I am something of a tourist town expert. I grew up in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, which is a beach town down south near Cape May, far from The Situation and Snookie. (Though, I have to admit, by some horrible coincidence, my mother’s best friend growing up was named Snookie). I went to college in Williamsburg, Virginia (colonial tourism) and then went to grad school near St. Augustine, Florida (oldest city in the US/tourist town), and finally ended up in Annapolis, Maryland (colonial hot spot.) I think if I had just found the time to live in Boston for a little bit, I would have completed the colonial circuit and gotten the rare “Seen Chicks in Colonial Garb More than 100 Days in a Year” Girl Scout merit badge.
There are many standard “tourist traits” of which one could poke fun. Gawking, pointing, cameras, stupid questions, inappropriate attire… to pick on them would be like shooting poorly dressed fish in a handmade Colonial-period barrel.
There is only one trait that sends ice through my husband’s veins:
Couples in matching clothing.
At age two, matching outfits between siblings is precious, even if later it is cause for matricide once Mom shows it to the umpteenth boyfriend. Next, comes the obligatory family photo, with everyone in white – the framed one that always looks wildly dated the second you hang it. We have one hanging at our house that I swear gets bigger every year. I think it is approximate 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide now. In it, all in white, my family looks like a graduating nurse class.
The matching continues in High School at the prom, with a girl nailing down the color theme for her dress and demanding her date’s tie and cummerbund match. Proms are already pretty uncool in general. But, much like that young relationship, matching is really supposed to die there, following the emotionally scarring after-prom party where you were dumped for the senior with the great hair and moral ambiguities.
Couples dressing alike are all the rage in Korea and some other Eastern Asian cultures where public displays of affection are taboo. If dressing in matching outfits is the only way you can tell the world the person walking next to you has seen you naked, it can almost be forgiven. Here in America, where you can just suck someone’s face off in public any time you like, it is less forgivable.
There are some exceptions. Sometimes people either didn’t get the memo and end up matching on accident, or are just too lazy to do anything about it. The most classic example of “couple matching” is probably the matching Hawaiian shirt, but it is really easy for vacationing couples to end up with the same resort tee shirt on as well. Or, for boat-dwelling people with limited wardrobes, both ending up with nothing clean except the navy polo and the khaki shorts isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Particularly, when everything you own is either navy or khaki in the first place.
My husband, Mike, is petrified of matching. When we get dressed to go out for lunch, I am strictly forbidden to wear my Lacoste polo shirt if he has already chosen something Lacoste. Even if the shirt he is wearing is a totally different color, and actually more of a loose-fitting linen shirt, and not a polo shirt at all, it doesn’t matter if they both have that little crocodile on them.
Obviously, shirts the same color are completely out of the question. The fact that he is colorblind makes it even more difficult, since pink and gray are actually the same color and there is no way for me to convince him otherwise when I’ve already attempted to fool him so many times before.
But even we make mistakes. More than once we’ve been in the car and too far away from home to change when it dawned on one of us that we were both wearing jeans and a white top. The other weekend we were kicking around the house when it occurred to Mike that we were wearing the exact same patterned tee shirt and navy sweat shorts. It took him one hour, seven minutes and thirty-two seconds to spot the evil doppelganger next to him.
I know this, because sometimes I wear the same thing on purpose and time how long it takes him to notice.