One of the most endearing experiences in a man’s life is the weekend shopping adventure with the lady for her apparel. The experience is akin to a board examination in - patience. A lot of pre-planning, clever tactics and deft touches go into passing this examination with flying colors! Injuries are common but would not deter the brave man from taking a shot at the trial by fire!
The afternoon starts off when you enter the perfume-filled women’s section of any big store such as a Lifestyle or a Shoppers’ Stop. The initial part of the drama always has the guy actively looking out for clothes along with the lady. Early signs of boredom will be met with a strong look of disdain and constant egging on to enthusiastically participate in the cloth-buying process. After a few minutes of looking around, you are armed with five dresses that you believe will positively charm the lady. However, one look of hers’ at the ‘gorgeous’ dresses you have brought gives you an indication that your choices would have suited Lady Gaga better than a sane girl.
Having been reduced to a ‘man of questionable tastes in dresses’, you start the hunt for a good seat to plant your rear in. Apparel shops are very stingy in their seating space. One would assume that big retail chains ought to keep the accompanying males in mind and have separate rooms or areas stocked up with comfortable sofas. Instead, you are greeted with exactly one and half two-seater pieces of wood that are occupied by grandmas, dogs and fat aunties (in that order). Though you spare a moment in wondering what on earth grandmas and dogs might get in this shop, you are quickly alerted to a few potential hours of standing.
The mobile phone is the man’s best companion on these occasions. Anything from the dumb ‘Snakes’ game to a boring song on FM can act as life-savers. Loading up the phone with mp3s prior to the shopping trip also helps. GPRS is a boon. You stand tinkering around with your phone, longingly looking at one of those sofas hoping that someone would get up or be called upon to check a dress. If and when that happens, your only job is to employ a maneuver combining a fly, a dive and a jump to ensure that the seat is not taken by one of the many other prowling husbands.
After what looks like an eternity, you get a call on your mobile. You wonder if the whole process has finished in less than an hour. However, the call is to take the lady’s handbag so that shopping can resume with renewed vigor and a higher capacity for carrying clothes. You oblige and take the handbag to complete the frightening picture of a hopeless man standing with a woman’s handbag desperately eyeing fat aunties.
After many a failed attempt, you finally grab a seat and settle down. As one radio RJ after another disappears into the evening, you also lose count of the number of dogs that have managed to give you company. A call awakens you from the self-enforced slumber and you are summoned to the trial room to check out the selected dresses. You rejoice at being able to finally see light at the end of the tunnel. Giving up your throne needs to be well thought out. If there is a chance that there are more dresses that need to be picked up, you would rather advise the lady to continue for some more time. If not, then you give up the place that has served you well for the last many hours.
As you start walking towards the trial rooms, you cross millions of ladies who are standing in a serpentine queue with anywhere up to fifty dresses in their hands. You wonder whether some of them are actually going in to check their make-up and appearance. A thought also occurs on whether a few women are checking out the dresses that the others have stocked up in their hands. Research has indicated that over half the dresses in a shop at any time are probably inside the trial room or in the hands of the dames in the queue.
You also cross many guys holding kids and yearningly looking towards the dressing room for their spouses. These were the unlucky ones that could not get a seat and had to stand around. You make a nodding eye contact with these poor souls indicating that you do understand their plight. The nod acts as a telepathic motivation to ward off the constipated look of despair in their eyes. You do have a mean laugh to yourself feeling you just crossed that hurdle and wish them the best of luck.
The positioning of the ladies trial rooms is one of the most puzzling things ever. You always need to cross the lingerie section to get into the same. The lingerie section of course has a lot of mannequins showing off various (cloth) pieces. You become suddenly aware that you are standing in the middle of half-naked models (of the wooden kind). You just can’t lift your head and look up in the lingerie section knowing what is going to stare at you. Your mere presence around this section makes the ladies behind the counter give you demeaning looks and questioning your existence in the shop. You quickly wade through the barrage of discerning sights and reach the trial room where the lady is waiting to show her final picks.
The final cloth choice is one of the well dress-rehearsed activities (pun intended) Two items are shown to you. This is where the examination comes to the rapid-fire round. Most often than not, only one of them is the right choice. Sometimes, both the items are desired and the objective is to confuse you enough to get both. You have to realize that the choice has already been made. Your job is to judge which one that is, and correctly guess! The trick here is to study the facial reactions by throwing back the question and then make an ‘informed’ decision depending on the level of the smile / happiness in the lady's face. This process is repeated for many sets of cloth pieces.
As you finish the approval process and walk towards the billing counter, one last-minute round of cloth retrieval, trial and triumph starts paining you no end. This is a rare occasion when you can actually throw the tantrum. An electronic gadget that you wished for or a big sumptuous dinner breaking the diet is never far off on these occasions. All it takes is a whiff of disapproval at the lovely afternoon (and evening, and night) being spent inside a cloth shop and the lady obliges with the compromise gift. After many rounds of the whole process illustrated earlier, you are armed with the final shortlist of apparel that shall head out of the gates.
At the end of finding your way through a billing-counter queue that would put the American visa counters to shame, one or more of the following things always happens just about the time you are ready to finish your adventure -
(a) A cloth item had the tag missed; so a messenger is sent to retrieve the tag from the Pacific Ocean, that is the ladies section
(b) The machine crashed and it would take 13 people around 37 minutes to repair the same (which is still faster than the neighboring counter which is being hogged by that same fat aunty who has bought a zillion items for entire extended self and family)
(c) A sudden realization on the lady that Item X that has been taken is not as good as Item Y that was rejected around half-hour back; hence Item Y needs to be retrieved
After what looks like another hour or so, the payment done and the mission accomplished, you walk out of the shop. You would not be at fault to think that the security guys were having their own private joke going on about when you would leave the shop. You stock up the various items on the back-seat of the car (which suddenly feels very small) and drive back home through the traffic comprising of others who have also just about managed to finish shopping.
After coming back home, the new dresses need to be re-checked for size and fit. One of the dresses ends up having a big blot under the arm (this missed detection during the pre-buying process). A sudden thought that the said dress was probably anyway not a great one (you see, this one had created the maximum doubt in the lady’s mind at the shop itself but was bought because it was cheaper by around Rs. 27) also accompanies this finding. After concurring that Indian shops would typically not be open at 11:30 pm, sleep beckons with the thought of having to go back the following weekend to return the dress and find a replacement all over again…
(Disclaimer: A lot of exaggeration has gone into making the post the way it is. And obviously this is a general observation on all males accompanying all the ladies for their shopping! So don't make any smart ass comments now :)