Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Universal Truths: Shop 'Til He Drops

In my time on the world's favourite social networking site, I have noticed a few groups popping up that claim to be delivering a few truths about the way women 'work' and tips detailing how to make situations "work for you", the common or garden Man. Now I've been blogging since I was about 13 and although those early posts probably contained little more than plagiarism and whingeing, I like to think that I got there first, albeit in a very roundabout way (I mean, analysing the constant battle of the sexes is not a very unique concept is it?)

But I'm not here to self-analyse. So without much more ado, I present a few home truths about women of all age, shape and size, with a Helpful Survival Guide on how to avoid those easy traps. I accept no responsibility for any damage to the brains or egos of my readers.


Yes, yes: we know that taking you shopping is a giant waste of time for both of us, but you're sat on that chair outside the changing rooms for a reason. Many arguments occur while couples are shopping; doing it on your own can be stressful enough as it is. So instead of getting yourself into a situation in which you end up kipping on the sofa, pause. What brings you here? Here's a few shopping scenarios for you, and how to navigate them with dignity and testicles intact:

Basically it's all about attention to detail. Think about your girlfriend. Now think about the colour of her hair, her eyes, her favourite jacket. Her bedroom wall colour. Does she like pink or hate it? Are fluffy things her idea of hell? Does she tend to flowers, or is she an animal lover? You aught to know some things about her if you are a really good boyfriend - odds are, if you're a crap boyfriend who pays her no attention and sees her as a unlimited meal or sex ticket, you don't even know this Blog exists. I am assuming you know a little bit about your girl: what she likes, what she likes to do with you (steady on love), and what winds her up. If you're not entirely sure there's a few tips on how to bluff your way through, but I accept no responsibility for the consequences if you get it wrong.


What happened between you and your love recently? Take this morning for instance: did you wake up and give the love of your life a sweet kiss, or did you accidentally punch her in the eye? Whatever you did, your lady is annoyed and knows this is a sure-fire way to punish you while also making herself feel better. If she's shopping angry, you should know you've done something wrong. Don't look at me Buddy Boy - I can't tell you what, it's up to you to know your actions. Whether or not you know what you did, you need to do two things: shut up and put up, and don't let her bait you. Whether or not your lovely lady is angry with you, follow the rules below carefully: hopefully you can change a feisty female to a calm chick (or at least avoid winding her up).


So you're out clothes shopping together and she's in the changing rooms. As I said above, she may or may not be angry at this point: it really is up to you to figure out if she is or not. You can probably tell if she's mad, but in case you're totally clueless look for common signs - shorter sentences, eye-rolling, heavy breathing or sighing, gritted teeth. If you know for a fact you aren't in the Doghouse, it's likely that she has brought you along for your opinion. In which case, be proud that she values your thoughts and wants to impress you.

If she asks: "Does my X look Y in this?" where X is a body part (e.g. bum) and Y is a derogatory adjective (e.g. big), STOP. Do not fall into the trap she has set for you by answering "No" or God help you "Yes". She doesn't want brutal honesty or potential dishonesty: she really wants a perspective. Side-step the question by saying something neutral like "How do you feel about it?" or "Are you comfortable in it?". Ask her what it's for - it could be something to slouch around home in or it could be a gown for a friend's wedding. Get an idea of what she wants from the outfit. Flattering (night out)? Functional (gym wear)? Pretty but plain (work casuals)? You'll throw her off, because she's not expecting you to care what she thinks. Score one for you.

If she persists with Conundrum XY , she really is trying to trip you up. Without patronising her, let her know subtly that you know what she's up to. Approach her on good terms: start by doing something you know she likes to reassure her (kiss or hug etc). Tell her something you like about the outfit (even if it's only the colour), and then tell her something else about her that you think is beautiful that's personal to the both of you. If she's angry, you know what it was you did to wind her up, now is the time to give her a hug or kiss, compliment her and apologise. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that she'll forgive you and finish shopping there and then. You did the crime, you still gotta do the time.

NOTE: If you don't like an outfit and she is not angry, your honesty may be appreciated. If you don't like an outfit and she is angry, try a "Criticism Sandwich"- this is where you surround a bad point with good points to make it easier to swallow, like wrapping a tablet in cookie dough*. Listen to this:

"It's baggy on the hips."

"It's a good colour, but it's baggy on the hips."

"It's a good colour, but it's a bit baggy on the hips, probably because it's a bit big for you."

Doesn't take Einstein to figure out which statement will sound nicer and more helpful. It won't be that hard to find two or more things that are good and not-so-good about an outfit.
  • Look at how it fits her. Is it too loose or too tight? Avoid saying it's tight; she may think you're pointing out her weight, however if she asks you if it is too tight, be honest.
  • Look at the colour. Does she wear that colour a lot? Does it suit her colouring? You'll notice if it clashes badly, so it is best to use a point like that as the 'filling' for your 'sandwich'.
  • Look at the style. Is it too long? Too big? Too much pattern? Try and imagine what she'd look like in the scenario she wants the outfit for - for example, if it is a top that shows a little too much cleavage, it won't be suitable for work. Try "The cleavage is great, but is it the best thing for work? It would look good on a date night."


The woman you're with is home-making and wants your opinion on what she is buying for your living quarters. Assume you are living together (or planning to). She views this shopping trip as beneficial to your relationship and your home. She thinks that by inviting you along she shows that she values your input and opinion: you think you'd rather be in the in-store cafe eating a jam doughnut.


In this situation you might find another example of Conundrum XY: "Would X look good in Y?" where X is an object (e.g. a plate) and Y is a place (e.g. our kitchen). This is for when she takes you "item shopping" instead of "clothes shopping" and requires a different kind of thinking.

IMPORTANT: DON'T say "I don't know" more than once. Use these following tips first, and save "I don't know" for when you really don't know, not as shorthand for "I can't be bothered to think". You may think it's being hypersensitive, and you go ahead and think that mate, and may it keep you warm in the wake of the Cold Shoulder. The truth is, your girlfriend wants to make a home. See it for what it is: a sweet gesture. To her it means "I love you and I want you to be comfortable and happy in our home", not "I want to waste my precious time off dragging you around homeware stores".

If she uses the XY Conundrum, stop and think. What is she holding? If it's something specific for the home, think about what you already have and what you might need. If you have 30 dinner plates and she's holding up another, gently remind her that you have plates already. And I don't mean barking "We got summa them" at her.

First say "What were you thinking of using that plate for?" Some women like to display plates (weird, I know.) Some women prefer you to have your chocolate-covered-bacon-and-beans-on-toast on a plain plate, leaving the smart patterned stuff for when her parents come over for tea. If she's holding up a nice coloured plate/cup/bowl, try and relate it to something like that e.g. "Is that for when we have guests?" If she wants to have something to take pride in like nice guest towels or smart china, don't try and stop her and don't act like you couldn't care less.


Try and think of the room she's talking about. What colour are the walls or furniture? If she's holding up green towels for your red bathroom, something should tell you that's not right. On the other hand, if you make the effort to locate a red towel and bring it to her saying "How about this one?" she will be impressed. It's important to make the effort to find it and fetch it for her, as it conveys your interest as opposed to you pointing vaguely in a that-way direction. You can also use the "Find and Fetch" method if you genuinely can't remember the colour scheme by just bringing things she may like, but be wary of bringing her the wrong colour or style. You take your life in your hands with this approach, and maybe it'll teach you to pay closer attention.


So she's wheeled you into La Senza and is now holding scraps of fabric up to her bosom. She's got a glint in her eye: either she's enjoying seeing you squirm, or she genuinely wants to buy some nice lingerie for you to see her in.

If it's the first glint, watch out. This may not come as a surprise, but she's not going to wear that peephole bra to work, is she? (You hope.) Ask her casually if it is for everyday use or special occasions. Leave her to make the decisions, but if she says it's for work she won't appreciate you holding up the pink lycra with tassles.


If she asks if you know her size and you do, respond with a cheeky compliment: "You're a perfect 32A" or "You're a lovely 38FF". Try not to use size-related adjectives unless you personally think your girl will appreciate them: if she's a 38FF she might be fed up with people going on about her "massive" boobs, whereas if she's a 32A she might think you're taking the mick.

If you don't know her size, DON'T TRY TO GUESS. If you're not sure, try not to panic. Certain animals can smell fear: women are a prime example. Simply point out that different shops have different sizes, and offer to wait while she tries a few on. If there's a fitting service, point it out to her. Be patient and courteous: "Don't worry, I'll wait with the bags while you try."


Most importantly, whether you know her size or not, AVOID "The Fatal Grab". This is where you grab the first bra or pair of pants you see and thrust them at her. I can see your good intention underneath, but if you grab a Size 8 and she's actually a 14 she may well see red. If you have no idea, and its often best to assume you don't, pick out something like the colour or pattern and point at that. You don't need to take anything off the rack unless she specifically says "Can you pass me that one in a Size 12?"

NOTE: If she ever asks you "What size do you think I am?" and you don't have an answer, use the clothes shopping answer to Conundrum XY: assume she is probably trying to catch you out, admit your wrongdoings and show her that you love her by actually doing something like hugging her, kissing her, offering to pay a little towards something she likes. There are many choices, and you'll know what your girl will respond to.

If it's the second lingerie shopping scenario and she's treating you to a little something, this is going to be much easier than you think. Assuming that because she's taking you lingerie shopping, you are intimate on a fairly regular basis, so already you know a little bit of what she likes.
Unless she has asked you this question first, ask her what she would like. This is your chance to be a little bit flirty and a little bit suggestive. Go around every bit of the shop with her. Hold her hand or put your arm through hers, or if you can't, take her bags so she can touch and feel the underwear (girls are particularly sensual, if it feels cheap and clingy and horrible she's not likely to feel sexy in it). Instead of "I'd like you in that", try "Would you like something like that?" If you say the first one, yes she might buy it for you but she might not like it and she won't really enjoy the experience she has with you in it. These are often the outfits that are worn once for one night and then die a death at the back of the knicker drawer.

You want her to want it as well as you do. Drape a little lace over her palm, or a little satin and see how she reacts. Instead of going cross-eyed staring at her boobs trying to imagine what they'd look like in it, get her to feel it: pick it up, touch it, step back and let her look at the size in case she's embarrassed. If she's hesitating, ask her what she's thinking. She may even want you to wait patiently outside while she buys, in case she wants to surprise you. Either way in this scenario you're going to end up with a lingerie-wearing girlfriend, so you might think "Why should I bother?" but a little effort in the preliminary buying stage equals more chance of you both enjoying the experience so much that you want to do it again. And again. And - you get it.


So the pair of you are out shopping. Assuming you've not upset her, and that she's not shopping for herself or the house, you are safe to assume she is shopping for either you or someone else.

If it's you, then there's a damn good reason she's brought you along. You might need new shoes, or a tasteful jumper. Come Christmas or Birthday, my other half always seems to ask "But how did you know I liked this?" I could claim clairvoyancy but the truth is it's because I watch him when he thinks I'm not looking. I see what he thumbs idly while I'm shopping for myself. If you suspect she's canvassing you, feel free to throw her a few clues.

Quite often, the problem isn't "What would he wear?" but "What would he never be seen dead in?" If she is near something you dislike, e.g. polo shirts, make a point of saying that you don't like them. Likewise, if you like black socks but hate white ones, say something like "I'd rather have black socks than white ones." Try to relate it to a little story to make sure she remembers: "I'd rather have black socks than white ones, because white ones look chavvy." Or "I'd rather have black socks than white ones, because I need them for work." If she ever picks up white socks, something will trigger in her brain to remind her of your dislike for them.


If she is shopping for a friend or family member, the pressure is off you slightly. Most women pride themselves on being able to 'profile' their and their partner's friends and family. For example, a woman's mental Christmas list may look like this:

MY DAD: Likes Top Gear but has all the DVDs. Likes Garden Gnomes but is allergic to Plaster of Paris.
MY SISTER: Just got a new kitchen so will want new cutlery. Likes red things - maybe something to go with that ornamental oil decanter she got from Crete on her Honeymoon?
PARTNER'S BROTHER: Loaned Partner his Kings of Leon CD which got trodden on. Replace.
PARTNER'S MUM: Likes soap, but everyone gets her soap. Says "I don't need anything" but she might WANT something. Noticed bottle of perfume in bathroom running low, she told me it was Nina Ricci. How about a gift set?

Here's the good news: your girlfriend should not expect you to think in this odd manner, and if you do, we should not expect your ideas to correlate directly with ours. If you know for a fact that your mum hated that perfume, please tell us. It is important to discuss gift ideas together when shopping, so don't clam up.

If you genuinely don't know, particularly when it comes to a female relative like your sister, auntie, gran or mum, this is what we are here for. Use us to our full purpose. Have you heard your mum and girlfriend making small talk? It's where we learn the name of that designer she likes, her birthstone, her favourite nail polish or make-up brand: things you might not necessarily ask your mum, and for good reason. We shouldn't be patronising you; if you did happen to ask your mum about that tea set she adores then please share, but if your girlfriend gets on well with your female family members then assume that they may well have some ideas that they want to share with you. Admitting you don't know is OK in this case. If neither of you know what to do, suggest a time when you could casually ask either the relative themselves or a close cohort, like a partner or sibling.

Well, there you have it - may your new-found wisdom serve you well. If not, then sod off to Facebook and don't come crying to me when you're locked outside your own flat at 4AM.

Tune in next time for another exciting installment - next time focusing on a woman's need for what men deem 'unnecessary preening'.

1 comment:

Luke said...

I shall endeavour to remember this really very useful stuff if ever again I am enamoured with a member of the fairer sex!

Some of it seems like common decency, and the fact that its exactly the kind of thing men need to be told depresses me. haha.