In the early years of my marriage, when kindness and courtship mattered, my husband was generous with the gift giving, he was fun to shop with because he bought me stuff, pure and simple. But over time, shopping with my ex became abominable, argumentative; hissing and cursing over cheap Christmas ornaments and Chinese coin purses I wanted, never mind the big ticket items like clothing, linens. Control was the game, I was the enabler. I am now, however, 3 years without the angry overlord on my tail and I’ve worked retail (clothing) long enough to qualify as an astute observer of the female+male shopping dynamic; certain behaviors mimic that which I experienced, certain behaviors leave me scratching my head.
The most commonly observed male-tag-along is what I call Bank of America Husband. He holds the card, he says yay or nay to the purchase, he sits in the fucking chair and his wife twirls before him wearing the garment in question and anxious eyes. Oh my, too close to home. Yes, most women I see in my shop have the means to pay for their own purchases and yet they still defer to the big guy—because Bank of America Husband controls more than dollars. He controls the subservience of those around him. Are there women who are grateful, appreciative, cognizant of all that her man gives to her, does for her, women who feel that this stamp of approval is an equitable balance of power? Yes. And are there women who genuinely want to please their man with garments that he finds attractive, women that dress solely for the man? Absolutely, sure, great, but of no matter to this shopping husband. His m.o. requires that ladies jump through hopes regardless of their means or their wiles.
Another commonly observed husband shopper is the one I’ve dubbed “Get Off Her Fucking Heels,” the man who moves right behind his wife, who occasionally whispers something to the woman, who sits on her ass like an ill-fitting backpack. I don’t get this guy at all—and he shows up quite often. What is he whispering to his wife, what is the point of being so close? My best guess is that this gentleman is freakishly intimidated by shopping in a woman’s store and clings to mommy out of fear of being choked by something cashmere. Whereas I believe this woman could buy anything she wanted without her husbands yes or no, the couple typically leaves the store quickly and empty handed, the man gasping for air at his wife’s back.
There are men who mistakenly think they know about fashion and men who actually do. One time, an old, white fool in white sneakers said to his wife, “…. it makes you look fat.” Oh My God. A gasp from within the store rose and roared down Duval Street like some man-eating tumbleweed. The man, forever more known as Dumb Ass Husband, was laughingly asked to wait outside and he not so laughingly did. But there are good guys who shop with their wives. There are men who say, “anything you want, baby,” and men who are perfectly content to play games on their phones while the ladies shop. There was once a gentleman in the store who kept telling his wife, “buy something, buy something.” We complimented and thanked the male shopper for his efforts and he replied, “Why the hell is she shleppin’ me down the street if she’s not going to buy something?” Point taken. I love this type, the Reluctant Shopper Husband, often quite endearing and starved for conversation. Not quite sure why women want them there.
But the question that keeps coming to mind the most as I write is–why did I and why do other women play this shopping game with men? Low self-esteem, guilt, fear, clearly defined yet distorted marital roles? As many reasons as there are marriages I suppose, a question that requires more examination than I care to get into at this time. And why are these guys out there is the first place? Aren’t there enough sports bars around to entertain these droids? I’m just glad I’m not somebody’s wife anymore and no longer participate in this baloney. Best husband shopper out there? The Husband Who Stays Home.
post script – Solo Shoppers and Women Shopping With Women have their own stereotypes.