Confessions of a male shopper

“You’re no fun anymore when we go shopping,” my wife said. Who, me? Surely not?

The weather hadn’t been kind so, anxious to do a little retail therapy, we dashed into town last Saturday and browsed in a few shops, me being my usual patient self. Seriously, I love shopping – but more about that later.

She’d show me a dress and I’d say “it doesn’t suit you,” “the colour is all wrong,” “makes you look old,” or some other positive opinion. Which is when she made the comment at the start of this post.

You can’t win. Tell her a dowdy dress is great and she’ll blame me later if she buys it and then decides she hates it. Here I am being perfectly honest, an attentive husband giving her the unvarnished truth, and I’m derided as useless.

I try to assure her that I have her best interests at heart, that I don’t want her to buy the wrong dress, skirt, jacket, whatever, and all it gets me is a sulk. Men can’t win. In M&S she found me a nice pair of trousers which I liked. She wanted to buy me another but I didn’t like the colour, or it was too close to another I had at home. I’m easily pleased…

Then she spotted another dress and it looked nice. She gathered up another one I wasn’t too sure about but thought it best to keep my reservations to myself at that stage. We both saw something that also looked OK, so armed with all three she headed to the changing rooms. This is the stage where most men either look dejected or find a chair to collapse into. Me? I stood nearby a model of contentment.

Out she came in dress No 1, and it’s fair to say it didn’t do her any favours, so back she ambled to try No 2. Bingo! This looked really well on her and I was effusive in my praise. No 3 she didn’t bother modelling for me because she didn’t like it. Off we head to the checkout, one relieved husband and a happy wife.

Of course she wasn’t done yet. She ambled into another few places, liking some clothes, but either not finding the right size or fuming at the price tag. “I’m not paying €200-plus for that” she spluttered while checking out what looked like a pretty ordinary dress.

I’m a browser more than a buyer. I’m quite happy to peruse the wares of zillions of stores without ever locating my wallet. But I do like going shopping, whether it’s a lingerie department – my sister works in one which is why you might see me in among the bra display – or a card shop. The thrill is finding a bargain when you least expect it.

When Trish and I went to Vienna together for the first time I knew we should go shopping on Mariahilfer Strasse, the main precinct. If you’re ever there take a ride to the very top of the street and work your way downhill slowly towards the Ringstrasse. Magic. It was in Vienna that I first discovered Peek and Cloppenburg, and I had no problem buying sweaters and shirts there. We also seemed to arrive in the middle of a sale. In fact I liked it so much that I also shopped in their Amsterdam and Berlin branches.

In Paris I brought my two girls, Trish and daughter Sarah Jane, to some great stores thanks to a little bit of research beforehand. One of my favourite moments was relaxing after a few purchases in Galeries Lafayette’s rooftop restaurant. When Sarah Jane, mesmerised by the many clothes shops, quickly ran through her cash pile I offered the use of my flexible friend – a rather worn credit card. What a dad!

I never tire of shopping, whether in a supermarket, boutique or department store, even a flea market. I look at the faces of other males suffering while their wives browse and I laugh to myself. Boredom never sets in. Bring it on, I say.

NOTE: The picture above was taken in a gorgeous chocolate emporium in Berlin. The rabbit wasn’t for sale but I did buy some chocolates.

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