This month we examine one of the most basic and essential activities that justifies the free-market in which we live—shopping. When Adam Smith penned "The Wealth of Nations," explaining the intricacies of capitalism and the transparent forces at work within the market, surely he had no idea how polar opposite men and women would position themselves when taking part in the supply and demand curve. The “invisible hand,” Smith reasoned, would work its magic in a free market system of spending. Where Smith’s theory falls short in relation to the sexes is not so much in the spending habits, but rather in the actual shopping behaviors in which men and women find themselves so distantly related.
The art of shopping? This phrase is a complete oxymoron to a guy. To us, shopping, at its apex, is a challenging and even somewhat enjoyable endeavor, but in most instances it is simply a matter of survival. A guy named Maslow summed this up in his hierarchy of needs maxim. Maslow suggested that there is an order f importance of things in the world to humans. Shelter, food, and other basic essentials are obviously the most crucial. As you go down the pyramid, however, items like aesthetics, love, etc… take on greater significance, Shopping, in a man’s hierarchy of needs, would fall somewhere in importance between window treatments and eyebrow waxing. Don’t get me wrong, there are those moments when even the sturdiest of yeomen secretly squeal in delight at finding a bargain or that mauve mock turtleneck that makes it look like there is actual definition in your pecs.
It’s not the stuff—we live stuff. It’s not the challenge of finding a price. That’s not so bad either. It’s not dealing with salespeople or schlepping bags or any one thing that’s associated with shopping. It’s quite simply the ritual of shopping that repels a man.
Shopping for Her:
Let’s face it—some women are easy to please, while other women are more difficult than cracking a Pentagon security code. For the easy ones, procuring good gifts is no challenge and therefore thankfully eliminates any intense shipping. But for those men who bite their lip and brace for the worst when their “difficult” women open the box, shipping is a necessary evil. How come so evil, you ask? Think about it—when you walk into a large department store, most likely you’ll pass a multitude of make-up counters. Ever notice what the people working behind those counters wearing? Lab coats! That’s right, the moment you step foot into a department store you are already in a woman’s laboratory, filled with all sorts of potions and recipes that only a chemical engineer could comprehend.
It doesn’t get any easier after that. Whereas there are only two kinds of underwear for men (clean and dirty), women have so many choices! First of all, their underwear comes in sets, and that’s just the beginning, This bra does this and that bra does that. This panty is frilly and that one is satiny. The fabrics, the colors, the shades…who can keep up? When I walk into a Victoria’s Secret, I feel completely lost (and a little zesty [no sniffing please]).
Worst of all, if you’re like me, you are miserable at deciphering that cryptic codes otherwise known as “hints,” therefore missing out on blatantly obvious way to please her. Leaving a catalog open on a certain page only tells me that this is a good place to rest my cold drink. Oozing on about how beautiful a diamond looks sends me mentally adrift towards a baseball diamond. Since the topical reaction to my “surprise gift” harkens memories of the reaction to New Coke, I have all but given up on the whole concept of shipping for her.
What to do? Gift certificates! The antidote for the lazy-inclined, shopping-impaired man. Gift certificates reduce the shipping experience to a few pleasant moments, and since she was going to return to the scene of the purchase anyway for a return, you simply enable the inevitable. You, my friend, are a shopping genius!
Shopping With Her
When I think of damnation, I do not envision fire or brimstone. I don’t see a little red man with a pointy beard, horns, and a tail. I picture an endless mall with million stores and half a million Starbucks. I’m in it, and I’m with her, and we’re just getting started. I’m being asked every three mines on cue, “How do you like this one?” And no matter what the article, and no matter what the response, it’s the wrong one. “Why don’t you like it, I think it’s adorable!” or “You really like this?... I think it’s the worst one yet.” Shopping with her is the ultimate test of male patience.
How about buying groceries? With all of the label reading ingredients and number grams of this and that, it’s like taking a side trip to the library. I’m as health-conscious as the next guy but I am also a lazy American who puts blind trust in the food manufacturers that the yellow dye #29 in my burrito is absolutely necessary. Squeezing melons is fine, but there’s no need to audition the entire display. Put simply guys like to make any shipping rip short and to the pint. New products don’t interest us. We like the same spaghetti sauce as the last time and we religiously support those products that sponsor the things we like such as NASCAR, baseball and Saturday morning cartoons. Shopping to man is a means to an end. To a woman, it’s just the opposite.
We want the gadgets, the clothes, and all the other stuff. The male sex was created to consume. The male sex also invented things like internet, Home Shopping Network, and mail order to cut down on all the crap that stands between himself and those beloved items. So, no matter how amazing the food court, how tasty the free samples in the supermarket, how enticing the one-day sale, or how alluring the sexy lingerie mannequins00all these things that are designed to lull us into enjoying the shipping experience—they will never win. No matter how cunning the marketing, man will always prefer to acquire his wealth with more of an “invisible” hand.
Shopping? OK, I admit it, we love it. Yea, I admit, I love to shop…especially for clothes and big-ticket items like cars. And most of my girlfriends do, too. But don’t put us all in one class. I’ve noticed there are two classes of women shippers. First there’s the Type A woman, who will spend $250 on a pair of shoes and not bat an eyelash. She would rather have fewer items in her closet of superior quality that will be around for the next 10 years. The other, Type B, is the one who goes for quantity. She doesn’t care if the clothes are falling apart on the second wear or if the color is rubbing off on her skin—she’s only going to wear it a couple of times and then buy something new. MEN, listen up! You need to know what type of woman you are buying for before you shop for her. Don’t buy a Ralph Lauren $1200 blazer for the Type B woman…she’ll think you’re nuts. And for heaven’s sake, don’t buy some cheap $20 “hip” shirt for the Type A Chick. She’ll freak out, too.
Shopping for Him
Men, for the most part, are pretty easy to shop for. If your guy likes Hilfiger then go buy him another pants or a shirt. It’s a no-brainer. If you think about it, the typical shopping store is mostly a ladies’ department with a men’s section tucked far in the back reaches of the store. It’s usually small, and that will be to your benefit when selecting a gift for your honey. With that said, I want to warn you not to buy your sweetheart a tie. Every time I go shipping with my husband and we look at ties, we never agree. I don’t get the male mentality on ties and I’m not even going to try.
Grocery Shopping. OK, I know you guys figure that since we love to shop so much that grocery shopping is considered shopping. Well, it’s not! I do not like to grocery shop. In fact, I hate it. I’m a perfectionist and I have to audition each melon, apple, and piece of lettuce before I select the winner. That’s the first department, and then I’m off to the aisles. My goal is to quickly get down each aisle grabbing food off the shelves without ever slowing down the buggy. This would work except for all the bluehairs that shop at my store. The worst part is definitely the checkout. Murphy’s Law for me is that I always choose the slowest line with the stupidest checkout chick. (Men are not stupid enough to apply for this job—it’s always a woman.) I am always behind someone with ten expired coupons who wants to argue that they’re still valid, or someone paying with a check from Montana. Come on people, haven’t you heard of the checkcard? My dad told me that where he lives, they check themselves out on a scanner. That wouldn’t work in my neighborhood— the $100 worth of groceries would mysteriously become $15 worth.
Advice on Buying Us Presents: Short and simple—ask us! Ask us what we want, what size and color, and where to buy it. Please don’t guess at it Just get it right. We really would appreciate it.