A Few Tips for the Hapless Male

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.

MCFIV copyright graphic 1998

Please support independent analysis, opinions and pointed protestations.

Please treat IV Words to a cup of coffee!

Originally published in the High Plains Reader.

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, Fargoan (North Dakota, that is), proud introvert, veteran messaging strategist/copywriter, blogger (https://ivwords.com) nonprofit founder (https://theclimateknights.org/) and big-time reader. As they say, if you're gonna write good stuff, you have to read good stuff. A ginger, too - ergo the "Red" - although some of it's going white. Cinnamon-Sugar, I call it. Tattooed to boot; seven so far. At age 54, I'm stilling crankin' AC/DC & Metallica, but now and again I spin some Eric Church and Black Uhuru, too. I love hanging out with my (much) better half, spending time with our kids, writing, hiking, riding my mountain bike and reading.

1 Comment

Paul Jensen · January 30, 2019 at 5:48 am

I know that chair. I plop down there every so often and thank my good fortunes for the smartphone I have with me. With my peripheral view I can detect motion from the changing rooms just with enough time to look up, smile and in my most diplomatic way make statements like; how great you look; how well this new blouse accentuates your hair color; or anything else that is a statement that doesn’t directly gives an opinion of the wearable textile at hand. Keep it neutral. Yes, I know what you are talking about Martin. 🙂

Let me know what you think!