A few years ago, I was working in a beautiful boutique that sold upscale trendy fashion and selected high-end cosmetics. We live in a tourist destination town, so in the summer, the business tripled with the influx of windsurfers, second-home buyers, and wine country travelers. Late one morning, a man and his wife, both in their 30s, came in to look for some fun new items for her.
As the Beauty Director, I showed her some gorgeous new makeup products, and then our Fashion Consultant set her up in a dressing room that was piled high with a mountain of fabulous clothing and accessory pieces.
We had the oldies radio station cranked up, and Mr. and Mrs. Tourist were having a wonderful time. Until she disappeared into the dressing room to change. Mr. Tourist and I got to chatting, when he leaned over and took a big sniff of my neck and called out, “Honey, come out here and smell this woman’s neck! She smells great! You should buy this!”
The boutique got very quiet, until Mrs. Tourist walked out of the dressing room wearing her original outfit and announced, in no uncertain terms, that this shopping experience was over. They left without purchasing a thing, and at the rate she was walking, he was scrambling to keep up. I’m guessing Mr. Tourist doesn’t have any sisters, because smelling another woman’s neck and telling your wife she smells great, so buy what she’s wearing, violates about every code of proper husband behavior ever written.
Men shop as a means to an end. They need something. They see it. It’s their size. They buy it. Boom.
Women shop as an emotional experience. We can hit the stores with only a vague idea of what we want, and then happily cruise until we spot it. And of course, we love a “deal,” so once we find it, we may go to five other stores to see if its cheaper at the other end of the mall. We try things on. Often several times. We debate color, sleeve length, accessories needed, fit, purpose (casual, dressy, work?), and even appropriate seasons for wear.
Obviously, this can creates an immediate problem when the two of you stroll into Nordstrom. She wants to look, touch, feel, try on, consider, try on again, then compare price points at all comparable stores within walking distance. He wants to find her something sexy, buy it, and get the hell out of there and to the Sports Bar before closing time.
My first suggestion is that when your wife says she’s going shopping, do not go with her unless she asks. (Although I’ve never met a woman who did.) If she says she wants you there, that doesn’t give you free rein to do the “husband thing” all day long.
1. Don’t look stricken when she pulls out a list. Yes, we often need to buy more than one item. We don’t shop and dash. Remember, this is an experience, not an errand.
2. Don’t ever tell us we look “fine.” Fine means “acceptable,” and that’s never what we’re going for. We prefer to look fabulous.
3. Don’t comment on the price. “It’s 75 dollars? SERIOUSLY??” will not prevent her from buying what she wants. It will, however, ruin the rest of your day.
4. Don’t stand 6″ behind her at all times to keep her focused and moving along. It’s annoying, and will only serve to make her stop suddenly about every 8 feet, causing you to stumble onto the back of her and look like an idiot.
5. Don’t roll your eyes (or God forbid, add a deep sigh) every time she want to see those jeans at the other store just one more time to compare the fit with the ones she’s trying on now. This is what we do. If you can’t stand it, there’s a bar at every mall, so go have a beer and we’ll meet you back here in an hour (okay, two).
6. Don’t “help” by bringing fantasy clothes (Daisy Duke-style shorts, cropped t-shirts, bikinis) to her dressing room, in sizes she hasn’t worn since middle school. When you say, “I think you’d look hot in this,” as you hand her a tiny piece of dental floss sold as swimwear, she hears “You’d look hot if you were 24 and a size 2, with perky boobs, peach pit butts, and legs like a gazelle.” If she’s 54, her boobs are 3″ lower to the ground, her butt jiggles when she’s standing still, and her legs are more daschund than gazelle, this will not end well.
7. Never point to another beautiful woman and say, “You should wear something like that!” This is a landmine. If it’s something similar to what she already wears, you might get away with it. But if it’s something you’ve never seen her in or that she couldn’t pull off unless she was 20, grew 6 inches, and lost 40 pounds, you just told her “I wish you looked like that.” No matter what you say after that, you can’t fix this.
8. Don’t ask (or worse, repeat at 10-minute intervals for 2 solid hours), “Are we done yet?” You know how you often slow down when someone tailgates you on the freeway, just to piss them off? Yeah, we’re doing that to you.
9. Don’t respond with “They’re all great” or “Whichever you prefer” when we ask for your opinion on which item to buy. You wanted to come. You’re here. Now speak up.
10. Don’t look confused and state, “But those aren’t sexy” to any shoes, jeans, or anything else were trying on. Not every purchase we make is designed to say “Do me.” Sometimes we’re looking for comfort or practicality. And do you really want us to wear foreplay clothes to work?
Remember, clothes are to us what electronics are to you. You wouldn’t spend $185 on jeans? We wouldn’t spend $3,000 on a home theater sound system for the living room 60″ TV.
So the next time she says “I’m going shopping,” just say “I’m going fishing.”