I bought a handbag yesterday.
Not for me you understand, although I had to carry it about for a while which attracted the odd stare.
It was sale time so we split up. I bought a shirt, jumper and some cheap Christmas cards pretty quickly in my normal manner. Go in, buy stuff, leave. She came back with a bottom lip. “I can’t find anything”.
Despite being in one of the biggest, most enormous and well known stores in the North of England at sale time, I didn’t blame her at all.
The problem with sales is they might promise huge discounts but when it comes to finding your size, your style, your colour and your price, it’s a frustrating task whatever your sex.
I’m a 36 waist and a 31 leg. Try finding that at a sale in the men’s jeans section. I’m a 16 collar which is popular but, as ever, nothing appeared to be in my size. However with a dedication to finding a bargain my mother would have been proud of, I managed to find both and returned to show my partner.
She’d been looking for a bra, a dress, a skirt and a handbag. I can’t remember the sizes and styles she wanted but she’d scoured up and down to no avail. Nothing she liked fitted.
I love clothes shopping for a single reason. You’re surrounded by people doing the same and having similar conversations. In an Alan Bennett way I find fascinating. In fact I often wander off hearing conversations and occasionally latch onto a couple in order to hear the result. I heard this:
“Ooh no Bernard, you’re not wearing that.”
“Why not, I like it”.
“No, it makes you look young”.
“I like looking young”.
“Don’t be so ridiculous”.
Encouraged by my success, she finally found a dress and a skirt she thought might fit – and I joined the line of the living dead.
These are the men waiting outside women’s changing rooms for whom time has stopped. A line of men sitting unprepared to be wasting their lives, yet they do in the faint hope it will be worth it when she emerges. They check the football scores, stare into space and nod off. Finally their partner emerges to tell him none of it fits. He manages a weak smile.
When my lady appeared, she had that hang dog expression every woman has when she can’t find anything.
If you’re a man in a woman’s shopping environment it’s a serious test of your ability to stay focused. This was the case some years ago when my then wife started at one end of Princes Street in Edinburgh, found a dress she liked, tried it on, loved it, but left. Then went through every shop on that street and came back to the same dress before buying it – which took most of the afternoon.
Now you may think I know nothing about shopping and you’d be right. I’d rather sit on a tree stump and watch sheep in a field. However, having been married a couple of times and recently emptied my deceased mother’s wardrobe, I have some understanding of what makes a lady happy when she can’t find that special item.
I’ve occasionally wondered if women ever think what men do with their stuff. After all we have it too, but I have to tell you man bags never took off in the North of England. We continue to mostly stuff our pockets.
I’ve occasionally seen guys get off the London train with a man bag in Leeds. The local reaction is funny.
Not being a fan of ruining a good suit by filling the pockets with stuff, I’ve solved this problem on weekend journeys by taking my laptop bag. Purposeful and butch. Just doesn’t have my laptop in it.
Back in the handbag section, I was surrounded by a myriad of designer ladies bags. Wanting to make her happy without appearing all at sea, I was in a quandary and, as ever, she couldn’t make up her mind. It wasn’t looking good.
Now my go-to colour in this situation is black. The choice of material is always animal made and in this case leather. So it was down to maker, size, pockets, straps and design. No pressure there then.
Finally, after much deliberation one bag triumphed.
It was by Jane Shilton. Now, like most men of a heterosexual nature I know little about ladies designer makes as the market is huge, so the name meant nothing. But it felt and looked good to us both and ticked all her boxes. A quick online search told me they’re a London company founded in 1933 and had that English quality and style about them I liked. Sale.
I bought it for her as an early birthday present and the smile came back to her face. She took my arm and we walked out of the store into the Lancashire sunshine.
She looked up at me. “I’ll buy you a pint.”
“A handbag for a pint. You have a deal.” I replied.
The brownie points were in the bag. Thank-you Jane.
Enjoyed this story? Why not read Northern Male’s article on What Men Really Think About Women