Real Living: Man's World

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF A RECESSION is on the way, then one good side effect might be that we'll all have to do less shopping. Although I don't suppose this stricture will extend to my wife.

Last Saturday, as usual, she came home with half the stock of the John Lewis department store plus some other stuff including, ironically, that book on how to get by with fewer possessions, Downshifting. Unfortunately that was just a Christmas present for someone else.

I decided it was time to confront the issue of my wife's shopaholic tendencies. "Look," I said, "have you ever thought of getting rid of some of the superfluous stuff by holding a car boot sale?" "OK," she said, quite surprisingly, and the sale was held, whilst I stayed at home looking after the children.

"How did you do?" I said, when my wife returned. "Well," she said, "I sold a lot of things, and made pounds 55." "Very good!" I said. But it turned out that she'd also spent pounds 40 at the car boot sale, and returned with marginally more goods - at least in terms of volume - than she'd set out with. Meanwhile, she continues to shop with unabated enthusiasm, as though single-handedly trying to revive Britain's ailing retail sector.

She often insists that I accompany her. And yet psychiatrists last week established that, in terms of stress caused to men, shopping could be the equivalent of emergency situations faced by fighter pilots. So maybe, one day, my wife will be heartily doing her stuff in a packed emporium, saying to me, "Andrew, do you prefer the blue one or the red?", and I'll keel over dead next to her. That'll show her.

From my own perspective, shopping has long been a matter of walking into a bland, corporate-owned place and waiting in a long queue to speak to underpaid staff who are either condescending or appallingly craven, or just bored witless, and quite often all three.

And the whole shopping process is generally very humiliating to a man for the following reason. If I go into a shop to buy, say, a coat, then what I am effectively saying to the retailer is: "I agree with you that this coat is good value for money, and that it looks good on me."

After I have effectively conveyed that message, I imagine the retailer to be effectively conveying the following message in return: "Well then you are a mug, and a fool. Because you don't look good in that coat, and it's pure vanity on your part to think that you do. Nobody looks good in that particular coat except certain fashion models with eating problems. Also, it's not worth half the money you're about to pay for it."

If you think this is unduly cynical, consider the alternative. Is it really possible that the assistant, watching me parading in the coat before the full-length mirror, is thinking something like the following? "...Handsome chap, ...looks really great in that coat ...knows a good buy when he sees one, too ...shrewd man ...pleasant nature, as well. I like him a lot."

I rest my case.