During a recent excursion to the flatlands, I once again was dragged kicking and screaming to THE MALL -- a place of claustrophobia and despair for someone who likes neither crowds nor spending money.
Forty-some years later Kohl's, JC Penney, Target, Eddie Bauer -- they all trigger that Pavlovian response. I walk through their doors and my feet begin to ache. They hurt, honestly. I must sit down. And for some reason women's clothing stores suffer from a dearth of chairs, leaving me to wonder, out loud and loudly, "What do they expect men to do at these places?"
Yeah, so my feet hurt. But not, apparently, at Macy's.
Laurie may have landed upon the cure -- and I'm not talking about the food court or a stiff drink -- for my abhorrence of all things mall. I can't stand to shop at the local grocery store or corner trinket shop either, if I'm just following around from produce to dairy, dresses to shoes. I'm miserable company and make sure she and everyone around me knows how much I don't want to be there.
In the department store directory, you'll find me under "jerk."
You'd think she'd learn and leave me home. For some unfathomable reason she wants me there shopping with her despite the fact that I purposely wring the pleasure out of it.
I don't understand "retail therapy" and at the risk of being sexist and stereotyping, most guys don't. If a guy needs a pair of jeans, he goes to the men's section, finds his size, may or may not try on those jeans, goes to the checkout and buys them. He will not select eight different pairs, matching shirts or a "pretty belt." He will not pull things off the rack, run his hands over them, hold them up to himself in front of a mirror or, for God's sake, do a spin.
Keeping all this in mind, the fair reader may wonder, just what happened at Macy's?
The sales people at Macy's saw me coming. I'm pretty sure Laurie called ahead and told them I was in the market for shoes and a suit. I should check her cell phone.
What Laurie did was either unintentional or diabolical. She parked us at the men's section entrance, where over the course of a couple hours I opened a 20-percent-off all purchases credit account, tried on and bought a suit, a sweet necktie and three pairs of shoes -- including the first impulse shoe buy of my entire life (insert picture of Converse's here).
What all that tie hunting, shoe fitting and self absorption did for me was take my mind off the fact I was in a clothing store. Since it was all about me, and I was doing the picking, could I honestly gripe and moan?
As Laurie sat through a 50-minute sales pitch makeover, I let the men's cologne saleswomen spray and spritz me and fuss over me to the point of ALMOST making a $79 aftershave sale.
Since we were still close to the car -- and its free parking -- every time we bought something on my 20-percent-off card, I'd run it out to the trunk. That included another three pairs of shoes that Milford, the lady's shoe salesman, guided Laurie into buying, as a dozen different pairs scattered around her feet like rose petals.
A women's shoe section has chairs, so I could not complain about my aching feet. But more than that, I engaged in the act of shoe shopping with Laurie, offering my opinions, seeking out pairs she might like, and even sharing my thoughts with a woman in the next chair over who was trying to pick out a pair of boots.
Who was this dude? Had all that cologne dulled my senses? Holy cats, was I actually enjoying myself?
Yes. Even though a chain department store pried hundreds of dollars out of my tightly clenched fist (metaphorically speaking) buying stuff I picked out myself took my mind off my psychosomatic response to department stores.
And since we spent a couple hours catering to your's truly, my aching dogs didn't have a right to bark at Laurie.
Laurie finally figured it out. A little slight of hand -- distract me with shiny things while she runs to the dressing room.