They say that men and women are wired differently, and aren’t we all glad? It’s part of each gender’s charm.
But sometimes the generalizations are incorrect.
I am a klutz with a hammer. My late wife was a whiz at minor carpentry jobs.
I didn’t mind pitching in on household chores. She kept a magnetized sign on the refrigerator that said: Housework won’t kill you, but why take the chance?
I thought a washer was the thing that sits next to the dryer. She thought a washer was the thing that prevents leaks in the garden hose.
Maybe that’s why our marriage worked for so long. We complemented each other but not always in ways that conventional wisdom would have suggested.
However, there was one area in which stereotypical attitudes about gender definitely applied, and that was clothing.
Women, if I may grossly over-generalize and risk sounding a little sexist, like shopping for clothes a lot more than men do.
The women I love are happy to wander around clothing stores at the mall for hours, meandering here and there, mixing and matching potential outfits, checking price tags, and in all likelihood buying stuff. Sometimes lots of stuff.
Even if no purchases are made, they are fulfilled by the experience. No man I know, including me, does that.
Don’t get me wrong. I have wandered around my share of malls, but seldom to buy anything, and hardly ever to buy clothing. I stroll at malls for the exercise and the people-watching.
I see many other men doing the same thing. If most of the people we are watching happen to be women, I’m sorry. It’s what we do. We’re men.
But there always comes a day of reckoning when sight-seeing at the mall isn’t enough. I’ve got shirts older than my granddaughter, and she’s a sophomore in college.
I tend to wear a pair of pants until they are so worn that light passes through them when held up to the sun. Only then do I concede it is time to find a replacement pair, and that means a dreaded shopping excursion at the mall. An otherwise nice walk ruined.
If there’s one thing I hate more than shopping for a new pair of pants at a department store, it’s having to try the new pants on in one of those changing-room cubicles.
In the first place a chime sounds when you enter, thereby alerting everyone within a hundred feet that you’re about to get half naked.
These cubicles are supposed to be private, but I still imagine that a security officer who’s probably a registered sex offender is watching a TV monitor somewhere to make sure I don’t steal anything by putting my old pants back on over the new ones.
Not only that, but some of these changing rooms do not have doors that reach all the way down to the floor, which means my uncovered legs, at least from the knees down, are visible to others. It’s embarrassing and not a pretty sight.
I have no idea who would find that appealing, but they are out there and they are watching.
Sometimes the changing room has no place to sit, so I find myself hopping on one leg, like an ostrich with a bad case of sciatica, while I struggle to cover myself.
Another part of this ritual I dislike is guessing the size I need.
I know what size waist and inseam I wear, but invariably the pair I take to the changing room turns out to be not quite a good fit. Why didn’t I take two or three pairs in with me, including a pair that’s one size up and a pair that’s one size down?
Because I only do one show a day. That’s why. It’s a strategy that inevitably fails, yet I never learn.
The worst part of the whole exercise for me was pulling on the new pants and then having to walk out into the store, locate my wife, and get her approval.
If I got an affirmative nod? Hallelujah, let’s go home. If she frowned or sighed or slowly moved her head from side to side, or dismissively waved her hand — a gesture that means the same thing in every language on the planet — it was time to start the process over.
Eventually, since the last thing I wanted was to have to come back another day to do this, we settled on a pair that seemed to fit and satisfied her notion of what looked decent on me.
We both left the mall happy, just for different reasons. She didn’t have to see me in my old, baggy, shiny-bottom pants anymore, and she’d buy me ice cream on the way home for being a good boy. Win-win.
In time, of course, the new pants became old pants and world order was restored.
There is only one shopping experience that comes close to stirring the same reluctance on my part, and that’s shopping for underwear. It’s humiliating to hand a three-pack of Jockeys to the lady working the register. Why does it always have to be a woman?
The good news? You don’t have to try them on first.
Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Sunday. His radio commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard every Monday at 5:44 p.m. during “All Things Considered” on WGTE FM 91 Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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