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Straight Eye For The Impatient Guy

By Tom ďrelaxed fitĒ Waters

Apri1 , 2004

Like most men, Iím like a covert government operative when I need to get something from a store. Iím familiar with the primary points of entry and exit, I know where my target can be obtained, and I neutralize the target and move out.

The difference between men and women can be deduced by their shopping habits. Now that Iíve been in a relationship for awhile, I can make such a statement. Shopping is the basis for a number of the fights and tantrums that have popped up, and itís really neither of our faults. Weíre just hard-wired differently. With men, shopping is an objective; for women, shopping is a past time. Arriving at this conclusion has given me more gray hairs than Iíd care to mention. Thankfully, Iíve torn a lot of said hairs out over this activity.

I donít enjoy shopping. Iím really good at spending money, exceptional at finding things that interest me, and extravagant and lavish in my tastes, but I donít like to shop. Like most men, Iím like a covert government operative when I need to get something from a store. Iím familiar with the primary points of entry and exit, I know where my target can be obtained, and I neutralize the target and move out. I donít dilly dally. If I go to the mall, Iíll find the closest possible entrance to the item I need to purchase, storm in and have it in my car within five minutes. This is normal.

The trouble starts when we go out together. If it were up to my girlfriend, weíd spend the entire day shopping. One errand could turn into a fifteen store sweep within a sixty mile radius. Iíve tried to explain on numerous occasions how little patience I have when it comes to exposure with the general public. If at all possible, I prefer to avoid it or keep it to a minimum. I have a thimble-full of patience at the start of every day. When I go shopping, that thimble drains faster than a chess clock. After an hour and a half of traffic, line waiting, and spending time in the company of idiots, I need to go home and refuel.

She likes to window shop and look things over. If I walk into a store, Iím spending money. Thereís no two ways about it. She could spend a weekend in the Mall Of America and walk out without one bag. This drives me up a wall. In my estimation, itís a waste of time to go to a store without buying something. Life is too short to look at crap that you arenít even going to buy. She gravitates to any bright fluorescent or blinking signs that have the words Ďsaleí or Ďclearanceí on them, no matter whatís at the display. I tend to see what I like and buy it regardless of the price. Sales donít influence me. If thereís a special on whatever Iím buying, so be it. It makes no difference. Women are great shoppers and bargain hunters. Theyíve had more practice. Iím incapable of fawning over porcelain figurines, buy one get one free handbags and spring halter tops. Sue me.

Errands are exhausting. Most days off, if conditions are idyllic, I will spend the majority of my time at home reading, watching tv, writing, playing games, or noodling around online. Like women, Iím great on the phone. I can talk on the phone like nobodyís business. Iíll call people for no reason and talk for forty minutes. With the shopping, though, Iím no good, and Iím not changing. I donít see it as a coupleís activity. Iím not going without a fight.

I snuck off the other day to get clothes. I buy clothes about as often as people spot Haleyís Comet, and didnít want unforeseen complications. Unlike the fairer sex, I wasnít interested in Ďtrying everything oní or Ďfinding the best value for my dollarí or Ďchecking out the weekend sale at fill-in-the-blankí. I was down to three pairs of work pants and jeans, so this was a matter of necessity. I wear my clothes until they fall off and decay through the process of entropy or until the holes, tears and stains become so obvious that itís embarrassing to wear them outside my house.

Iíll be a J.C. Penneyís man for life. I love khakis and slacks. Canít get enough of them. I donít go to the fancy stores with tailors and comfortable carpeting. I donít flutter through multiple shops to find a great price or see what the new fashions are. Iíve maintained the same sense of style, or complete lack thereof, since I was sixteen: the sloppy conservative look. Button down shirts and slacks. Casual shoes and a lot of beige. It works, so why fix it? If I find a nice looking pair of pants, Iíll buy thirty different shades of them so I donít have to shop for another five years.

Thanks to the constant nagging of many women in my life, I tried one pair on. Trying things on is over-rated. My weight yo-yos, but for the most part, Iím a 36-33. Tall guy with a fair gut. My shirts are XL, in case you want to buy me some shirts after reading this. And unless I start mutating, my feet will always be a foot and an inch (read: size 13). I got two pairs of pants, another pair of jeans for backup, a belt, and two pairs of shoes. I went to another store and got two shirts because they were near the exit. The entire outing took an hour.

Last week, the wife wanted to know if I was interested in going to the book store. It sounded like a good idea at the time. I like book stores. Book stores donít have purses or vitamins or diet bars or a lot of the other things that I could care less about and find catatonic ally boring, so I agreed to go. Little did I know that I was being hijacked, and wouldnít see my home again for two and a half hours. Statistically speaking, thatís approximately one-fifth of my day off. We went to one book store and I was doing great. No obnoxious loud mouthed idiots, no kids, and an abundance of taste. Barnes & Noble is my favorite bookstore, hands down. Theyíre classy and quiet and I like the chairs and classical music. There were plenty of things for me to look at while she thumbed through stuff at her own pace. After a half an hour, we left without buying anything. I didnít have any money, and there were at least a hundred dollars worth of books and magazines that I would have purchased if I did.

We went to the mall and entered through a department store. She homed in on no less than ten sale displays. Purses, perfumes, shoes, etc. I looked around in shock and tried to fix my eyes on something masculine or something that would hold my interest. She showed me an orange hand bag. As a professional wiseass, my brain processed multiple punch lines, one liners, and quips. I held them all back and remarked that it was really nice.

After that, we went to another bookstore that rhymes with balls and hooks. I used to work at the same location, and itís sad to see the state of affairs that theyíre in these days. At the risk of digressing for pages on end, half of one wall was converted into a romance section and there was no literature species. The shelves were cut in half since Iíve worked there, and it looked like the store bent to the demands of changing tastes and the diminishing attention span that popular culture has imposed on the lowest common denominator of the reading public. The store sucked. I paced around a bit and looked at the bargain section. They had no short story collections and a stack of Stephen Kingís last fifteen books. I paced back and looked at the humor section, which I used to be in charge of. There wasnít a lot to look at. I asked the clerk about the new David Foster Wallace book. They didnít have it. I located my old lady and she was sitting on the floor leafing through a medical book.

We left without buying anything. Again.

I try to be a good boy, I really do. Relationships are all about compromise and patience, so I was willing to meet her half way. We walked into a furniture store whose contents were more expensive than my immortal soul. I couldnít afford the welcome mat in the front of the shop without a mortgage. We looked at end tables, couches, tea cozies, and coat racks. The salesman rattled off his introductory spiel to me and offered his services. I worked very briefly in carpet sales and I was good at picking up on guys who didnít want to be there. I wish that this sales guy was comparably receptive because he would have saved us both five minutes. We left without buying anything.

By the time we reached the athletic shoe store, I was in melt down mode. My patience was gone, my attention span was missing in action, and I wanted to go home. The ball and chain was shuffling jerseys and cross training sneakers and checking things out in the mirror. I was thinking about which time s lot of the Simpsons I was missing. I sat on a bench and tried to teleport to my house. It didnít work. After ten minutes, I told her I wanted to leave. She groaned and said that she wanted to go to a few other places, but we could go.

All of this could have been avoided if a) we just went to one bookstore and left, b) we went to one bookstore and I got dropped off at home, c) she went shopping and left me at home to loaf constructively, or d) I removed the reasoning part of my brain with an ice cream scoop before leaving the house. Men and women are no good at shopping together. Weíre built differently, and itís not going to change. Iím good at buying comic books, cds, movies, books, magazines, and games. Sheís good at buying clothes, groceries, silverware, and everything else in the free market that I donít buy. There are about four heterosexual men in captivity who enjoy and excel at shopping and Iím not one of them. At best I can fake it for up to an hour.