by Jon Minners
It's that time of the year again, and while you love being able to give gifts to your loved ones, the act of shopping is probably one of the most boring tasks to complete. It becomes that much worse when your girlfriend or wife is involved.
Alone, gifts can be purchased rather quickly without any real thought into how it will affect your finances or how it will even be received by the person you are shopping for. If they don't like it, they don't understand the meaning of Christmas - it's the thought that counts and he or she doesn't need to know that you put no thought into it at all.
But with a woman involved, Christmas shopping takes on a new meaning. Not only are you purchasing gifts for your loved ones, but you are also purchasing gifts for their loved ones. No longer can you recklessly purchase gifts - now you have to buy gifts perfectly suited to each individual taste (forget gift cards) and you also need to look for the perfect sale. You must also contend with your significant other's own desires, so that dress on sale at Macy's is not for your sister - it's for your girlfriend and that means she needs to try it on and also debate with herself whether she should be shopping for herself when she is shopping for gifts. Needless to say, shopping with your girlfriend or wife can be a nightmare, but it doesn't have to be. Here are simple tips to help you avoid a desire to throw yourself over a railing at a mall whilst shopping with the woman you love.
1. Always seem interested. If you go into the ordeal in protest, your girlfriend will go into the shopping excursion mad at you and no matter what you do during the trip, her anger will last well into the night. This is not a good thing, because you then owe her. This could result in another shopping adventure and we do not want that. Go into each store with interest - discuss the plan of action and your ideas on what you would like to get for each individual on your Christmas list; offer suggestions when they show you items they are thinking about buying; pick out items you think might work (she will turn those ideas down, but it shows you are trying - big bonus points). Keep in mind that it is ok to appear clueless, so when you keep picking out one bad item after another, you do look like you are trying, but your girlfriend may need a break from you and decide to go off on her own for a bit. This is good. It allows you to cool off and recharge your batteries for the next store.
2. When at a store, it is okay to wander off on your own to look for personal items you may need. You can also suggest splitting up to look for gifts, but keep in mind that your ideas are usually going to be ignored, so if you decide to go down this route, don't even bother looking for gifts...look for yourself. Most gifts that your girlfriend is going to decide upon are going to be for women or older men who cannot appreciate fun games and gadgets. You will be allowed to buy gifts on your own for guy friends and your little brother, nephew or cousin, because your girlfriend will acknowledge that in this department, you actually do know best. So, when wandering off, stick to these areas. Look at games, toys, computers, iPods, televisions and so on. Do not go into aisles your girlfriend will venture off into, even if they are interesting to you (such as kitchen appliances). Why? Well, you might think you are getting a jump start by looking through these aisles and reporting to your girlfriend that there is nothing there worth buying, but all you are doing is wasting your time. Your girlfriend is going to go down the aisle anyway, forcing you to repeat the process, and therefore making the trip that much more excruciating.
3. Take breaks when you can. I was at Macy's the other day and had no need for a coffee, but shopping at Macy's is overwhelming and I needed a way to get away, even for a few minutes. I yawned a little, commented on how tired I was and then conveniently noticed a Starbucks inside the store. Do not appear selfish either. I turned to my girlfriend and asked her if she would like me to get her a cup of coffee. She said no, but said if I wanted a cup, I should go up. I told her I didn't want to leave her to get a cup of coffee, but when someone passed by and I said, "Mmmm...frap," and she said, "go get one if you want," I jumped at the opportunity. I appeared that I was being valiant in my effort to stick around and help out more by not going the first time. It didn't hurt that I eventually did go. And when I did, I took my time, but still made sure there was enough frap available to offer my girlfriend a sip. You should strategically take breaks whenever you can. The bathroom works, too. Going to the bathroom is an awesome opportunity to take a break. It allows you to take as long as you want. Blame the line. It's a great way to just relax for a bit when the constant walking and indecision is getting you down.
4. Never rush anyone in the last store. If you have nowhere to go, rushing your girlfriend in the last store will just make her angry, and possibly make her take longer than she should - just on purpose. If you are smart, you will make your shopping trip part of an all-day event, and make reservations to a restaurant or have tickets for a movie or play. Then, at the last store, you can say something like, "Damn, I wish we had more time to shop, but the movie is about to start in 30 minutes and train traffic is horrible on the weekends." If you didn't make plans, just know that the last store is usually not the important store, because girls like to get the important gifts out of the way first. You can wait it out. For any other store, it is okay to point out that they should speed things up if they want to get to the other stores before they close. This helps, because it nowhere near implies that you are trying to get out of shopping.
5. Bring a book or video player. If your girlfriend does intend to shop for herself, she is going to buy 30 dresses and only buy two. That means 30 minutes in the changing room and you sitting there bored out of your mind. Having a book handy or something to watch will make the experience more enjoyable. I still don't get why stores catering to women do not include lounge areas that allow guys to unwind. I can drink a coffee and relax while my girl shops?! Sign me up. It would lead to far less arguments and probably a lot more sales.
6. If you are online shopping, girls do not change their habits. They look at every item in each aisle in the stores, and they will look at every possible item they can look at online. If you are helping your girlfriend shop online, sit with your laptop on the opposite side of your girlfriend. Curl up in a way that blocks the screen and keep Amazon.com open. Then, using tabs that you can x out of quickly, open up other screens and read news, watch videos in silence or chat with friends (not too much - a girl can tell the difference between typing to search and typing to chat.) Every once in awhile, shout out a suggestion. When she rejects your idea, put another item up on the screen. Don't say anything. Keep that item there for a few minutes until it is time to shout out the next item she will pan. This way, if she comes by your computer, you don't have the old item up on the screen - a dead giveaway that you are not working. This should always work.
7. Always offer to carry bags. When you are loaded down with bags, you have a right to complain a little about how tired you are or how much your arms hurt. A caring girlfriend will feel bad and try to quicken her pace a bit to make the shopping experience less painful for you. After all, you are working hard, carrying gifts that are not even for your family.
8. Never eat at the food court first. If you go to the mall, you must schedule a food court excursion for the middle of the trip. If you go first, when you are finished with your meal, there is still no denying that you have shopping to do. However, in the middle of the trip, when your girlfriend or wife is extremely tired, it is a great idea to suggest a break for some lunch or early dinner. Pick an establishment that serves filling food - the kind that just sits in your belly and anchors you to the floor. Never mention shopping during your break. At the beginning, you may have to go over your list, but after that, talk about things that involve being home, curling up in front of the television and just relaxing. Put her in a mood that has her wanting to do anything, but shopping. A good meal will leave you a little sleepy...a good meal after a long shopping trip will increase that level of tiredness. Never suggest going home, but if she says, "Ohhhh, I don't want to shop anymore...I'm so tired," jump on it with an encouraging phrase or two. "You did great shopping today...we can finish the list another time. It's okay." It's a good way to cut an exhausting day in half.
9. Take on extra work and then blame it on your boss. "Baby, I can't go shopping with you today. I have to finish those reports for my boss. This sucks. I really wanted to help, but we can use the extra money with what we are spending on gifts." It is always good to mention the economy and how forward thinking you are, while showing that you are helping in your own way. Then, if she decides to go shopping on her own or with a friend, finish that extra work from the comfort of your home, using your laptop while you watch a little television. Relax and enjoy your freedom.
10. Never go shopping at the last minute. If you hold off all your shopping until the last minute, you may find yourself shopping from the moment a store opens until it closes at midnight. The anxiety will force your girlfriend to ignore the hunger pains, and she will not want you to leave her side, because if you go to get coffee, you are not helping in this major moment of need - you become the bad boyfriend. You will carry more bags, including those hard Macy's bags with the twine handles that cut into your skin. You will become angry and rush your girlfriend. She will get mad. You will fight. And she will blame you for ruining Christmas, which means you will have to make it up, either with an expensive New Year's or the most romantic Valentine's Day your mind can comprehend - which I know it can't. We're men after all.
I made it through the holiday rush without a scratch. Follow these tips and you can have a Merry Christmas, too.
For more witty commentary from Jon Minners, visit his blog, The Milk's Gone Bad, at http://tmgbblog.blogspot.com/.