According to the universal male brotherhood, the thing men hate most (next to asking someone out) is going shopping with the ladies. Now don’t get me wrong. We men love shopping per-se when we do it for ourselves, on our own sweet time. But ask us to accompany on a shopping expedition a lady and we feel like being press-ganged for slavery. Many’s the happy hour I have spent shopping happily for underwear, oh, now it’s called inner garments? Inner things? Whatever. The 5feet by 5feet Jockey showroom with its multiple options of briefs, boxers and thongs has so enthralled me with its varieties and unable to make up my mind, I have often bought one of each to solve my dilemma’s and only realized once back home that in taking all that time choosing the colors I had forgotten to chose the correct size and hence was left with one size too small to wear. But i digress. To come back to the ladies and to shopping with them. Let me caution you with a few scary (real-life) stories. Learn from them, to avoid a similar fate.
When you accompany your mother or your sisters to the shopping mall, you are just an accessory bag carrier- no pressure. You can loaf around, disappear for hours and come back to pick up the threads at the exact same shop you left them in an hour ago and they would not have noticed your absence at all. Even with friends it’s not a do or die mission. I once accompanied a girl, a friend from Bihar, as she went custom jewelry shopping in NSC Bose Road, Parry’s corner. Although I was under the firm (but as it turns out mistaken) impression that the rolled-gold shops (as they are known down there) don’t allow bargaining, my friend who smelt a bargain, like a shark smells blood, told me to just shut up and translate for her into Tamil and vice versa back into English without adding a word extra. I did exactly as told, although I was embarrassed and humiliated trying to bargain in such a big showroom as if it was a petty shop. But to my wonder, she turned out to be right. The shopkeeper after some hard, kick-ass bargaining from her gave into her demands and she got it for her price. I learned that day to keep my mouth shut when the ladies start bargaining- even if they just about reach our waist height. Anyway that’s strictly for shopping with friends.
But when it comes to going shopping with someone you are dating, beware. Every word you say is a potential minefield- you have to make pinpoint accurate decisions and you have to get it right-every time- if you don’t want to end up consigned to the pit of history as an ex-boyfriend
Let’s start with the toughest questions. For instance “does this look good on me?” ah that bottomless pit at your feet I mentioned earlier? Look down, man, look down. This innocuous question has brought down more males than all the conquerors in history. If you are truly honest like me you can say “not exactly, you remember that hot bodied girl we passed by on our way up the steps of the mall? Yeah the one, you caught me ogling at wide-eyed. This would look awesome on her. You, my dear, frankly don’t have the structure to carry this off” and if you can say this to her, instead of just thinking it internally, send me your address and I will come over and shake your hand. But no, no real male will ever say this to a girl- we value our skin too much.
Avoid places (like Hi-Style showroom) which lack lots of dressing rooms because, the next minefield goes something like “do you like this?” and immediately your male hormones perk up “oh yeah, bring it on, I love this top, it shows so much cleavage, i can see right down to your nips, oh wait is that a mole down there? Adding to my internal Google maps” And as you are enjoying thoroughly this rare show of skin, be aware, this is just an acid test to analyze you. If you are wise, you would reluctantly roll up your eyes, avoid looking down there, resist the temptation like a man, and speak to her like her dad would “don’t you think that this top kind of plunges down your neck a bit low? You might attract a lot of unwanted attraction and think what people would say” and regardless of how chauvinistic this might sound this is exactly the kind of answer they are looking of. This answer shows that you have been properly neutered and even if they bend down accidentally, you will not dare to take a peek inside the plunging t-shirt but avert your eyes. You are now bought/packed/delivered home so to say- the inevitable passage from boyfriend to fiancée material.
Also avoid if possible places like Lifestyle, which are not garment specific and have a variety of temptations available in the same showroom. Like perfumes for instance. Or deodorants. Or colognes. I once had this weird experience in EA mall’s Lifestyle showroom, where a friend of mine decided that she had to buy a perfume which I would like to smell (maybe because I was keeping too much personal space between us?) a bit nearer and closer. Unfortunately my nose was blocked that day due to a more than severe cold. And hence the next hour or so was spent spraying (courtesy an overenthusiastic sales girl) and sniffing. The spraying was all on her (my friend and not the salesgirl) and the sniffing was all mine to do- despite a running nose. “Sniff here and here and here..and oh how about this? Does this smell nice? Smell and tell, you like it?“ and between sniffing every inch of her wrists/arms/ neck, I was taking the mandatory nose clearing coffee beans sniff and then back to here, there, everywhere. I am sure passersby would have had a very entertaining show that day- assuming me to be a two-legged version of the sniffer dog. K-9 is my name. Woof..woof.
But the best shopping experience (learning experience) I had was the one which happened on my birthday a few years back. There was this girl who I had met for a lunch treat on my birthday and later she was so solicitous, saying she had forgotten to get me a birthday gift and hence nothing would do but we must go and buy me one immediately. So we headed to the nearest showroom in Pondy Bazaar, as she had decided on buying me a shirt of her own selection. Once we landed at the place she immediately proceeded to buy me (from a very cheap brand) something I would not even wear to the bathroom. Well when it’s a gift, you don’t look at the price do you? It’s the thought that counts or so I reasoned to myself and probably she might not have the cash on hand to buy me something suiting more my style. Poor girl, I sympathized.
But then she surprised me by going over to the ladies section and started choosing dresses for herself, of course after asking me sweetly if I minded. Of course I did, it was my birthday for god’s sake, why should I waste it shopping all day with my lunch date, when my guy friends were waiting eagerly to surprise me with an awesome party? But I kept quiet and nodded as If I dint have a care in the world and had all day to waste. She then proceeded to select half a dozen costly dresses for herself and then to my immense surprise headed over to the home needs section. I followed like the proverbial goat behind her. “My mom has been wanting me to get some curtain cloths for her, for a long time, I just remembered it now and as we are already here, you don’t mind do you?” she asked sweetly and I nodded goat-like, why should I mind if she was paying for it.
She then bought half a dozen curtains, bedspreads and even floor mats and asking them to be packed and sent down to the central payment counter downstairs with the rest of our stuff we hurried down to join the long queue at the payment counter. When we finally (after a half hours wait in line) reached the payment counter, she rummaged around in her bag for a few minutes, shook her head sadly, looked at me and said sweetly (but in a loud enough voice) “i seem to have forgotten my purse again at home, would you mind putting all this on your credit card? I will pay you tomorrow”.
As I looked at her flabbergasted with nothing, no excuse, coming to my mind at that exact minute and as I had earlier paid for lunch with my card in her presence, my brain frozen into paralysis and the people standing in line behind us grumbling at the delay, and everyone around pressuring me, looking at me as if I was the world’s biggest miser, and my brain warning me not to make a big scene there, my hands automatically took my card out of my purse and handed it over to the counter person to be rubbed in the machine. She then walked out very happily carrying all her large parcels in one hand and handing over to me, my one small packet, told me “happy birthday, call me tomorrow” before catching an auto to leave.
And that was the last I ever saw of her, ever. She had even got rid of her old sim card, to throw me off track and bought a new one – simcard/boyfriend- everything new I guess And my dad had a few choice words to say when he “accidentally” happened to glance through my credit card bill for that month.
But you live and learn in life. And that day I learned that I was a donkey (to use the polite synonym) when it comes to shopping with the ladies. So if any of this was a help to you in anyway, write me and tell me.