What is it about men and shopping? Why can they never see the thrill of visiting all the shops to see what is on offer, before finally deciding on the perfect item? I know it’s often the first one you saw, but you never know it’s perfect until you have seen all the options.
We’ve been married for nearly fifty years, and I have mostly given up on dragging Charlie shopping with me. It simply isn’t worth the effort. He usually gets bored by the third shop, and then is such a nuisance that I can’t enjoy my shopping. I even buy most of his clothes — after all these years together, I know what he likes; almost I venture to say, better than he does. He’s happy with the arrangement, as long as he doesn’t have to participate. Unfortunately, he is going to have to come shopping with me this week — he needs a new suit for the Golden Anniversary party our children are planning.
I knew what Charlie would say when I broached the subject, and the conversation went true to form.
“But, Margaret, my old suit is good enough.”
“Charlie, it’s thirty years old and completely out of style. You last wore it for our daughter’s wedding. I want you to look your best. All our friends will be there.”
“But do you really need me to go with you?”
“I want to make sure it fits properly, and I need you there to try it on.”
“You know how much I hate shopping.”
“And usually I do it all, so you can’t begrudge coming along this time.”
He should have known by now that resistance is futile, but we still had to go through our little ritual before he capitulated.
“Oh, all right then. When do we go?”
“Tomorrow morning.” I replied, relaxing now that the matter was agreed. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
The following morning, I enjoyed a brief lie-in, while Charlie was up early. I came downstairs to find him happily planting bulbs. “Charlie, we agreed we’d go shopping this morning.”
“Sorry, dear, I forgot. I’m not getting any younger, you know. Anyway, I only need another hour to finish off.” Sometimes I think he simply uses his age as an excuse when he doesn’t want to remember. It’s a bit like his deafness, which I notice has become significantly worse since he retired from the bank.
I also knew he could stretch his ‘hour to finish’ to the whole day, and sent him to change. “You can finish gardening after we’ve been shopping.”
I told Charlie to park in the parking centre right in town. “Then we can start at Marks and Sparks.” I thought I heard a groan at the word start, but a quick glance at Charlie’s bland expression reassured me.
Once we were in the shop, we began looking through the rails, but nothing caught my eye. After half an hour, Charlie hopefully pulled out a totally unsuitable ensemble which he assured me would do.
“No, dear, that is dreadful. There is no way you are wearing a white jacket. You know you’d never keep it clean. There’s nothing here. Let’s go and look in Debenhams. If they don’t have anything, there’s that men’s outfitters on the corner.”
This time, I was sure I heard a groan, but Charlie had adopted his innocent expression — you know the one that says “I’m up to no good, but you can’t prove it!”
We trotted off to Debenhams, Charlie obediently following. On the way in, Charlie noticed the sign for their coffee shop. “Let’s have a cup of coffee and some cake,” he suggested.
It was an obvious ploy. “That would be lovely,” I began, and his face lit up. “We’ll have coffee when we’ve found the suit.”
“Come along, dear the suits are this way.” There was a good selection on the rails, and I took out several to inspect them more closely, while Charlie found a chair and sat staring. Then I saw it – a very smart navy suit, and in Charlie’s size. It looked perfect. And it was on sale. What could be better? They even had another in black, so I took both from the rails, and handed both to Charlie. “Go try them on, see how they fit.”
There was a gaggle of women waiting outside the changing room. I caught the eye one of the other ladies, and we chuckled together at the inability of our men to choose their own clothes. One by one, their respective ‘other halves’ came out to have their outfits inspected for fit, style and suitability.
As I have said before, I am very aware of how well Charlie and I have come to know each other. But even I was surprised when Charlie emerged from the dressing room, looking dapper in the navy suit, and to the amusement of everyone asked, “Do I like this, dear?”
Denice Penrose is a freelance writer. She has had short stories published online, and in two anthologies for sale on Amazon. She has had non-fiction articles published in Prima, Best of British, and Cilip Gazette. She wrote for Cat World for a few years.