he's not a fixer-upper
October 15, 2012 5:08 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend cleans up nice! Yay! But...how do I get him to clean up, just a wee bit more frequently? And should I?

I love my boyfriend and I think he's a handsome piece of man. But he's a casual dude, with a casual life, and sometimes he gets a bit, yes, casual, about his appearance. I certainly don't hold him to a higher standard than I hold myself, and as an intermittent thing it doesn't bother me that much. Problem is, when there's been a stretch of a few days at a time when I've only seen him in bumming around clothes, hair akimbo, I am Just Not Feeling It sexually for him. This makes me feel bad about being superficial, and then it makes me feel resentful that he doesn't try to look Sexy for me, and then it makes me freak out about the strength of our relationship, and so it goes with a little bit of whining and general snippiness until the next time he puts on pants and an ironed shirt and I'm all WELL HEY THERE and all is right with the world.

I feel terrible about this! I love this guy and I feel like I shouldn't be bothered by how he presents himself (this isn't like he doesn't shower or brush his teeth, basic hygiene is intact) but I still find my desire for him cooling off when he's schlubbing around and not dressed and groomed like an adult man leaving the house. He has strong opinions about what he wears and when (i.e. if he's not Dressed, it's because he doesn't feel like it, not because he's oblivious to what looks good), so just taking him shopping, suggesting clothes for him to wear, etc. are not going to work here.

Is there any good way to address this? Does positive reinforcement work, or is this disrespectful? I don't want to treat my partner like a pet! Or if there isn't a good way to do it, how do I address my issue? I want to be super into my guy at all times, but I'm just not getting there the way things are now. (If it matters, we've been together a while - this isn't a new relationship.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You owe it to this guy to be honest, not to try to manipulate him with "positive reinforcement", or change him to fit your desired style.

If this is a deal-breaker, let him go find someone who won't be constantly fretting over his choice of attire. If it isn't a deal breaker, let it go yourself. Either way, seek a partnership where you aren't trying to change the other person.
posted by ellF at 5:14 PM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just be like "hey you know I only want to do you when you're all cleaned up...I mean, you do know that, right?"

Bam, problem solved. If he wants to get it on he will clean up nicely. If he doesn't, he doesn't. You don't have to feel 100% hot for him 100% of the time lest you be shallow. I assure you that no one is sexually into their partner literally every second of every day. The world churns on regardless.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:16 PM on October 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

Just be like "hey you know I only want to do you when you're all cleaned up...I mean, you do know that, right?"

This would be a deal-killer for me. I wear jeans and T-shirts whenever there's not a reason to wear something dressier (though when I do wear nice clothes, I wear them well). They're comfortable, low maintenance, and very compatible with my laid-back lifestyle.

Anyone shallow enough to fall out of love/lust with me because of my attire would not get a second chance.

I assure you that no one is sexually into their partner literally every second of every day.

I assure you, this is not universally true.
posted by toxic at 5:22 PM on October 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

I can see why you might be reluctant to address this head on because you don't want to sound superficial or demanding or jerky. But I just think you have to tell him that you prefer him dressed. He wants to look good to you, and if it's not really difficult or painful for him to be cleaned up, I suspect he just plain didn't know!

We've had some similar and less similar variants of this question before. A lot of people are reluctant to ask their partner to look a certain way. But from my personal perspective, hey, this is a time of my life when I have exactly one female to impress - that's very handy! Just tell me what to do - this is like replacing brake pads! This, I can do!
posted by ftm at 5:22 PM on October 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

not dressed and groomed like an adult man leaving the house

You have a weird stereotype going on there that I suspect is not helpful.
posted by unSane at 5:30 PM on October 15, 2012 [30 favorites]

Is there any good way to address this?

Talking about stuff is always good. Frame as your thing, not as anything wrong with him and just put it on the floor for discussion. This means no one is right or wrong, just "hey, this is the way you think and you're not trying to change him"

If he has no idea bout this and y'all have been together for a while, don't be surprised if he's hurt or angry that this is the first he's hearing of it. That's ok and natural. The point of bringing it up is to put the subject on the table so everyone at least knows there's certain page in the book. It doesn't mean you have to be on the same page, just that there's this page and both of you should read it.

Give it time, keep talking about it and see where it goes. This could turn out to be dealbreaker for the relationship or the start of a sexy new dimension to things. Won't know until it's been brought up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:34 PM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

You said it yourself: He's not a fixer-upper. Stop thinking of his casual days as "schlubbing." He's having a relaxing day. Hair akimbo is adorable. It's fine that you like "ironed shirt," but I'd find it disturbing if my partner let me know that the state of my press was more important than ... whatever it is you find important.
posted by sageleaf at 5:34 PM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Here's the problem -- this is how he prefers to dress. The longer you stay together, the more he is going to revert to what comes naturally to him.

You could probably get him to put in a little more effort for you temporarily, but over time he's not going to stick with it. So, if you're ok with a short term thing, by all means tell him how sexy he looks dressed up, etc, and see if it helps; but know that if you marry this guy, you're going to be unhappy in the long run if you truly can't bring yourself to be attracted to him in his slob gear.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:35 PM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would be very confused if my partner were literally wanting to sex me while I was vomiting (for ex.) but different strokes for different folks.

Anyway I feel like honesty is the way to go here, and I personally would not be offended if someone were to have a minor "thing" for something as easy as wearing a button-down shirt. Now if they expected me to dress that way 24/7 I would be miffed because I'm not a sexual object and my comfort is also important, so OP, if you want him to dress this way 24/7 I would think that expectation is unreasonable. If you want him to dress this way if he expects to get lovin', then I think it is reasonable and not something to feel particularly bad about.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

Note: I'm a straight woman in a relationship.

I think positive reinforcement is a great thing. It doesn't have to be manipulative. Just complement him or do something nice for him when he gets dressed up that you wouldn't otherwise do. But don't stop doing things that you already do (that would be negative reinforcement). If you want to, just tell him you find him extra sexy when he's dressed up (which is true) and it makes you feel extra affectionate/loving/whatever.

(Also, clicker training was originally developed to train people. Most Olympic level athletes are trained using clicker training, but it's called something else. Positive reinforcements work whether the trainee knows it's going on or not. And it's a painless, natural process that is happening all the time. In fact, if my partner wants me to do something consistently, I encourage him to use positive reinforcement to teach me, because that is the least amount of effort it takes me to change.)

I also think you don't have to be 100% into your partner 100% of the time. You should be into your partner 100% of the time. And you should sometimes be 100% into your partner. But it's okay to sometimes just say, "I'm not really feeling it."

I personally find my partner much more attractive when he's wearing a button down shirt (and jeans) than when he's hiding in his hoodie. The first outfit sometimes makes me want to jump his bones. If he's wearing a hoodie, he'll have to put some work into putting me into the mood. And I think that's natural and okay.

But you should also make your standards reasonable and match your level of dress. If you want him to dress up, do so yourself as often as possible. If he's not totally oblivious--and it doesn't sound like that--he'll naturally dress up to match you (over a period of weeks or months). My partner certainly does this (but again, dressing up for him still usually involves jeans).
posted by ethidda at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived with a guy who, after we'd been together for a couple of years, kept trying to get me to dress the way he thought I should dress, and bought me lots of clothes that I did not like. I gave them all away and I left him. It could be that the clothing/grooming issue is just a symptom of much larger differences that are more important. Think about the situation reversed, a guy is turned off by you because you wear too much/not enough makeup, you do/don't wear the latest styles, etc. How would you feel?
posted by mareli at 5:45 PM on October 15, 2012 [14 favorites]

So the problem is that he bums around in gross old clothes because they're comfortable? Would it be possible for you to pay for some upgrades to his lounge-around wardrobe?

So I have my nice "dressed like a grownup leaving the house" clothes and they require thought to match outfits, the right shoes and belts, ironing, hand washing for special items, ugh. Then I have what I wear when I am alone at home which are garments that are comfy and unrestrictive, unfussy, mismatched, warm wash regular cycle, etc. Most of the clothes in the second category are either outdated, stretched out or full of paint or bike grease. But if someone else were buying, I would happily wear new "sexy" versions of comfy clothes instead; leggings and nice camisoles instead of baggy paint-crusted flannel, you get the idea.

I'm not ever going to wear my going-out stuff around the house, but I would happily wear something that my partner found flattering if it were still comfy, didn't require extra thought, accessorizing or special maintenance. Again, you buy because he is doing you the favor here, you're not getting him a present of new sexy lounge clothes.

If on the other hand you just can't get into sexy casual at all and you really need the whole oxford, nice pants, matching accessories deal, you basically have what amounts to a fetish that you should expect to only be indulged sometimes when he's into it.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:54 PM on October 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

I wonder how many people would call a guy shallow if he asked how to get his girlfriend to wear some of her lingerie collection instead of night after night of ratty old sleepshirts.

Anyway, I think you're going to have to talk to him, and it's going to be tricky because you are falling into the trap of thinking that how you dress is a reflection of maturity rather than of internalized social expectations. I think you might also be blaming him for the fact that you don't dress down as far as he does when you're not in public ("I certainly don't hold him to a higher standard than I hold myself") - and that's not really his responsibility. He can probably get away with a lot more than you can, because there is definitely a gendered double standard about appearance expectations (google "candid pictures" of male and female celebrities and compare the comments, if you really need to be persuaded.) But that's not his responsibility, either, except insofar as he and you (and I) are part of the culture setting that expectation.

Also you are definitely torn about wanting what you want, and that is not helpful. Maybe it's a kink, but one way or another, you need to accept yourself, because your sexual needs are not going away on their own.

Once you get your head straight and can resist being snippy or mad, you have a much better chance of being able to come to the table and say "I don't know what it is about seeing you in an Oxford shirt, but it drives me wild," instead of "Oh my GOD when was the last time you saw your goddamn comb, what are you, six" or "if I have to look at those grotty flip-flops for one more second I'm going to throw UP, I know it's just Safeway but they do prepare food here" and I guarantee you that you are much more likely to get what you're looking for.
posted by gingerest at 6:41 PM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm mostly on the "leave him alone" side of things. BUT I have seen guys "around the house" clothes look pretty gross. Like, I had a housemate (I am female) who would lay on the couch in these nasty gray boxers. However, he wasn't someone I would have been attracted to under any circumstances (I'm a personality girl).

I do relate to you with being more attracted to your guy when he's dressed up. I had that with my last bf -- but I knew that not being attracted to him 100% of the time was an issue. i've been in relationships where it wasn't an issue, and I don't think it bodes well for your relationship.

HOWever you say you've been together for a while -- maybe you just need to spice things up a bit. Having a partner try to look good for you can be a huge turn on (if you don't expect them to do it all the time).
posted by DoubleLune at 6:47 PM on October 15, 2012

What does your boyfriend's casual appearance communicate to you? A personality flaw you find unattractive? Sloth? Lack of discipline? Somehow I think there's a greater issue at work here, but I could be wrong.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:54 PM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

When talking about sexual attraction, of course appearance matters (to 99% of people, anyway). And clothes/presentation are a big part of that. It's not shallow to care about how the person you're having sex with looks.

People have a wide variety of things they are attracted to, and trying to conform yourself to a particular one that isn't natural to you rarely works. Worrying about seeming "shallow" is less important than being honest about attraction.

This seems like a scenario where you should tell him this. Either he responds positively, and "cleans up" a little more often (doesn't have to be all the time from what you're saying), or not -- and in the latter you know there is a sexual compatibility issue.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:57 PM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Talk to him. And of course positive reinforcement is always nice -- not creepy and manipulative weird stuff, but "yum!" and a big hug makes my day, you know?

I guess I just don't see anything wrong with having a preference about how your partner looks, as long as it stays clear of controlling. I definitely express my preferences to my partner, and she does the same to me. Sometimes we each get our way, and sometimes we don't, and both are ok.
posted by Forktine at 7:38 PM on October 15, 2012

You know what's fun about having sex? Taking all of your SO's clothes OFF first!
posted by destructive cactus at 7:52 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think there's something in your post that calls for self-examination. If you were a man asking how to get his girlfriend to wear attractive clothes "like an adult woman," AskMe would be clawing your eyes out for good reason. Or can you imagine if you had to dress up for your SO every 2-3 days, or else he's "Just Not Feeling It sexually" for you? We'd be telling you to DTMFA. So I advise paying close attention to why this is so important to you, because it seems to be over the line from "normal need" to "getting in the way of otherwise good things."

It is reasonable to be attracted to attractive people, and clothes are a part of that. But needing to see him dressed up multiple times per week (when there's been a stretch of a few days at a time) is excessive and troubling. Everyone is different and has different needs, and it's reasonable to like seeing your partner dressed up. But if you just have to see your partner dressed a certain way every few days, that's a huge burden to dump on your SO. Perhaps an unreasonable burden. So I think the key is unpacking what on earth not dressed and groomed like an adult man leaving the house means because that is a really odd non sequitur. What "adults" do to dress up is really irrelevant if your boyfriend has a situation where he does not have to dress up, yet you brought it up - why?

For comparison, my SO certainly likes when I dress up. She likes me in button-up shirts. But there are some key differences. First, she only sees me dressed up once or twice a month, and as far as I can tell that's plenty. Otherwise she sees me in jeans and a t-shirt. Second, it's a positive thing - she likes seeing me dressed up, it's a good feeling. But as far as I can tell (we're getting married, hopefully she's been open with me) "not dressed up" is not a negative thing. It's not getting in the way of her being happy with me. It's understandable for "my SO is dressed up" to be a positive thing for you - but why is "my SO is not dressed up" a negative thing?
posted by Tehhund at 8:17 PM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I still find my desire for him cooling off when he's schlubbing around and not dressed and groomed like an adult man leaving the house

I feel the same way. I am finding this thread incredibly weird, actually. I've just accepted that I feel more attracted to my boyfriend when he's fresh and presentable, but if he starts kissing me with rumpled hair and pyjama pants on, I'm going to get turned on either way, so I don't "do" anything about it. I mean, I schlub around too, and he puts up with me.

I think positive reinforcement is fine as long as you're not getting super manipulative about it. For instance, I just told my boyfriend that I was perplexed as to why more men don't wear cologne, since it seems to be a near-universal aphrodisiac to women, and his immediate reaction was "!! I'm going to wear more cologne around you!" I would never nag him about putting on pants and wearing cologne when we're just bumming around, though.

I think in general I get depressed after too many days in a row of slumming it, so maybe to you it's not just that he looks nice, but seeing him dressed up gives you the sense of an active and balanced lifestyle, too. This is a turn on for me, so I could see that.

If this question were posted by a man who was complaining that his wife always dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and he loved her but didn't find her "sexy" anymore, I think most people would say the same thing: get over it. But I'm sure a lot of people would understand "deep down" the way he felt, too. I think the idea of a woman dressing up is more associated with "sexy" than a man dressing up, but for many women, it is an important part of the overall attraction.

It's understandable for "my SO is dressed up" to be a positive thing for you - but why is "my SO is not dressed up" a negative thing?

Yeah, exactly.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:29 PM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think many people in AskMe are willing to defend the idea that a person is attracted to what she's attracted to, and you have to accept that about yourself and you have to accept those preferences of other people.

However, I think this is different. Not everyone can be dressed and put together every day all of the time. I have gotten compliments on my outfits at work, but the truth is that on a Saturday, I'm just as likely to roll out of bed and put on a tshirt and an old pair of jeans because, hey, it's the weekend and I'm tired.

It reminds me of this scene from the movie High Fidelity where Rob is cleaning out some of his old girlfriend's things after she moves out. Speaking to the camera, he holds up a pair of cotton women's briefs and says:
Look at these. I used to dream I'd be surrounded by exotic women's underwear forever and ever. Now I know they just save their best pairs for the nights they know they're going to sleep with somebody.
Day to day life with someone isn't going to involve a guy getting dressed up and put together like someone featured on The Sartorialist every day. Just like you're not going to go to bed in lingerie every night. Could this be some kind of sexual association you've made in your head during your relationship with your bf, where you associate being sexually interested in him when he is dressed nicely, because that is how he was dressed when he came to see you for a date, so you always make that association? If you live with him and get married, you'll have to accept that he won't be looking like he's ready for "date night" every day. The reality of his being in casual mode on a regular basis is going to be something you're going to have to figure out how to deal with, because that's what day-to-day life is like.
posted by deanc at 8:48 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, some people are casual because they're lazy--I am this, I can dress to the nines if need be but usually need don't be so I don't--and some people are Casual because It's A Deep Personal Statement About Who They Are As A Person, and if you're dealing with the second--and I think you are--then you can try some positive reinforcement, but I suspect that'll just dig in his heels on the issue, because this is a Personal Statement, not a "fuck it, I don't need pants today, not putting them on."It may even become his little rebellion thing cause yeah, my girlfriend doesn't tell me what to do. I do what I want!

Is the problem one of condition of clothing--wearing ratty t-shirts and pajama pants with holes or something, maybe yeah, you can replace them with something nicer--or is the problem one of your value judgements, i.e. This Is Not How A Grown Man Dresses, which indicates a far deeper compatibility/values issue? Because his clothes aren't a statement about you, they're a statement about him. To him. Maybe he thinks A Grown Man doesn't need to worry about what he wears.

(Speaking as a grown man if I had to wear a pressed shirt and pants every time I left the house, I'd just get Amazon Prime and go full hermit).

It seems to me like you're taking your issue--Not Feeling It--and turning it into his fault and best of all, you can do it with a clear conscience because obviously he is a bad person--Not A Grown Man--for not caring about his clothes and appearance.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:49 PM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Several years ago, I was similar to your SO. I knew some basic things I looked good in but I felt like I'd only put them on for "productive" reasons like school, church, or work. When I was with my now-wife, having fun, I wanted to dress comfortably. My lady told me at the time that this bothered her and she would like if I would dress up for her when we'd go out on dates, to help her feel special and so that she'd have something pretty to look at.

I started dressing up more. I found the little compliments that my lady gave me made me smile. I also preferred looking at pictures where I put in more of an effort. I found I like to nurture my inner peacock a bit. Don't get me wrong, there are still schlubby days but I do enjoy breaking them up with fancy dress days.

My suggestion for you is to be upfront that you'd like to see him dressed up a little more. Let him know that it's important to you and you would appreciate the effort. When he does dress up, let him know that you appreciate the effort and that he looks good.

It's perfectly reasonable (and healthy) to express what you want and perhaps he'll even find himself enjoying it.
posted by jaybeans at 9:57 PM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also I find the backlash on this topic kind of strange, especially when you compare the amount of variation and preparation women are expected to bring to their outfits vs. men. I mean, to achieve the same level of presentability. I am definitely not going to call being attracted to a well-dressed man a "fetish," and anyone who wears ratty comfort clothes and expects not just to be accepted but to be thought of as a bombshell is kind of delusional.

An "adult man leaving the house" can mean a lot of things, but if what you mean is hair combed, socks with shoes, a belt, neat looking clothes, seeming fresh, I don't think you're perpetuating any great crime of superficiality here. There seems to be a rather large contingent of adult men who have not yet learned how to wear that daring seasonal trend called the "sweater," and will not think about fashion at their own behest for all the days of their life, but your boyfriend doesn't seem to be one of them. If the issue is just that you feel less lusty than you'd like to, is that because you want to be more sexually attracted to him, or because he expects you to be turned on when you really aren't? Are you annoyed that you're putting in the effort and he's reaping the benefits without reciprocating? I think the best non-manipulative remedy to that would be not to force yourself to be "sexual" when you're not feeling it, unless you want to be.

it makes me feel resentful that he doesn't try to look Sexy for me

This is really annoying, when you're a well-dressed girl who goes out of her way to do What Men Want and then you realize that most of them will not feel compelled to do the same for you. If you're trying to look sexy for him more than just occasionally, I would probably suggest trying to forget about it for awhile and dress how you want, in what you think is cute, without thinking about his preferences or the "male gaze" in general. It might free you up to take some fashion risks and you might feel happier and less resentful about the clothes issue altogether. A friend of mine used to make the distinction between women who dressed for men and women who dressed for women, and when I thought about my own choices through that lens, it made it much easier for me to identify what I felt pressured to wear by society (usually to be "sexy") and what I liked to wear out of an interest in fashion (to look cute, or powerful, or express a mood, or whatever else).

I have gotten compliments on my outfits at work, but the truth is that on a Saturday, I'm just as likely to roll out of bed and put on a tshirt and an old pair of jeans

I don't think the OP is asking for more than this-- she said she just gets bored after several days of schlubbiness in a row. We don't really know if by "schlubby" she means "wearing those objectionable blue jeans, what are you, a coal miner" or "wearing those worn-out pants with the threadbare crotch and a wrinkly, crumpled shirt from the dirty laundry."
posted by stoneandstar at 9:58 PM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Is the shlubby clothing appearing in concert with lazy do-nothingness? My ex boyfriend had a habit of hanging around in sweatpants a lot (sometimes going out in them), and i didn't like it (in much the same way that you don't like it.) And then i realized that what actually bothered me was that he was being an under-employed lazy bum. Do you think that maybe the same thing is happening in with you? I mean, as someone who doesn't want to be controlling of their boyfriend, i think it might actually be easier to admit to yourself "i'm turned off by boyfriends lazy outfit" than it is think "i'm disappointed and uninspired by my boyfriends lazy attitude/life".

If you think this could be the case.... well, that's a whole other bag of marbles.
posted by Kololo at 10:11 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Problem is, when there's been a stretch of a few days at a time when I've only seen him in bumming around clothes, hair akimbo, I am Just Not Feeling It sexually for him. This makes me feel bad about being superficial, and then it makes me feel resentful that he doesn't try to look Sexy for me, and then it makes me freak out about the strength of our relationship, and so it goes with a little bit of whining and general snippiness until the next time he puts on pants and an ironed shirt and I'm all WELL HEY THERE and all is right with the world.

This right here is your problem. You need to tell him unambiguously what you want and you need to make it clear that dressing, I don't know, business casual makes you want to jump his bones.

The problem isn't clothes. The problem is that you let yourself get to a point where you don't want to have sex with him and then act shitty until he blunders into doing the thing that makes you want to have sex with him again. You need to work on that.

It's okay to tell him that you're not as turned on by him when he's slobbing out. That's harsh but it's true. I was in a relationship with someone who was unbelievably sexy but when they got into a World of Warcraft phase, they'd just hang out in the same sweatpants and hole-ridden T-shirt all day, and it'd be idiotic to say that I was shallow for not being as attracted to them as when they made even a half-assed effort.

So that's another thing: When you say schlubby, do you mean jeans and a t-shirt? Or do you mean, I don't know, sweats and a nasty stained t-shirt and a few days' beard growth, or whatever? I mean, if you're turned off when he looks like a bum, you have a lot more ground to stand on than if you wish he'd be playing Nintendo in khakis and an ironed shirt.

Anyway, like I say, the actual problem is that you're letting things fester and building a cycle of resentment and you need to actually talk to him about these things if they're causing problems for you. They don't need to be expressed in catastrophic language but they do need to be expressed.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend can wear a mean suit. And he does it for me on the regular, despite the fact that he finds me sexier in casual attire. But he has a few t-shirts that need to skip Goodwill and head straight to an incinerator. He loves these shirts, and we both think part of dealing with adulthood means that when you've had a long week, you should be allowed to be as gross as you want and not worry about being sexy for someone.

I have no qualms expressing my feelings about his shirts. And he doesn't mind, because it's completely acceptable that I don't find his attire sexy at that moment. I don't find it sexy when he gets food poisoning, and he'd rather wait to make out once I attack my morning breath. But both of us find the intimacy gained by seeing each other all kinds of gross is pretty comparable to that special fluttering feeling knowing he's wearing that vest just because he knows you like it.

That isn't to say that we're so evolved. Because clearly if he was so evolved, he wouldn't need his stupid ugly shirt. And if I was evolved, I wouldn't complain about it on the internet. But for us, clothes are just clothes. Your issue is definitely about communication and expectations more than it is about clothing and attraction.

I think part of this is about gendered norms. As a woman, we get trained to equate Dressing Up with being an adult, putting effort into a relationship, caring about your partner and all sorts of other baggage. Fashion isn't about covering your naked ass. It's about managing your interactions in the world. I can guarantee you that my boyfriend was never told that he probably flubbed an interview because his suit didn't fit. That's not to say that you shouldn't be turned on by your man in a collared shirt and a nice tie. But I think it's a red flag that you worry his slubby periods last days, and that it's a sign he isn't acting like a grown-ass man.

You're trying to use clothing as shorthand for larger issues when he clearly doesn't share that viewpoint. So you need to separate and distill all the various things that clothing represents for you so that he can understand your needs and try to meet them. That also means that you need to be open to recognizing his adulthood in all the other parts of his life that's not about dressing up.
posted by politikitty at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to answer the question as though the OP isn't using her boyfriend's fashion proclivities as a proxy for his personality flaws.

Maybe you could approach this as a compromise/"I'll do A if you do B" issue. Next time you have a relationship check-in, ask if there's anything he would like more of in the bedroom. If he comes up with something you're willing to do but might not think of, or are neutral-but-not-enthusiastic about, let him know in no uncertain terms that there will be more of that activity whenever he indulges your fetish for seeing him in his best Mad Men getup. Everybody wins.
posted by katya.lysander at 4:16 PM on October 16, 2012

I think it's totally normal to be more interested in sex when your partner has dressed up. I think it's totally normal to be not so interested in sex when your partner is schlubbing around, not doing sexy things. For me, it's sometimes sortof hard to transition from "We've been vegging out all day in pajamas watching tv and playing videogames." to "We are sexy wild beasts!" (although, there are those other times, but anyway), so more foreplay is needed, or a shared shower, etc. It may just be harder for you to kick in your sex drive when you guys aren't doing things that are sexy for you, and you just gotta find/talk about a way (for him or you, or him and you) to transition. There's nothing wrong with that, and you shouldn't feel guilty, and communication is good.

*I also don't get the backlash...it's pretty normal for guys to express preference for ladies who go the extra mile re: attire, body hair, makeup, etc.*
posted by nile_red at 6:30 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a note: There's no indication the poster is a she.
posted by sageleaf at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in the "I'm finding this thread really weird" camp. And the comments about "How would you like it if he asked you to wear more make up and lingerie?" are a useless equivalence, because she's not asking him to dress up any more than she does, and if I guy asked for that of his woman, he would be, unless he were a cross dresser, but the OP hasn't said anything to indicate that her boyfriend is.

Also, she's not asking him to dress this way every goddamn day. Just more often. My ex refused to ever wear ANYTHING that I liked, and all I was asking for was a sweater once in a while, or his nice jeans once in a while.

The way you approach this would depend on his personality. If he's incredibly sensitive, it will be difficult, but you could just say "I really like [item of clothing] on you... would you mind wearing it a little more often?"
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:21 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a note: There's no indication the poster is a she.

Dang. You are absolutely right.
posted by gingerest at 5:15 PM on October 17, 2012

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