I’ve been out doing back-to-school shopping with my kids.
Now that they’re older, with one in university and one in her last year of high school, the old list has changed a bit. No more backpacks and colored pencil cases. Now it’s modular shelving and office chairs.
We still managed to drop almost a hundred bucks at an office supply store, getting stocked up on extra paper, binders and pens, just for old times sake.
Today’s shopping was with my wife and daughter – my son, thankfully, was spared (and we were from him) from being subjected to ladies fashion and shoe stores.
While they happily browsed racks and racks of various sizes and styles of outfits, I was in charge of purse-holding, and rack leaning. The rack leaning becomes a fine art after about 20 minutes of standing next to your ladies while they hold up outfits and say “‘what do you think about this one?”.
Leaning on the rack is the only thing that keeps you from falling over altogether, since these stores are clearly designed as a shopping marathon, and not a shopping leisure event. No comfy couches, no televisions, no coffee machines. This is ALL business, mister!
The endless line of clothes that dizzy the eye and the hours of standing on your feet, trying to stay engaged in the shopping process is not the worst of these outings, though. It’s not even heading to the cashier with an armful of garments to hand over your credit card, or holding the purse – does any guy know how to hold a purse properly? Really – I’m asking.
The big challenge is knowing where not to look. Wandering eyes for any man in a ladies clothing store has to be the trickiest part of the process. Standing there in the store, holding up another rack of clothes (hopefully not underwear), you have to refocus your eyes so that you don’t slip into unconsciousness.
It’s during this ‘refocusing’ that things can get dicey. You look out, further than the rack directly in front of you, trying to recalibrate your vision, when you realize that you are looking directly at a woman holding up some slinky little number against herself. This is coincidentally enough, the exact moment that she catches your nonspecific gaze at her.
Nothing can feel more creepy for either parties. You’re trying your hardest to quickly look away, like you were never looking at her in the first place (which you really weren’t), and she, I assume, realizes that there’s a creepy dude staring at her while she sizes up outfits.
If you’re really lucky, you might catch the eye of another poor male soul, trying his best to look natural in this most unnatural of settings. There’s a common bond in these unspoken connections – brothers in arms, fighting the good fight for the sake of our precious relationships.
There’s sometimes a silent nod – ‘Hey, brother, I feel your pain. Hang in there. You’re taking one for the team’. Somehow, we find comfort behind those desperate glances.
At least we know that we’re not the only creepy stalker dudes hanging out near the undergarments.
Of course, when your lady heads to the change rooms, there’s a whole other level of awkwardness going on. Now, you’re standing outside the change rooms where ALL the women come out to get opinions on their finds. You don’t know whether to quickly look away, or give a thumbs up on what they’re wearing. You’re busted – no way out of it.
That’s one area of the shopping process that you can’t skip out of either – they want your feedback. They need your feedback. So, you have to standby and wait, again trying to look natural, leaning against something you shouldn’t be leaning against, hoping that when you hear that change room door open, it’s for you.
If the people who design ladies apparel stores were smart, they’d set up ‘Man Cave’ zones, where we could be within sight lines of our lovely shoppers, but sit in comfort – maybe they could have a TV set up somewhere – heck it doesn’t even have to be on a sports station – the Weather Channel would be better than the alternative.
I know this all sounds rather sexist, but I tell you, it won’t work in a Men’s store, because men don’t shop – they buy. We pride ourselves not on the great purchase, but the great speed at which we made the purchase.
We’re not in there long enough for anyone to get sore feet or stand awkwardly against a rack of ties. And we don’t try things on, either.
“Hmmm. This plain white shirt seems okay, and it comes in large. I’ll take it”. Done.
When we get home, and put it on, it might fit – it might not. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, because the old one was perfectly good – just a couple of stains. We’ll just keep wearing the old one, kind of like our underwear.
It’s a wonder that the fashion industry hasn’t figured this all out yet.