When I was 16 one of my friends said she’d take me clothes shopping and make me cool. While I knew that it would take more than some new threads (which is how I understand young people refer to clothes) to make me cool, I agreed. Armed with £120 and the promise of a Burger King half way through, we set forth.
All in all the day was a success. I got a couple of pairs of jeans and some new tshirts, including one from FCUK which I’m fairly sure she recommended just to commandeer the carrier bag once I’d paid. Still, I was happy with the results.
We made our way to the exit, and I was almost home free. The quickest way to the bus stop was through a department store. Before you know it I’d be safe from the need to shop for at least another 6 months. Maybe 8 if my incredibly fussy diet was stunting my growth. Fingers crossed.
“Oh, I just need to quickly stop for one more thing and we can go.” she said suddenly.
I knew right then that it was a lie. It’s never a quick stop. But I knew saying this would just make me sound like a whiny child.
“But it’s never a quick stop!” I said anyway.
“It’s from this shop, on the next floor up. It won’t take long.”
I relented. And I also learnt an important lesson, namely to check where someone is taking me before agreeing to go along.
“Bras?! You’re making me shop for bras?”
“I’m not making you shop for anything”.
My only retort was an exhasperated sigh, but I think I made it eloquently.
“You don’t have to come with me, I won’t be long so I’ll come and find you.”
Result. I used my narrow escape as an opportunity to look at some stuff for myself. Man stuff, not the nambly pamby clothes malarky I’d been looking at all day. Except the 16-year-old male-shopper-with-time-to-kill demographic was drastically underserved by the department store.
After ten minutes of perusing the gifts and gadgets sections I headed off to find her. This is where I learnt my second lesson. Never underestimate how much thought women can put in to their underwear. Almost as much thought as us men put into their underwear.
This was swiftly followed by the third lesson of the day – that women want your opinion, even on something as personal as underwear.
“Which do you prefer?”
Now this is an incredibly odd situation for me. She’s one of my best friends and I’d do anything for her, but at the same time it’s like if one of my guy mates asked for my opinion on their boxers. With the added downside of her having boobs – possibly the only time I’ve considered that a downside.
Since then I’ve learnt a simple trick is to make factual statements about the two options without actually offering an opinion. “Well that one is definitely a more salmon-colour, but this one has polka-dots”.
However, on this day I was young, tired and surrounded by images of women in underwear. My response was more akin to a cry of “please don’t make me choose” before her going to try them on, leaving me to stand outside the women’s changing rooms trying to look as nonchalant as I could without appearing too comfortable there.
This was pre-smartphone days. No checking Twitter to awkwardly remove myself from the situation. I was there waiting for everyone to see.
She was gone so long I can only assume the ones she chose didn’t fit so she made her own. But eventually she came back, and was ready to go.
They say that lessons come in threes (though this was never a “valid excuse” to leave school early, apparently). The saying may actually be that bad news comes in threes, but my experience shows the best lessons in life come from bad news. That day though I actually learnt a fourth lesson.
Online shopping is clearly the way to go.