Yup, handing over hard earned cash for stuff. Most men hate it (or at least say they do).
Shopping with your significant other has always been known as one of the “I must avoid at all costs” frustrations for us men, not an adventure in retail therapy at all. Hours of standing awkwardly amongst lingerie, trying to smile politely at other women who just want you out of their shop, sweating when your partner is asking you if her bum does indeed look big in those pants, ducking for cover if any of your mates pass by, not to mention those moments of horror when you accidentally knock something pretty and frilly off of a hanger or rack and everyone in the shop is looking at you.
Yes, we've all been there.
We men are not built to be in ladies undie and clothes shops. We’re just too big.
Now I like to think that I’m pretty accommodating to my lovely lady as the proverbial carry the bags kinda guy I can be when I feel like it.
Y’see my fiancé does love to shop. She's also exceptionally good at it, ridiculously good in fact...like a "Shopping Professor" good. She could teach others.
Now me, I am not a “I like shopping” kinda guy.
I tolerate it and am happy helping Andrea figure out if she likes something or if she wants to look nice for me that I like her in whatever it might be. It works for us and we have a laugh along the way.
For any shopping I need to do, I figure out what I need, find out exactly where it is (departments stores I even find out what isle), how much it is exactly and then go there.
In - get item - pay - get out. Military precision.
For single items I’m in and out in less than 5 minutes. Even stereo amps. Because I have planned and done my research.
Minimal fuss, rock'n'roll.
My fiancé however is a lady who is in her element shopping in physical shops, online shops, 2nd hand goods shops and even road side shops, zero planning involved. It actually relaxes her.
She is also able to shop amongst friends, sell items that are no longer working so that she can then replace them by shopping for better things, is able to justify every single purchase (not that she has to) and who uses statement’s such as “cost per wear” and “if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it” which I am convinced is the battle cry of some ancient mythical shopping warrior archaeologists haven’t uncovered yet. I’d bet if they do find one, it’ll have a handbag made of woolly mammoth with perhaps tasteful Sabre tooth tiger claw clasps and be able to hold something akin to Doctor Who’s time travelling Tardis.
It’s an incredible talent (no sarcasm here, I'm truly impressed).
This skill of hers (like so many other shopping warriors around the world) has come from literally years of practice, likely even decades.
Now occasionally – like this weekend just been – I decide to ride shot-gun. I threw caution to the wind and got my “side-kick” on to her “superhero shopper” powers. We had no kids, so off to the mall we went. I even suggested it. So brave.
Now a key point to mention here: I am certain that I am one of the lucky ones. My fiancé is not like other women as far as I can see, she’s special. No, I don't mean helmet on to stop her licking the windows special, I mean she's rare and actually special.
Y’see when she is in her shopping buzz, she is quite happy if I wander off, stay with her or even cause mischief as I so often do – think alphabet letters individually for sale perhaps rearranging themselves into words or putting odd (read awkward) items into people’s shopping trolleys. I shall say no more. Sure, she gets embarrassed but she never growls.
Whilst out on this shopping journey to Bayfair Shopping Centre, for a brief half hour I had wandered off and was heading back to the shop I had last left her in. Crossing the Mall floor, I briefly re- joined a fraternity for 15 minutes that I had visited often in my past, even when as young as a child with my Mum.
It is an ancient fraternity of males – of suffering, despondent males. Sometimes children will join up too, but mainly because they are with their father's, grandfathers, older brothers or uncles. It is a male dominated fraternity.
These men come together in times of need, banding together like warriors of old who have lost their fights, men who have simply given up and have resigned themselves to the fact they must remember to eat and drink at regular intervals whilst here as they wait for their partners to return, or perhaps they will not survive. It is a dark time for the lost ones. When there is more than one outside any given shop, the men will band together for safety.
Now in this particular mall, there is seating outside of Glassons - a clothing store.
Say hello to an actual “Exile Island”. No, it is not a myth after all. If you live in Tauranga, go look for yourself.
Now let me explain - this is not just an island in Mount Maunganui. No. Every mall you go into, have a brief look around outside of women’s clothes shops and you'll see.
You’ll see the men there, leaning outside of shops, trying not to look sad, just trying to survive long enough until they’re dragged off to the next shop they probably won’t go into either.
Max, Bendon, Cotton On, Esprit, Valley girl, the lists are endless just as are the men hovering around outside of each one trying desperately to not look like perverts as they wait for their wives, girlfriends or daughters.
Back to the exile island I found. There were three men already on the couch outside Glassons when I decided to stop and visit. The nods of greetings were all the same as I had expected as I sat down and became a part of this fraternity. These were the expressions of men who had been waiting here forever, too afraid to move away because they would be forever lost here, waiting for so long they had begun to lose hope.
Today was to be the day I would try and change this.
We all sat in silence for the first few minutes, half-hearted smiles exchanged with each other. I watched these men watching the people passing by, so often they were sparing a secretive glance at some woman’s bottom, short skirt or boobs, but not to ogle or be gross, but to simply occupy themselves. The looks in their eyes had nothing sexual in them, they were simply looking, all lustful thoughts vanquished the moment they resigned themselves to sit here. It is a strange life on the island, seconds can feel like 10 minutes each.
Yes. Island time is indeed quite different from normal time. Try it and see.
Eventually one of the older men, his wife returned to collect him. His smile was huge on seeing her, much like a neglected puppy that see’s its owner after a few hours. He was ecstatic, his happiness huge as he got up and welcomed her with 2 hands, the two of them setting off hand in hand. A quick look around I could see the two other men were jealous, wishing it was them instead of him.
I had found my moment. I decided this was the perfect moment to cheer.
And Exile island’s mood for us - the stranded - instantly changed. Even the departing man threw his fist up in success.
Much laughing and comradery ensued as another man was collected and the two of us remaining cheered for him too.
Over the course of the next 10 minutes, another man turned up and left and eventually after more cheering, I was the only one left on the island.
All those poor guys had finally been collected and (probably) for a change, hadn't felt so bad for being stuck there.
I can only hope that those three men (and their partners who all looked at me like some crazy escaped mental patient) will remember that day and will be brave enough to pass this on and start the cheering themselves when they see their next exile island forming up.
In every mall, outside almost every woman’s shop, you’ll see them.
So please spare a thought for these troubled souls ladies. Why not tell them as you pass by that "it won’t be long now", reassure them, let them know they’re not invisible anymore.
Together we could change the world and perhaps get every woman’s shop on earth to put in a few men seats inside where it’s warm, out of view and safe, or perhaps they can put a couch outside and they could even charge for coffees.
Join the movement.
Save the shopping side-kicks. They deserve better.