May 3, 2001
I had to buy a present for my sister recently. Shopping for women, if you don't happen to actually be a woman yourself, is a nightmare.
I've noticed that when men go shopping for clothes, there is a sense of purposefulness about it. We're going to the store to buy something, some specific thing in response to a specific need. A shirt. I need a shirt. We march in, try something on. If it fits, we buy it and march back out. No squealing, no cooing, no fanfare. We take care of our needs. There is a sense of accomplishment. We live from shirt to shirt.
When women go shopping, it's closer to a jazz dance than a march. They go into a shop with only the vaguest idea of what they want or -- Dare I even bring this word into the discussion? -- need. Let me tell you, these women are amazing. They are bred to shop from the time they are little girls. They need special dresses for special occasions. They think about what they're wearing. They are actually trying to look good when they get dressed. Men are simply trying to not be naked when they go outside. We want to be protected from the elements. That's good enough for us. "Shirt. Warm. Good."
Women don't need most of the things they buy. How do you explain that you need a pair of black shoes when you already have 50 pairs of black shoes at home? I understand this now that 10 women explained it to me. None of those shoes will do. None of them are right. Those are bad, bad shoes. There is a pair of shoes out there that is absolutely perfect for this outfit, this evening, this destination, and she is going to find it. Somewhere, over the rainbow, perhaps, there is a Manolo Blahnik mule that is calling her name.
I love women's shops. They're so civilized; the salespeople so welcoming. It seems to the outsider that they're inviting you in to relax, sit down, have something to drink. Women's clothes don't look like much of anything when they're hanging on a rack. All the curves are missing; they need to have real live women inside them to make any sense to us. I wonder how women know what looks good on them? The answer: Intuition. The closest a man gets to intuition is bringing his wife, girlfriend or mother with him when he goes shopping.
Sometimes, women go shopping and don't buy anything. Do you know what that's about? They're doing reconnaissance missions, preseason warm-ups. A woman window-shopping is like a batter in the on-deck circle taking practice swings.
How a woman ever chooses a purse is beyond me. I took my girlfriend Kathy to Gucci for her birthday. Some bags were too big, others too small to hold all her crap. She didn't like the color of this one, the strap of another, the clasp of a third. When she asked my opinion and I told her that I liked the tan one, she looked at me as if I had just passed gas. In Gucci, no less! My utter lack of female intuition was glaringly obvious.
Forty minutes later, she finally chose something that looked roughly like a leopard print-covered human liver with a strap that fit her like a shoulder holster -- all this for a scant $650. I was exhausted. Women may have 60 percent of the muscle mass of men, but they have twice the shopping stamina.
In the end, my sister told me that she wanted the faux-crocodile patterned purse in celadon, which is a color somewhere in the sage-mint-celery area, and goes with beige, white and black. "Tell me it doesn't!" she challenged. I did not dare. Celadon is the new gray. Brown is the new black. Pink is the new red. No wonder I'm so confused.
Women are so free with compliments that buying a good purse can be a confirmation of one's self-worth. If a woman tells another woman, "I love your bag, is it new?" It means: "You're so smart, and I can tell by looking at you that you're a good person. I want to be your best friend in the whole world. You're going to heaven."
I'm convinced that men have more or less been running the world because we don't have to choose between heels and sandals. If men had to accessorize, it would throw the order of the universe into chaos. A man thinks: "I'm wearing a belt. It's either black or brown. It's either thin or thick. It holds my pants up." Add one more variable to that stew, and anarchy would reign. If men had to buy pantyhose ... I shudder to think.
Sooner or later we all have to cross that Rubicon and go shopping for the women in our lives. At the very least it says: I'm sorry about something and I'm trying to buy my way out of trouble. At best it says: I am so thoughtful, and you are one lucky girl to have me. My girlfriend Kathy broke up with me three weeks after our Rodeo Drive shopping spree. She left with the purse and no regrets, explaining that shopping is like sex, but it lasts longer. "Men come and go," she said wistfully, "but Gucci is forever."