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.

Andrew Frame

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  1. Have also had a good chuckle reading 'his' shopping experience. i remember my brother's partner earnestly trying to persuade him that shopping required thorough research – these are not decisions to be made lightly… or quickly!

  2. You should also know about the Law of Shopping. The Law states that should you go shopping with readlily available cash, you will not find ANYTHING you like (or you will, but they'll have every size except yours). The Law also states that should you be flat broke, you will see the Perfect Item of Clothing ™. (Of course, when you go back a week later armed with money, it will have been sold…)

  3. This was hilarious, thanks for the laugh. I am a rare breed of woman that detests clothes shopping, and note on the occasions when I do venture out the look of boredom & resignation on the men's faces. It is almost inhumane. Maybe a drop off centre for the down-trodden man, where they can replenish with a dose of flatulence, footie and food when it has all got too much!

  4. Andrew, Sorry my friend but you represent the thin end of the wedge, In accepting these marital resposibilities so lightly you open the way for us guys to start knowing more than the nine basic colours (seven (well six really purple being a single colour, indigo violet representing the feminine incursion into the colour naming paradigm) plus black and white(and I'm sorry but they are colours as I can see them so they must be)).

    Such irresponsibility will only lead to the downfall of civilisation as we know it. You don't for a moment think the Cheops was thinking beige when commanding the great pyramid to rise from the desert do you? His sole concern was make it big and make it pointy Can the male mind imagine works of such greatness whilst being encumbered by the trappings of silk, lace and sheer nylon… I think not. Sir! You have let the side down and you will probably be damned for it!

  5. Doomed indeed.

    To celebrate my second column (& beloved getting paid), guess what we spent Saturday afternoon doing? Cruel sense of ironic humour has my wife….

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