Although Mother Nature failed to achieve any tactical victory over Hawke’s Bay the other week with a tsunami, she had far better results with an air bombardment. As a result, your “Man About Town” temporarily reverted to “Man in front of fire eating chips and watching The West Wing on DVD.”
So when Saturday sloshed around I suggested to my wife, “Come on, let’s take you clothes shopping.” (Take note all you girls who never went out with me in High School!)
If there is one thing Napier doesn’t lack, it’s women’s clothing stores. Many a man can be seen standing outside or in these shops trying to take up as little physical space as possible with a faraway look on his face. You can almost hear them thinking — “Well, there’s two hours of my life I’m never getting back!” — as you pass.
I’m different. I quite enjoy the experience. For a start, being over two meters tall, I’m needed to fetch or check the sizes of clothes on the higher hangers. Secondly, someone needs to hold Beloved’s handbag. The height thing comes in handy here too — no one makes fun of a big guy clutching a purse. And thirdly, I like to play little games like “How long does it take any of the staff to notice or smile at me” (current record: forever), or even “I wonder how I’d look in this?”
If regular “outer-wear” stores make men uncomfortable, then underwear stores surely make us sweat. This is truly foreign territory for men. Any brave enough to venture into the land of lingerie, either with their partner, or alone to pick out a surprise for their significant other, are usually given “The Look” (normally by the customers). Not unlike that given to men who walk around public places wearing nothing but a long coat and an iffy smile. So while Beloved tries on varying interpretations of “support” and “flattery”, I usually busy myself trying to figure out what M.C. Escher painting Mrs. Bendon and Triumph used as plans for the suspender belt on display.
The male way of clothes shopping varies greatly from our female companions. We scope out our prey. Find a shop that has the item, colour and size we require. Wait until we have the money, or the item goes on sale, and “BANG!” We’re off! Into the store, get it, pay for it and we’re out within minutes. The speed of the operation often baffles our partners, who ask “Is that it?” Never heard that line before.
Women take a far more leisurely approach. For them it’s an enjoyable pastime, a sport. Like test cricket — it takes five days, only for the result to end up in a draw(er). Or the marathon — it’s long, challenging and ultimately fulfilling for those taking part … but it’s never going to win the award for world’s best spectator sport.
Husbands, partners, boyfriends enjoy spending time with their partners. We will gladly do the chivalrous thing and carry all the bags, and delude ourselves into thinking our opinions are helpful. But after an hour or so of — “Do you prefer the cream, bone, ivory or beige coloured one, darling?” — we need a rest. Somewhere to lay our bag-laden arms and prop up our numbed feet. This is where so many women’s stores fail us. No seat, sofa, or manly reading material to occupy us. No “lions’ den” where we can recuperate and discuss sport. Just a row of tired, broken-looking men with glazed eyes.
So Ladies, the next time you take your manservant clothes shopping with you, please be gentle with him. Find shops with seating and decent reading material (Vogue doesn’t count). Give him regular breaks, the odd coffee perhaps. And remember … to us, cream, bone, ivory and beige are all just light brown.