My wife has a great figure, but she sometimes wears clothes that would only look good on an underfed model. She has a red knit dress that’s supposed to be sexy, but instead makes her look like she has saddlebags and a potbelly (which she doesn’t). Ditto with a pair of brown stretch pants (her favorites). To make matters worse, I bought her the dress and, like a complete idiot, complimented her the first time she wore it. I’ve thought about cutting a hole in it (“Gee, I guess we have moths”) but that won’t work with the pants, which are (ugh!) polyester. How can I get her to scrap her unflattering clothes without: a) insulting her taste (which she’s touchy about) or b) implying that she’s gained weight (which she hasn’t)? — Eye Broccoli While militant feminists smell a global conspiracy against womankind whenever some poor schlub compliments a female coworker on her new hairdo, they’ve long ignored some of the most virulent (and obvious) women-haters in the world: makers of ladies’ clingy knitwear. To be fair, there are thousands of women over the age of 15 who can pull off a formfitting knit dress. One is Kate Moss. Another is Kate Moss. The rest are the plastic or plaster variety you find in department store windows. Your wife probably doesn’t reach for her red dress thinking, “Hmm, what can I wear that’ll make me look like I’ve been filching hors d’oeuvres and hiding them in my pantyhose?” In fact, if she’s like most women, she takes pains to avoid exposing more than her fair share of dimples (that would be four, max: two where you smile; two where you sit down). Unfortunately, even an abundance of good taste can’t always make up for a shortage of full-length three-way mirrors, good-lighting, and a gay decorator best friend. But let’s say your wife is equipped with all of the above. Maybe her greatest concern is pleasing the guy who got her the dress — and without so much as a peep about his strange proclivity for saddlebags and potbellies. Forget that notion that people who love each other should always be perfectly honest with each other. This is not true intimacy, but true idiocy. Even if you don’t haul off with, “Well, look what fell off the ugly truck tonight!” you’re sure to hack a chunk out of her hide, and another out of your relationship. Like egg salad, the truth is at its bleakest if you just plop a scoop of it in the middle of a bare plate, without first laying out a nice fluffy bed of flattery. Drop the wardrobe issue for the moment, and develop a habit of letting your wife know how sick with lust you are for her. Once she seems pretty-well bored with what a hot rock you think she is, you’re ready to take on the dress. (Other articles of ugly should be unsold separately.) Remember to blame the red rag, not the woman in it. She is perfect. The dress is evil. She doesn’t need to go to the gym, but her dress sure does, and preferably to get left there in the used towels hamper. Of course, it’s all your fault for buying it. Make it up to her with a shopping spree at some appallingly expensive store — the kind where salespeople offer customers champagne and complimentary tutoring in Newtonian physics: “What stays down while one makes cover girl pouts in the bathroom mirror is bound to ride up into a big, bunchy paunch the moment one hits the party.” Squawking tall I heard that this great woman found me witty and attractive, so I asked her out. She said she’d call to reply the next day, but never did. Later, I joked that this was harsh. She explained that she was jammed, and suggested rescheduling after exams. When I asked whether she was actually comfortable dating me, she said she had to run. Why wasn’t she more straightforward? How did I go from witty and attractive to a pest she needs to escape? — Still Reeling Why isn’t everybody in the dating world more upfront? Well, maybe because they recognize that remarks like “You’re moderately attractive; probably the best I can do” or “You look easy, how about a date?” won’t get them very far. The question here isn’t why she wasn’t more straightforward, but why you weren’t less. When a woman seems rude or indecisive, either persist or don’t — but avoid making her feel that couples therapy might be in order before the first date. If she doesn’t jump at your offer of wining and dining, whining and badgering isn’t likely to make you any more of a draw.