grrrrrizzlies are out in full force! Got ta celebrate that! Didja know that Ted Bundy was a good ol' family values Republican? If he was still here, I'm certain he'd be a proud tea-bagger today!

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ParahSalin Nov. 12, 2010 @ 11:04 a.m.

Re # 24: Boy, I hear ya on the high-class probs! If you're serious about findin' somethin' ta wear, I still got closets and closets fulla houty-touty stuff that was forced on me a coupla years ago. I could make ya a pretty good deal, maybe in exchange for some agitat........umm, I mean, CAMPAIGNIN' you could help us with. You sound like just the kind of true American gal we need to get our country back from the commies. Whattya say, Mins?

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tomjohnston Nov. 15, 2010 @ 8 p.m.

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tomjohnston Nov. 15, 2010 @ 9:27 p.m.

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tomjohnston Nov. 16, 2010 @ 8 a.m.

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