Kuber Sharma explores why shopping remains a distinctly feminine activity and how men who indulge in retail therapy risk being branded. Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
Asking for shopping tips from the guy with the locker next to yours leads to a lot of raised eyebrows and muscle flexing -- that was my lesson of the week.
Apparently, the size of biceps is inversely proportional to the interest a man can take in shopping. Of course, his carefully coordinated ensemble with matching tie, socks and shades was a gift from the locker fairy.
Well, metrosexuality had a decent run. What started off as an ironic comment on marketing went on to empower millions to remain ambiguous about their sexuality. And it mainstreamed an appreciation for certain finer things in life.
But shopping remains a distinctly feminine thing to do. While women de-stress with it, men are expected to see it as a necessary evil and stockpile without thought. Or even worse, allow the women/gays in their lives to do it for them.
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With my big, boisterous Punjabi wedding impending, people expect me to be running scared of shops and digging holes to hide my cards. So at times even I'm embarrassed to describe my elaborate shopping excursions and procrastination over the exact shade of gold for my sherwani. (Yes, there are six distinct tones decipherable to the discerning shopaholic's eye. Some are too golden and some not golden enough.)
Once upon a time, my closet held nothing but beige shirts, blue jeans and my self-doubt. Till I got a compliment for something new. And then another for something colourful. I went through a vanity-fuelled phase of daily shopping runs but have now settled into the domesticity of weekly bargain browsing.
Now I can happily binge on accessories, stock up on bow ties and buy three different shades of running shoes. I might not be the poster child for macho shopping -- even my gay friends dissuade me from buying more chequered trousers.
But is there a subliminal homophobia at play which connects this supposedly unmanly activity to one's sexual preferences? If not, then what's with all those knowing nods when I declare my love for mall browsing? Anyway, now that I've come to terms with the fact that being labelled queer is hardly a form of abuse, I don't really care.
The truth really is that there are people who like shopping and those who don't. These people may be of any gender, race, sexual orientation or what-not. Be wise, don't generalise.
While gay men are increasingly coming out, the resulting vacant closet space is occupied by straight men who like to shop. I'm out with my preference for shopping and my future wife's thrilled to hand the responsibility over!
Think about it. Carrying heavy bags, flirting with female assistants, negotiating money and closing a deal. Can't all this pass off for a macho day's work? Let's reclaim shopping in the name of all straight men and -- while we're at it -- butch lesbians.
Leave the therapeutic part, think of it as the social thing to do. It'll be nice to bond over Benetton sales and grab group-buying discounts from thestiffcollar.com. Hell, maybe even check out the sales girls at the Body Shop together. (Yes, those uniforms are something!)
So can we please make some space for the post-metrosexuals? The pomesexuals are not just wearing shirts and tees and jeans and trousers, but accessorising with panache. We're out of the closet about our shopping ways and can carry shopping bags without trailing behind the women. In fact, we can outrun them.