I'm married to a woman who likes to shop. This is, of course, a redundancy. If I had simply said I'm married to a woman, the corollary who likes to shop is almost a logical necessity.
By and large, men don't like to shop. There are exceptions, of course.
Bob, my brother-in-law, would see a hardware store and make a bee-line to it with as much of a spring in his step as my wife, Laurel, does when she sees a "50% off everything" sign in the window of one of her favorite clothing stores. Me, I can happily spend hours in just about any bookstore. Or, an Apple store.
So my thesis that men don't like to shop mainly refers to clothing stores and what I think of as "cutesy" stores -- filled with items that women gush over with exclamations such as "This is so cute!" and "Don't you think [name of friend or relative] would love this?"
(My honest, yet unspoken answers: Not really and I have no freaking idea.)
I got to thinking about male and female shopping habits after reading a story in our local newspaper about a women's clothing store, Olivia's, taking over a downtown space previously occupied by Shryocks, a men's clothing store. The story said that Shryocks had been open since the 1940's.
Wow. That's amazing.
Of course, men's business attire has changed considerably over the years and decades. What men used to wear on "casual Friday" now often is worn everyday. So I give Shryocks a lot of credit for being one of the mainstays in downtown Salem, Oregon for so long.
The takeaway quote from the Olivia's owner, Sandy Powell, was "We just girl'd it up" -- referring to the Shryocks location.
C'est la vie.
When Laurel and I would be out shopping, I used to be bothered by how many more stores catered to women than to men. I enjoy shopping for clothes more than most men (which is sort of akin to the difference between "like it a bit" and "hate it"). So after going with my wife into the fifteenth consecutive clothing store that had nothing, or next to nothing, for men, I'd toy with the idea of advocating for a federal law, The Equal Shopping Opportunity Act.
It would require that in any mall or downtown shopping area, a certain percentage of stores would have to cater to men.
That way I'd have something other to do other than act like a male geisha with my wife: shuffling along submissively three steps behind Laurel with my head down, stopping when she saw some clothing that caught her eye, starting to walk again when she moved on to another part of the store.
But in my saner moments, I'd realize that my dream of men achieving shopping equity with women was unrealizable. After all, there's a capitalist free market reason why women's stores vastly outnumber men's stores: like I said, women like to shop much more than men do.
Also, their shopping habits differ.
It isn't wise to use our human evolutionary history to explain modern Homo sapiens behavior, but what the heck, I'll do it anyway.
After 45 years of marriage (OK, to two women, but not at the same time), I'm convinced that today's females are still motivated by "gathering" habits and males by "hunting" habits when it comes to shopping. My wife loves to just look around a store. And then go to another store, and another, and another, to look around some more.
(Frequent conversation: Me -- "I'm burned out on shopping. Isn't it time for lunch?" Laurel -- "What are you talking about? We just got started!" This is when I get out my iPhone to look for a nearby bookstore where I can meet my wife in an hour or so.)
Male me, on the other hand, pretty much uses my grocery shopping approach when we're out and about. I have a list. My goal is to get everything on the list. Rarely do I come home with an item that wasn't on the list. Laurel, on the other hand, will head down an aisle to get an item when we're grocery shopping together. Ten minutes later I'll go looking for her, wondering why she hasn't brought the item back to our cart.
I'll find her looking at other stuff, reading labels, comparing ingredients.
Laurel will say, "Look, I've never seen this before. I'm going to get it and see if it tastes better than what we've been eating." I'm fine with that, but can't help thinking: I have no problem with what we've been eating. I'm alive, and it tastes OK. So where's the need to try something new?
Likewise, once I find clothing that I like, I'll buy the same thing over and over. Meaning, I know what "prey" I want to hunt down. I'm focused on a familiar item that I've captured before and want to bring back home again.
Laurel, though, is much more of a browser, a forager, a gatherer who peers into unfamiliar thickets of dresses, tops, shoes, pants, and such hoping to catch sight of a never-seen-before item. So it's no wonder that she spends much more time in a woman-oriented store than I do in a man-oriented store.
She isn't sure what she is looking for, but she'll know it when she sees it. By contrast, I know what I want, and if it isn't there, I'm ready to move on.
There is, then, a Great Divide between men and women when it comes to shopping, particularly for clothes.
I've come to understand this well, being not far from my golden anniversary of being married 50 years (yes, as noted before, to two women, but I'm fine with adding 18 years of marriage to 27 years of marriage, especially if I get some great anniversary gifts in five years).