Things That Baffle Me (Shopping)

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to understand what makes women tick and as I have stated on numerous occasions (and as anyone who knows me will happily testify) I have generally failed miserably. So much so in fact, that in recent years I have all but given up and instead, take whatever flak my ignorance earns with all the humble pie I can consume.

For the most part, adopting this life of bewilderment has turned out to be a good thing. Not least because the older and more childlike I become, the more the mystery seems to deepen and the more interesting women become. However, there are still aspects of female life that bemuse me to such an extent that I have to give them serious thought. One such thing is shopping. And I don’t mean a trip to Tesco’s or even Ikea, I mean a full-on full day clothes shop with the coven.

For years I have struggled to understand why women derive such pleasure from what to most blokes, myself included, is a loathsome activity. I’ve never been able to grasp the idea of spending hours wandering clothes shops or worked out what it is about shoes and handbags that females find so orgasmically fascinating. However, after a recent and extremely illuminating discussion with a female who best remain nameless in the way that ‘whistleblowers’ do, I now think I get it.

You see I suspect we males have been missing a fundamental truth. It’s not that we can’t understand womens fascination with shopping, it’s that they don’t want us to understand it! And the reasons for that are best summed up in three particular words.

The first is occasion. For females of all ages, a trip to the shopping mall with the girls is an event. One where giggling ensues, gossip undertaken and worlds put to rights. More importantly, it is one where men are unwelcome for the sole reason that they inhibit their discussions, behaviour or perish the thought, spending!

The second is escapism. Shopping allows women to step outside the humdrum world of everyday life and become whoever or whatever they want to be for a while. It is, in essence, the same as dressing up when they were a little girl and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The third word is perhaps the most controversial and perhaps most worrying because it is deception. And I’m not talking the kind of self deception women practice when they convince themselves that they really do need, will wear and can afford those Christian Louboutin shoes when they hand over their Mastercard, I’m talking about the subversive thrill derived from deceiving the old man. Be it by hiding receipts, cutting off labels or even throwing in words such as ‘bargain’ ‘cheap’ or ‘sale.’ 

Thinking about all this has been an interesting experience. Not least because it’s made me understand that shopping is for women what sporting events are for men. And now that I’ve finally woken up to the fact that the old adage ‘what happens on X stays on X’ (insert football, stock car track, stag night, rugby tour as required) which we’ve employed for decades is also being employed by the fairer sex, I am able to look things in an entirely different light. Not least because when I step out of the door and head out with the lads, I won’t ever have to feel guilty again.

A version of this blog previously appeared on www.moanaboutmen.com

Things That Annoy Me (Part Six – Selfish bastards)

A couple of weeks ago, whilst returning home from an unexpectedly successful meeting in London, something happened that scared the shit out of me.

However, before I relate this particular tale, I need to go back 24 hours prior to that because what I am about to tell you is important in relation to the story that will unfold. You see the previous day I had been haunted by a Crow. And I say haunted advisably because as those who follow my ramblings on twitter will know (well, I had to tell someone!) this bloody thing seemed to be everywhere I went. Not only did it keep staring at me through the window, but it was even sitting on my car when I went out to run an errand!

Now being pursued by a bird which, if you believe in such things, is supposedly a foreteller of doom or even death does not do much good for the nerves. However, I somehow managed to survive the day intact (as did everyone I know I think) and even more amazingly, the night.

So, delighted to be still in this mortal realm and with a meeting to get to, I headed off to London and another encounter with the Underground which, for a variety of reasons, I despise.

OK, with the scene now set I can jump forward to my journey homeward.

There I am, heading for Euston and escape from the big city with the euphoria of what I had just been told still fresh in my mind when I glanced across the carriage and saw something that made me freeze in my tracks.

Sitting there, dressed head to foot in his traditional clothing was an Asian chap. Not an altogether unusual sight in London I’m sure you will agree but what made him stand out was the fact that he was rocking backwards and forward in his seat, eyes closed and twirling some beads between his fingers.

Having served in the Military for as long as I did and having seen at first hand the evidence of what human beings are capable of, to say I became somewhat worried is an understatement. More so because of my recent encounter with the aforementioned Crow.

Thankfully, I was getting off at the next stop and the second the doors opened I was out of there. A glance back revealing him still rocking backwards and forwards with his eyes clamped firmly shut.

Now I’m sure he had his reasons for doing what he was doing and it was obviously totally innocent but even as the train vanished into the tunnel, I actually began to become annoyed. Not just at myself for being more concerned about getting off the train than about actually saying or doing anything, but at the offending individual.

After all, if he wasn’t in London at the time of the 7/7 bombings he would certainly have heard about them and would, like every other traveller on the tube, be wary of anything suspicious. So why did he feel that he had the right to act in what to me at least, was a suspicious if not actually frightening manner? The answer of course, is that it almost certainly didn’t even occur to him and that, to me, is the definition of selfishness.

Indeed, trains and selfishness seem to go hand in hand these days. Quite when it became acceptable for males to remain seating whilst elderly, middle aged, pregnant or even disabled women are forced to stand is beyond me but it really is the height of bad manners. And why do increasing numbers of people seem to feel obliged to wear rucksacks on packed trains? Do they not realise what a bloody pain they are? Of course they do, because they are exactly the kind of people who moan about people wearing rucksacks on trains!

But most selfish of all are those people who talk on mobile phones. I very, very rarely have conversations on phones in public because to me, they are private and I don’t want anyone knowing my business almost as much as I doubt they want to hear it. So quite why others why people feel the need to regale the world with the most inane conversation escapes me. I don’t need to know you are on the train home, I don’t give a toss what you are having for dinner and I certainly don’t care that such and such is screwing such and such.

To make matters worse, I’m sure that these ignorant gits think that when they are talking on mobiles, no one else can hear them. I once listened to a young woman talking loudly to her bank in the seat opposite to me and by the time she had finished, I had written down her account number, sort code, name, date of birth and home address. When I handed them to her and told her that she really needed to be a bit more discreet, she looked at me like I was some kind of sex fiend.  

The sad thing is, selfishness is merely a reflection of what this once great nation has become. It is bereft of both good manners, courtesy, politeness and most importantly of all, shame. And whilst it is easy to blame Lady Thatcher and the ‘me, me, me’ policies of the 1980’s or even the quest for sexual equality (a just battle fought appallingly) the truth is that it’s because too many people do not understand the notion that respect is only given if it is earned.

And they don’t understand it simply because they were never taught it. Which to me is one of the great failings of both our schools and parents across this increasingly desolate country of ours.