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     I have a long history with shopping.  When I was a youngster, back in my formative years, most of my shopping time was spent in the company of my mother, my sister, and my grandmother.  Three females.  And me – a boy.

     At an early age I learned to cope with traveling in a band and hanging around clothes stores, and shoe stores, and the like.  Most of the time it involved using my mind to go to a happy place, filled with candy and video games.  If I was very lucky the store would have a toy department.  You’d be surprised, though, how many clothing stores don’t have a toy department.  Or video games.

     So now I’m an adult male and while I don’t get ecstatic over the idea of going shopping with the woman-folk, I go along because it’s not that bad.  Do I look like the harried husband, dutifully following his wife carrying shopping bags and boxes?  I sure the hell do.  But, thanks to my early training, it doesn’t bother me and I can carry a handbag around without feeling like everyone in the store is laughing at me.

     See, it’s not all bad.  For one thing, there’s the lingerie department.  Any man who feels embarrassed walking through a lingerie department or Victoria’s Secret or the like is a fool.

     But I also go because my wife makes me feel important.  She constantly asks my opinion, you see.  And I learned, long ago, that not having an opinion is a Bad Thing.  Not having an opinion means that you don’t care.  While the male brain has a ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ not caring mode, women always see it as the negative version.  You need to care, to have an opinion, and to be able to provide some kind of input even if you’re spreading around the bullshit.  That may sound bad, but you never know what you can find in bullshit. 

     Women’s shoes are a world in themselves.  And this is my horrible secret:  I don’t know what makes a pair of shoes ‘cute.’  To me, they’re foot wear.  They come in different colors, materials, and styles.  Show me two pairs of shoes and I may think they’re identical only to find out that one pair is hideous and the other pair is cute.  What makes that difference?  I have no idea.

     But every once in a while I’ll point out a pair of shoes that’s acceptable.  Or find a pair of earrings that match the target ensemble.  Sometimes I can even find the shirt that matches.  And, strangely, that’s a pretty good feeling.  An “I done it right!” feeling.

     Oh, yes, one more thing.  Thanks to my dad, of all people, I can also do things that might be too embarrassing for other men to do.  My dad has been known to do some pretty traumatizing things to me in the interest of fun.  Things like, buying play sand and telling the check out girl that he’s making a sandbox for me (at 19 years old) and would she like to come over and play sometime.  Or having me pay for training bras for my little sister at Bradlee’s while he was “in the bathroom.”  You know, stuff like that. 

     Yesterday I was asked to go through a table full of panties.  I don’t know if she meant it as a joke or what, but while she was trying on clothes I was going through the panty bins looking for undies.  Was I embarrassed?  Nope.  I just rooted through the stuff looking for the right size.  I did get confused as to which way was up on a few items, but I managed to get through it.

      So, while I wish I was like James Bond or Jason Bourne (huh, I never noticed that the two fictional Super Spies had the same initials – how original) and could assess a woman’s proportions and accent her make up professionally, I just muddle through the best I can without the help of government training.  And even if I don’t get it right, she makes me feel like I did.