I am supposed to be spending a romantic evening with my husband in Minneapolis. But he is pulling an all-nighter, his second in a row, working against a deadline to file a legal brief for a case in which he is serving as an expert witness. Tomorrow he leaves on a six-day camping trip with his brothers. So tonight, instead of walking hand-in-hand with my true love across the Stone Arch Bridge that spans the mighty Mississippi, I am instead strolling through the aisles of Target, attempting, for the first time in my life, to buy underwear for my husband. My kids are girls; so in fact, this is the first time in my life I am buying men's underwear at all.
True confessions: I have always been afraid of going to Target. I have no sense of direction whatsoever; and in Target, I get lost every time. The aisles all look the same! Do I go down this one?
Or this one?
Or double back to this one?
It is on this visit that I finally realize why I have long found Target to be so thoroughly confusing: it's because every single aisle is stocked primarily with men's underwear. I can't find my way out. And I have no idea where to begin.
There is a language of flowers: your choice of the blooms that you give as a gift sends a message to the recipient. A red rose in full bloom is a declaration of love. A yellow carnation is a message of rejection. Orange lilies reek of hatred. Monkshood is a dire warning. (When is the last time somebody gave you monkshood? Be grateful that you can't recall.)
There is a language of women's underwear offered as gifts, as well, but its vocabulary is rather limited. This ones says,
"Have sex!" This one says,
"Have MORE sex!" This one, on the other hand, says,
"Have MORE sex with ME!"
Men's underwear seems to be a little more subtle. Give these:
and I suppose you are saying, "You are my rock-solid, dependable guy, and I love you for it." Give these:
and you are saying, "I am yours and you are mine, no matter the changes wrought by time." Give these:
and you are saying, "Perhaps you should consider hitting the gym a little more often."
Appealing though all these messages may be, none of these underwear will do. What Steve really wants is long underwear for his camping trip. But alas, creeping up on Memorial Day, long johns are not Target's featured item. The sole aisle not devoted to men's undergarments is selling this stuff:
And all the stars and stripes in the world won't keep you warm in the woods.
In the end I find the closest approximation I can: a pair of more-or-less form-fitting track pants, that I am guessing could be layered beneath a second pair of pants in a pinch.
Steve demurs at first, but then relents and says yes, thank you so much, these will be so truly helpful on my camping trip, and I am grateful to you for braving the wilds of Target on my behalf!
And then he leaves them behind in the hotel room, and I take them home to Boston.
So Steve, the track pants will be here, awaiting your return, along with a little bouquet of whatever is blooming in the garden -- say, purple globe alliums:
In the language of flowers, purple globe alliums mean:
"Take the track pants back to Target yourself."