SWEATER

SWEATER

I’m glad I have no interest in wearing women’s clothes, because I’m terrible at buying them. It’s immature, I know, but I always get self-conscious shopping in the women’s department. I can’t say exactly what I’m nervous about – probably either that the salespeople will think I’m shopping for myself or, worse, that they’ll think I’m shopping for my girlfriend or my wife and aww, aren’t I a sweet guy, and they’ll call the other salespeople over and barrage me with questions to try to help me find the perfect gift while they wish they had a boyfriend like me who wasn’t afraid to shop in the women’s department.

In actuality, when I’m in the women’s department, what it means is that it’s almost Christmas and I’ve given up hope. Whenever I ask my sister what she wants for Christmas, I get something like, “Oh, I don’t really need anything” or “I don’t know. Let me think about it.” A few weeks ago, she actually took down her Amazon wish list. Thanks, Kathy. My mom is even worse. If I ask her what she wants, her response is always exactly the same: “A million dollars.” If I press further, I’ll get something like this: “A new house. A new car.” I want to tell her that what she really needs is some new material. Those jokes stopped being funny exactly ten seconds before she first thought them up.

So when I’m shopping for them, it takes some effort. I scour websites. I cruise the mall. I consider their interests and whatever I think they might need. But I’m always stuck with doubt. Kathy loves Buffy, but would she actually watch the DVDs? Probably not. Mom loves running, but you know how those running people are. I’d never be able to pick out exactly the right kind of sneakers or water bottle or whatever. And my mother isn’t the kind of person to smile politely when she doesn’t like your gift. She’ll look at it, shrug and ask, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

So inevitably, I end up at the Gap or Banana Republic or J Crew (I don’t have the guts to go into one of those women-only stores), buying them the one thing I know they’ll enjoy and use. Sweaters. It couldn’t be more boring or more redundant. But they’ll love it. “Ooh, what a nice sweater!” they’ll say.

Saleswomen in these stores seem to know that men looking at women’s clothes are generally clueless, because they’re always very eager to help. I figure it’s because they’ve all received a lot of shitty gifts from their own boyfriends — a jacket they wouldn’t be caught dead in or a skirt that, while nice, is sized for a woman who weighs 300 pounds. Gifts can hurt. So a man can’t walk five paces in the women’s department without being swarmed by helpful saleswomen. The helpful saleswomen don’t realize how much this stresses us out.

“Oh, that’s a lovely color,” the helpful saleswoman said as I held up the pink sweater.

“Um… yeah. She… likes pink.”

“Do you know what size you need? How tall is this woman, compared to me?”

“She’s shorter than you. A few inches shorter than me, actually.”

“Okay, and is she about my size? Is her frame like mine?” She swiveled her hips and stuck out her shoulders, displaying a miniscule Betty Rubble frame.

I have no idea how big my sister’s frame is. All I know is that when a woman is asking you about her frame, you have to be very careful. “Oh, no. She’s not quite as thin as you.” Whew.

“How big is she? Compared to me?”

“Compared to you? She’s a bit… er… um… I think she’s probably a small.”

“Is this for your wife? Or your girlfriend?”

“No, it’s for my sister.”

“Oh.”

And then it was off to Banana Republic to repeat the whole scene for my mom.

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