Dear Readers - When he was eleven-years-old, my son took a scissors and jaggedly cut out the polo-player emblem on two new Ralph Lauren t-shirts I'd bought him for family outings. Well ahead of the anti-brand movement, he was a boy who refused to be "labeled."
He already knew better than I did about who he was and would become.
In relationships, fashion is a message. People signal how they see themselves and how they want to be treated, if only we "get" it.
Some messages are clearer than others. From many husbands' letters, I've read the clues that the wife/new mother who "stopped looking after herself" was sending out alerts of her fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, desperately wanting her partner's help, and appreciation.
See her regain self-confidence (along with sleep), and her appearance will change, too.... often with a bosomy fashion statement that she's back in the game as a competent woman with sex appeal.
Parents, especially, need to get what their young people are saying through their apparel. Sometimes their choices seem alarming - like the mother who recently wrote about her son, 14, dressing as a fur-covered animal.
His message was more direct than she realized. He's an environmentalist/animal lover relating to an underground sub-group of "furries" who understand his thinking.
Those moms and dads who engage with their children through their fashion statements, and encourage discussions about their interests (no matter how off-beat) have a far better chance at healthy relationships with them than parents who panic, criticize, and judge.
Sexual attraction's been related to costume ever since Eve grabbed a fig leaf that added mystery to her image. Women and men alike make visual statements about themselves -fashionista or funky, artsy or affluent, throwback debonair or today's urban dandy.
True, those may only be flashes, like a peacock's feathers, strutted to attract. But over time, people reveal their nature and needs through the fashions they choose.
Can you tell if a relationship's heading for trouble through a change in fashion choices? Yes... if you've ignored all the earlier signals of problems.
A partner's adopting of more flattering or revealing looks should bring a response early on. After all, people aren't that subtle when they want to be noticed.
When a man suddenly starts wearing hair gel, or grows a Van Dyke beard, these are his fashion cries of "See me! I'm hot!" Notice... or you could lose him.
That stylized shout-out calls for fresh energy within the relationship... whether it's more intimacy that's wanted, or he needs to be more current in lifestyle.
The new image that's created through fashion - even if only as an experiment - can bring deeper understanding, respecting how each other is changing and growing.
Many readers of both sexes have questioned whether women's provocative dressing is a message that incites "trouble." The answer in law is clear: No woman "deserves" harassment or assault because of her clothing. Rape is an act of violence and control, not of passion aroused by clothing.
But there's no question that both sexes use clothing styles to initiate contact and hopefully (for most people's interests) the prospect of a relationship.
If you're out in the dating scene, fashion choices can sometimes "introduce" you to someone more quickly and accurately than what's sometimes listed on a dating profile.
My advice? Look closely - is he/she sporting a trend slavishly, or with humour? Is that flash of personal style confidant, or copied?
Equally important, if someone close is showing extreme changes of taste, show the caring to find out why.
I'm a professional woman, mid-20's. Despite a rocky past with extreme fights, my boyfriend and I purchased a home together. We're officially a "common-law" couple.
However, I regret jumping into this huge commitment. A house is work, I feel tied down. I'm not "in love" anymore. We've grown apart and want different things. He wants to marry me eventually, but I want my freedom back. We fight about everything.
I've never lived alone and crave daily independence. We have joint accounts, mortgage, etc. and I'm scared of the process of separating it all.
Be open with your partner and see a lawyer immediately, to learn the rights and responsibilities of your common-law status.
You must separate awhile given your feelings. There may be other answers to your relationship - e.g. selling the house as a start - but you need a clean break now, to assess your feelings vs. your fears.
Tip of the day:
Fashion is another relationship message to heed.