One time I accidentally called my wife fat. I don’t mean that I said something innocuous and that she then misinterpreted it as an insult; I actually called her fat without meaning to do it. It was the unexpected consequence of a series of oddities. I certainly wasn’t being mean-spirited. I suspect I should just explain what happened.
It started a long time ago, when my wife received a coupon for a significant discount at a local women’s clothing store. Unfortunately, if she wanted to use it, she had to go to the store at a particular time. I was the only person available to go with her. If you’ve read many of my posts, you probably understand that, from that moment on, some sort of crisis was probably inevitable. Adding me to a situation rarely promotes simple, smooth progress.
For once though I don’t think it was entirely my fault. There are reasons why women don’t usually take men along on their clothes shopping expeditions, and there are reasons why men don’t usually complain about being excluded.
Women and men shop for clothes in entirely different ways. Men’s clothes are simple because we like shopping to be simple. The different sorts of things we wear are clearly distinguishable–it’s trousers or a shirt, sometimes with a jacket–and our clothing sizes are transparently intelligible to anyone familiar with the concept of a ruler. The whole business is efficient, like shooting a target with an arrow.
One man might say, “I need to buy some trousers.” His friend might reply, “Here’s a store that sells trousers. How convenient!” (His friend might be slightly eccentric.) Three minutes later the shopping would be done. They would be back out of the store, sitting on a bench somewhere, eating hot pretzels and talking about something unrelated.
Women’s clothes aren’t simple on the other hand, they’re a menagerie of convoluted fabric only vaguely classifiable according to some secret and ever-shifting taxonomy. Those aren’t just jeans, they’re boot-cut hip-huggers (or some such). The sizes are meaningless too, being both frequently nonsense and nonsense that doesn’t consistently relate to anything. Even if it made sense that the sizes were small, eleven, and “sassy!,” the same woman might be small in one outfit and “sassy!” in another. The whole business is inefficient, like serving soup by dropping it out of an airplane.
One woman might say, “I need to buy some trousers.” Her friend might reply, “Here are fourteen stores. We should try on everything and then go downtown, because I think there are more stores in existence and we should try to visit all of them.” Seven hours later, while each carrying bags full of blouses and shoes, they would be weeping inexplicably and mad at their husbands for it.
I humbly put forward that women are doing it incorrectly. I suspect that I’m not the only man to think this.
Women’s clothing stores seem to anticipate this reaction. They know that we’re sometimes present when women shop, but that we’re woefully ill-equipped to assist in whatever crazy mystery transpires between entering the store and leaving it. This is why they give us chairs, welcoming and uncomplicated havens of manliness.
Unfortunately, the particular store to which my wife and I went had no chairs. I had no place to wait. Instead, I had to entertain myself. That’s how the trouble started.