Brand building through storytelling

The loneliness of the baffled male shopper

On my way to a friend’s house for dinner, I pondered the tulips on offer outside the corner store. Would Audrey like pink or tangerine? Come to think of it, what about yellow, bright as an Easter chick?

Beside me a man held up one of those motley, woebegone posies sold nowhere but convenience stores—too-bright mums, a few daisies, a token sprig of greenery standing at attention. He looked old enough to have been married a time or two, but young enough to hope that tonight his luck would change. Mostly he just looked perplexed. “What do you think of these?” he asked. “Or should I get tulips instead?”

There’s a bafflement that softens men’s faces when they have to make a purchase outside their comfort zone. I’ve seen it in the produce department. Guy asks, “Is this parsley?” (In fact the green stuff in question is cilantro, and not to be sprinkled on the kids’ spaghetti sauce.) I’ve seen it where the cleaning gear is sold. Guy asks, contemplating a vast swath of mops with assorted moving parts and more accessories than Barbie, “Which one of these is the best?” He has the bereft expression of the newly separated. Just because I’m a woman, I’m supposed to have the answer to his mop conundrum—never mind that the last time I purchased a mop, the only kind on offer was a dinky yellow sponge on a stick.

It shouldn’t surprise me that a man needs a woman to go shopping. How many times have I heard, from every married friend in my circle, that a man needs a woman to locate the dish towels/toilet paper/cat food/baby wipes right under his roof? Come to think of it, how many times have I rushed to the fridge when my husband asks,”Dear, where’s the cream cheese?”

I guess that without a woman, the male world has no order or grace. So I’m not altogether unwilling to do cream cheese duty. And when it comes to flowers, I’m honoured to share what every woman knows: convenience-store bouquets don’t cut it. A woman looks at such an offering and thinks, “He couldn’t be bothered to find me something pretty so he grabbed this without even looking.”

I told my fellow shopper, “Definitely tulips. Oh, by the way, who are they for?”

As if I needed to ask. I just wanted to hear him say, “My girlfriend.”

We moved on to the question of colour. Turned out his girlfriend likes to wear yellow, so I picked out the two freshest sprays of yellow tulips—one for her, one for my friend Audrey. The man beamed, giddy with gratitude.

I can’t speak for the girlfriend but Audrey approved of my choice. “Yellow tulips are my favourite!” she exclaimed. When I shared my tale of the other bunch of tulips and the sorry alternative they had displaced, she smiled knowingly while the husbands—hers and mine—scratched their heads. What’s wrong with convenience store bouquets? they asked.

I rest my case. They need us.


Posted by Rona

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