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Confessions of a chronic shopaholic

Lakshmi Palecanda, Apr 29 2017, 0:07 IST

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When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

I don’t know who coined this adage, but I think it’s absolutely true. Yes, shopping is the best thing to do when you are stressed out. After all, isn’t it better than committing murder? Of course, there are a million clichs about women and shopping. The first of them is that women like shopping far more than men. This is also absolutely true. Studies have shown that on average, men become tired of shopping in 26 minutes, while it takes two hours for a woman to get fed up.

What is not as well-known is that women have evolved that way. When we were cave-dwellers, Man was the hunter and Woman, the gatherer. The man’s job was to kill an animal and bring it home as soon as possible, because, it would spoil or be carried away by other predators if left outside for too long. Compare this to a man buying a shirt at a mall. He looks for and finds a shirt in the colour and cut he likes, in his size. He buys it before another male finds it, and goes home. Job done.

Now, consider the woman’s job description. She had to go from plant to plant, to find out which part of the plant was edible, when it was edible, if Oog would like it or if Aarg throw up if she ate it (because Oog didn’t like to try new things and Aarg had a sensitive stomach). And she always brought back a lot of stuff, because when you find bananas in the wild, you are not going to bring just one banana home. Compare this to a shopping trip of today’s woman.

Reasons galore

She needs a dress because she is happy or sad, celebrating a victory or trying to get over a setback, starting a new venture or ending an old habit. She goes to about 10 shops to find the ones she really likes, the ones which are cheaper, as well as good bargains. Yes, she also looks for accessories that match the dress. But more importantly, she is always on the lookout for simple but essential things that her family or her home may need. The father may shop for big-ticket household items, but it is the mother who always buys the underwear.

The other reason for women loving shopping is very simple: it is all men’s fault. Seriously! In the old days, women had very little control in their lives. If at all they went out to shop, it was in dingy and dark shops, where they handed in their lists and got their goods. But then, men in business realised that women were an untapped resource in commercial markets.

They came up with the idea of clean, open, well-lit stores with what the women had little of, in their lives – choice. And they got the one idea that would overcome the guilt every woman has about spending money – sales. They clinched the deal by hiring salesmen and women to do something women yearned for every day – listen to them.

Now tell me: which is the one place where a woman is not asked to work, cook, clean, or iron, but instead is pandered to? Why, the shopping mall, of course! Thus, women only do what they evolved to do, when they go shopping, whether it is by visiting stores in person or over the internet. But that doesn’t stop men from constantly carping that women buy things that are ‘not needed’. Yes, a vase of pretty flowers may not be essential to a house, but adds aesthetic value to the home.

Left to the average man, a home would have a couple of comfortable chairs, a couple of tables (all mismatched), five pots and pans, one bed with dark blue or brown plain comforter, and a row of hooks on the wall to hang clothes. No wonder he can’t understand why his wife wants to buy a cute pot to boil milk.

Also, women are the reason that gifts are given. For men, some money and a handshake would be enough. But women put a lot of thought into turning an object into a gift that fits the occasion and is just what the other person wants. Besides, women are energised by the creativity and the aesthetics of what they see.
Put a woman in a showroom of silks and she will come to life, captivated by the colours, textures and patterns. Put a man there and he’ll turn glassy-eyed, like a dead fish.

Women shop together, using their time to bond socially with friends and to get over mild depression. Whether it helps or not, they at least have something nice to wear the next day. In contrast, men watch sports and drink.All they have to show for it is a sore head. Enough said.

All in all, women understand that Oniochalasia or shopping to relieve stress is good therapy, as long as it is under control.

So, if your woman wants to go shopping, let her. After all, when she feels a spree coming on, wouldn’t you rather it was shopping, not killing?

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