The Man Chair

A Few Tips for the Hapless Male

photo of guy in chair while women shop

There I sit, helplessly, in The Man Chair.

Don’t confuse this with the infamous lounger where men devour chips and beer in front of the game. Far from a throne overlooking any urban kingdom, this chair is reserved for the stalwart few who venture forth to malls on weekends.

Look in any women’s clothing store, next to the changing rooms. There it is, The Man Chair. You’ll see a hapless, slouching guy, looking worn out but relieved that he snagged the only refuge in the place.

I don’t know who first realized the need for The Man Chair. My guess, it was a clerk who got sick of long-faced men staring at the floor amongst the racks, hands jammed deep into pockets, trying to look nonchalant and mumbling too loudly about the Vikings any time another man walked by. Whoever it was, we’re in their debt.

The Man Chair is the desperate male’s only island in a sea of satin blouses, strappy sandals, silk skirts and matching pumps. It’s where those who only can manage to match T-shirts with old jeans avoid being spied by some unattached male strolling past the women’s section.

Problem is, there’s usually only one Man Chair, maybe two in a big store. But what good is that on a viciously competitive Saturday afternoon? On busy days, dozens vie for The Man Chair with eagle eyes peeled, anticipating the moment when the previous man leaves. Only the wily and nimble prevail.

Let’s face it, we need The Man Chair. We just don’t comprehend the goings-on in a mall. For the male psyche, there are few phenomena more bewildering than a female partner — be she wife, girlfriend or simply friend — clothes shopping.

Our fathers didn’t tell us that “cute” from a woman is good, but from a man it’s an insult. That “fine” is week-long cold-shoulder material. We like fine, fine is good. But she wants beautiful, radiant, gorgeous…pick your adjective. Furthermore, we didn’t learn that as many as 100 items can be cute but unworthy, while others wind up in the back seat.

We don’t understand how some women can touch every item on every rack, then walk away with nothing. We can’t comprehend why, if she finds a cute skirt, she’ll need just the right top to match or she won’t buy the skirt. After all, jeans match everything.

So there I sit, in The Man Chair. When my bride comes out I say flattering things like, “Wow, honey, that looks great.” I cringe, hoping she thinks the same. Only the ignorant man says he adores something she believes is unflattering. Conundrum is, her personal filter defines flattering; I can only take a stab and hope for the best.

Actually, with a little practice and persistence, I’ve become quite adept at mall outings. At least, that’s what she tells me. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Get out of the parking lot. Listening to the RedHawks on the radio doesn’t help her, or you.
  • Take an active role. Point out outfits she might like. Hold her purse.
  • Be patient. Remember, every item on every rack.
  • Smile.

In short, be the man she fell in love with, the person who is interested in her needs.

I don’t presume to hold the keys to a successful shopping excursion. I just struggle through, like all the rest. What can I tell you, guys? Learn the lingo, spot the signs, and good luck. Finally, do me a favor:

Vacate The Man Chair when you see me coming.

Martin C. Fredricks IV logo

Originally published in the High Plains Reader.

Author: Martin C. Fredricks IV

Martin C. “Red” Fredricks IV here. I’m husband to an amazing woman who is also my best friend, dad to three outstanding kids, proud Fargoan (North Dakota, that is), veteran messaging strategist/copywriter, blogger and big-time reader. (If you're gonna write good stuff, you have to read good stuff.) A ginger, too (ergo the "Red"). At age 50 I'm a newbie to tattoos - I have three now - but the kind artists at the parlor tell me it's never too late. I like hanging out with my best friend, who also happens to be my wife, watching the kids in their academic and athletic activities, writing, hiking and riding my mountain bike.

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