Basic Instincts: Alex In Wonderland

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By J. Michael Willard

Guys, listen up. Yes, even you the tough guy in the cowboy hat, faded Levi’s and white tee-shirt rolled just so to capture that half-smoked pack of Marlboros in the sleeve.

I’m probably not the first man to complain about this, but I hope to sound a call for reason, sanity and decency on a topic that makes sniveling cowards of nearly all of us males.

I’m talking about shopping with wives, girlfriends, significant others, or young lady children. For me the experience has been with girl friends, later lovely wives, and four exceptional daughters.

I leave out the five grandchildren because four are all of the male variety except for a granddaughter named Cali, a child actress and model for Disney catalogues. She lives 3,000 miles away in LA.

Yes, we guys are Alex in Wonderland. I’m not telling you something that’s a mystery, like spoiling the slasher scene in the Hitchcock “Psycho” movie classic.

Of course you know this, but perhaps don’t admit it.

When it comes to shopping with “sugar, spice, and everything nice”, our testosterone level drops to where our inner klaxons wail. Our egos drown in a perfume of the effete and emasculated.

We become shopping eunuchs, afraid to protest vehemently because of the threat, spoken or otherwise. It has to do with whether we get another six pack of beer or perhaps a second helping of cholesterol-clogging fried goop we love.

I think there are several reasonable solutions, and with no help from Google or Wikipedia, I venture forth. Admittedly, it is an exercise in futility, but, being the puppy dog tails we are, we try and try again.

However, I think you will agree there is something uber manly in getting this long-held pet peeve off my chest, even if my argument is directed not any lady but at the promotion of commerce.

So, Retailers: You listen up. I appeal to those who crave larger margins, a tribe that — one would think — includes most all of us who walk upright and have a mortgage and a car payments.

I ask you, how much does a decent chair cost from my favorite club, the one called Sams and which has something to do with Wal-Mart?

What follows is not a non-non-sequitur but perhaps the soundest advice you have had since the suggestion you take a Donald Trump real estate course or buy pork bellies on the Chicago exchange.

What about providing a half dozen relatively comfortable places for guys to sit, strategically placed near the dressing rooms, where we are asked the inevitable: “How does this look, honey?”

A gratuitous recommendation would be to go a step further. Place a sign that they are only for the male species over the age of, say, 35.

It wouldn’t hurt to add an electric socket nearby and a mobile telephone charger. This is not a revolutionary concept — many stores do recognize the problem — but others are sadistic neanderthals.

By this simple, affirmative and practical action, any retailer can soothe both brain and bottom. For the retailer, this is a superhighway to open wallets and credit cards of all colors.

The only male shopping oasis to be found in many stores is in the shoe department.

There, by the grace of God and practicality, retailers are forced to put in chairs so that women can slip shoes on and off. Otherwise, countless ladies would topple over inserting six big into shoe small.

My second suggestion comes by way of innovation and invention, something that probably comes from having watched the science program “Mr. Wizard” as a kid in the hazy 50s.

While I’ve never being handy with tools, and own neither a hammer or a screwdriver, I envision a feather-weight, space-age metal chair that could be folded and carried in a scabbard strapped to a man’s waist.

Admittedly, it might look as silly as those fanny packs some men wore in the non-too-distant past, but would be much more useful.

When forced on a shopping expedition, one merely has to unsheathe the handy light-weight apparatus, place caboose on chair, and contraption on a fitting surface.

Hence, one idea for the retailer and another for the masses.

Think I could get a Nobel Prize for this.

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