Shopping: now there’s a disaster waiting to happen. It’s ok for my wife, who seems to be able to sniff out an ideal purchase from several miles away. She is an expert shopper; not something I will freely admit in public, so please don’t tell her that I said it. She has her own tried and tested methodology that highlights the difference between us. As I try to project manage the whole operation; with questions designed to limit both the amount of precious time used and the shoe leather lost, my wife has but one phrase in response to all of my requests for answers. “I will know it when I see it”.
It makes absolutely no sense to me but I suspect it is woman-code for “I am not going to limit myself later by any of the answers I give now”.
Woman-code is amazing and it has infinite possibilities of ensuring that, whenever you think you have just begun to get a basic understand of it, there are new contexts, giving new meanings.
Take for example a seemingly simple food related question like “What flavour crisps would you like?” There is in my world a definite answer to it: Cheese and Onion.
My wife’s reply is, without exception, “anything will do”. Now you know instinctively that this is not the whole truth; it’s woman-code for “anything except prawn cocktail or beef”.
It is an answer designed to get you into a mild state of man-panic. Man-panic is the only possible response to woman-code. You know: the kind of feeling that you get when you are encouraged to embark on a shopping expedition to ‘get a couple of things’. Yes right! Now if that’s not code I don’t know what is. It is more than inevitable that another six things will be spoken loudly in your general direction as you leave the house. I am my own worst enemy in these situations: I always seem to make the same mistake of not writing a list, even though I know that I am doomed if I have to remember more than three items. To be honest I can manage up to a dozen items if I, in any sense, find them interesting. Give me two different types of batteries, four varieties of wine and half a dozen choices of chocolate and I am near perfect. Ask me for toilet roll, cleaning fluid and frozen food and I turn into a wreck. But that’s beside the point.
So it is, with foolish joy that I look towards this week’s shopping trip. Some things are as certain as running out of battery on your mobile when you have lots of credit. I know, for example, that in every clothes shop (female) I will make an immediate dash for the sales rail. I will hold up various half-priced items and wave them, across the store, at my wife in the hope of encouraging her away form the new, full priced product. She will, in return, roll her eyes towards the broken air-conditioning unit above her head at every one of my offerings, in a manner suggesting that she is normally proud of me; but not at this moment.
During the expedition I will also choose to hold her hand as we walk between shops, so that I can try to deflect her from any expensive establishments and towards anywhere selling food or electronic gadgets. On most occasions this will prove to be useless but I celebrate inwardly at every one of my victories, no matter how small.
After we have listened to in-store shopping music until we can stand it no more, we walk heavy-laden, with the worship of consumerism complete, towards the dark and hidden world of the car park. Once I have finally convinced the ticket machine to accept one of the few pound coins that remain in my pocket, we stand with all the other weary shoppers, gazing at the ocean of cars, trying to remember where we left the ours.
“Which section did we leave it in” she says, hoping that my memory has miraculously returned to the condition of my youth. “I will know it when I see it” I reply. Which in man-code translates as ‘two can play at that game’.