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It's a Man's World, but Women Love to Shop in It

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Martin Tsai/Critic's Notebook

The sight of people stripping down to their underwear between the racks to try on clothes rarely raises an eyebrow at the Barneys Warehouse Sale, or most any sample sale for that matter. Except for rookie loss-prevention personnel, everyone there knows the drill: no fitting rooms, no exchanges, no returns, and no place for modesty when there are bargains to be seized.

Men know it’s best to steer clear of the women’s department and let the ladies claw it out amongst themselves. After all, no self-respecting guy wants to come off as a leering perv. What’s fascinating is that shoppers in the men’s department are often split evenly down the gender line. Unfazed by sweat dripping off hairy backs, a woman shopping in the men’s department is characteristically on the cell with her significant other, who may well be hard at work earning the dough that enables the shopping habit. What becomes starkly apparent at a time like this is the fact there’s a huge gender disparity when it comes to buying clothes for the opposite sex.

Aside from stockings and lingerie, men know better than to buy clothes for women. The thought obviously doesn’t count as much as a joint credit card account, a gift certificate or just cold, hard cash. But women shopping for their guys don’t relegate themselves to socks and underwear. And they are not doing their men any favors by shopping for them. Do you ever hear a man say, “honey, why don’t you also pick up something for me while you’re at the sample sale?” No, because he would much rather invest in a 50-inch flat screen.

So why do women insist on buying clothes for men? Maybe they’ve never outgrown playing dress-up with their Ken dolls and think it’s even better with a live human being. By extension, having a family for them is nothing more than playing house. It’s all fun and games, right? Or perhaps they just want their significant others to look presentable in front of discriminating family and friends. But maybe they’ll rethink that strategy meant to boost their fragile egos once they discover their made-presentable significant others screwing their approving girlfriends on the side. Another possibility is simply that no shopaholic can resist a good bargain even if it’s not for herself. If it’s a deal and it fits someone they know, they just can’t pass it up. Whatever the reason, these sales are crowded enough already. Would you ladies please just leave the gays some room to breathe?

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