On Shopping Habits of Men

By Jason Tudor

Black Friday is little more than a notation in the margins of an accountant's ledger now. However, the consumer zombie walk that is the holiday shopping season is underway! That said, many men are not predisposed to this euphoria of wedging into a packed mall in Bayonne and fighting tooth-and-nail for the final ShamWow. Many men believe that December is when NASCAR dies, pro football comes to a head and Santa drops 72-inch LCD televisions down their chimneys.

Many of us just aren't wired to shop. We're wired for laughing at monkeys, nodding our heads in agreement about the Turf-and-Turf, and a whole lot of other things that don't come close to stepping foot in the Yankee Candle Store at the Paramus Park Mall. That said, I'm happy to provide a bit of insight to that wiring and what can be expected over the next 24 days or so about male shopping and co-shopping habits. Even better, it's in list form! I would recommend making this bad boy credit-card sized and stuffing it into your wallets. It could save a marriage. On we go:

1. Men do like to shop. That's why God invented Bass Pro Shops.

2. Men don't like to "shop." That is, if we're the third wheel on some "me and some new FMPs scavenger hunt," that will wear us down quickly. The whole notion of joining a hoard speeding from sale to sale on Black Friday is about as appealing as a canker sore. On the other hand, if it turns out to be a barbarian hoard with looting, plundering and generalized mayhem along the way, we're in.

3. We don't like to shop for clothes. We just go buy them. Really. Clothes are utilitarian. When we walk into a store, we think, "Shirt. Pant. Shoe. Sock." Colors and seasons are best left to foliage experts. In fact, if our clothes are washed well enough, we'll believe those are new. And if you don't believe this, think of how many times a guy has picked up a shirt or pair of underwear off the floor, buried his nose in them, turned to you and said, "Yeah, I think these are still good."

4. We like parking. This is hunter-gatherer material at its finest. There is also a level of hubris generated by the proposition of cramming a Dodge Ram 1500 into the space the size of a Smart Car. There's another joke here about the euphemism that same hubris creates, but I'll refrain.

5. We will form fraternities of the moment.We know each other, my brother. We're standing in Victoria Secret with our hands in our pockets looking for anything that might be vaguely smeared with testosterone. We see each other from across the store. We nod.  Though we're trapped in the girly underwear armageddon, you and I are staring at each other silently saying, "Let's smear each other with deer urine and get the hell out of here." Or something like that.

6. We want to do the thing that gets us back to the remote control fastest. We realize when we go shopping, many times, our roles include chauffeur, skycap, and unshaven sycophant. If that social lubricant gets us home before the kickoff of Roll Tide and the return of our left hands down the front of our pants, the more the better.

While this wiring schematic doesn't cover all guys (insert trite 99-percent joke here) and is incomplete, it gives insight to those men who will stand in the the Mall of America, the North Star Mall and elsewhere with those Thousand-Yard Stares on their faces. Good luck and happy shopping.

Jason Tudor is something of a multimedia alchemist who likes buying gadgets and shopping online, mostly because he has to. He's a three-time Department of Defense first-place winner for feature writing and has three published books of poetry. His illustration work appears on websites like the Zombie Dating Guide, and has commissioned work in anthologies "The Undead That Saved Christmas," volumes 1 and 2. Jason is currently working on three novels, including two science fiction books. As such, he the host and producer of "The Science Fiction Show," a weekly podcast on the topic available on iTunes. His website is www.jasontudor.com.


The Score

by Terri Coop

Since 1995, I’ve shopped so you don’t have to. Or so you could, depending on your outlook. I’m one of the dealers you see at flea markets or don’t see at antique malls and online. Back in 1999, I was selling vintage toys on AOL bulletin boards when we heard a rumor, “there’s this new website called eBay, where you can sell stuff . . .” We were skeptical, but launched a legend. I’m an eBay OG, from the days when the system would only take 200 sales per hour.

So, where does all the stuff come from? From shopping. I’ve toughed it out at elegant auctions, froze at farm auctions, had a grandma whack me with her cane at a church sale, reached through a crowd of ten-year-olds to snatch a Barbie, and dug through dumpsters to rescue vintage Boy Scout memorabilia. But, most of it comes from relentless searching at garage sales, estate auctions, and out-of- the-way flea markets. 

It’s usually a measured job. “Hmmm, that’s a dollar and I can sell it for five.” However, the secret that keeps us digging through your junk is the search for the most elusive of all prey, “The Score.”

The Score is seeing a doll’s foot sticking out of the dollar box at a garage sale. It looks familiar. I approach cautiously. Odds are that half of the other shoppers are dealers as well. 

Keeping it cool. Keeping it cool.  

I pull out the doll and  . . . well . . . angels sing. That little lady is a 1970s icon. Fighting to keep my breathing steady and to project calm, I pick out a couple of generic teddy bears from the box to mask my treasure. On the way out I grabbed a doll dress as an afterthought. It would sell for about five dollars and, hey, gas is not cheap. 

Waving to the other dealers, I head to the check-out. Then I hear a voice, “I’m sorry, there’s been a mistake.”

My heart sank. I’d been had. Clutching my bundle tighter I turned to face the music.

“That doll dress is really valuable. It shouldn’t have been put out for sale. I want to keep it because it’s really old and rare.”

Trying not to jump for joy, I surrender the five-dollar doll dress with a poker-faced, “not a problem, I understand.”

I paid my three dollars and beat feet back to the car.  I sold the doll for $325.00. Hey, I gave back the dress without an argument and I had a receipt for my $3.00. All’s far in love, war, and garage sales.

I got out of it for a few years. However, a couple of weeks ago I randomly stopped at some garage sales. At one I saw a riot of color and smiling faces heaped in a box. Care Bears. Vintage 1985 Care Bears . . . for fifty cents each. Ignored by all the other shoppers. Was that the sound of angels? Time and sales will tell. However, as I carried the entire box back to my car, I thought, “I’ve still got it . . .”


We no longer shop there

by Carole Lee

Shopping with Mr. Vagabond is like winding up a Jack in the Box:  I know something is going to happen, and I know I’m going to need a sedative afterward. And yet I do it anyway. Through the years, I have learned a thing or two. If I can’t see it coming, I can at least get even afterward.

Our first Christmas, we had a plan. Get into the mall, split up, get what we needed and get out before any elves or hairy old men in red suits did something rash. Like singing. Or spreading cheer. There are enough contagious things going around during the holidays, and the CDC says there is no cure for communicable ho-ho-ho-ing.

He went his way, and I headed through the department store toward the makeup counter. Makeup counters are scary enough under normal circumstances. During the holidays, they become a festival of frenzied shoppers and clerks with gravity-defying eyebrows. Also noteworthy is the promise of a special gift (read: all the stuff that no one bought last season). Women covet free, frosty purple lipstick, even though it was unappealing in the Spring Collection. There is no rational explanation, besides the free plastic tote that accompanies it.

I wedged my way through the eager masses and up to the front of the herd. A Stepford Clerk who smelled of Essence du Jump for Joy approached me with a smile that warranted its own marker on the UV index. Gracefully adjusting a bra strap (mine, not hers), I made my request.

“Perfectionne a la Beaute’ -- economy size, please.” 

Her smile wilted slightly. I never have been able to navigate those fancy words.

Just about the time she returned with my purchase, I heard Mr. Vagabond’s voice booming across my right shoulder.

“Hey! You’re not allowed to touch me there!!” 

The mass of once-giddy patrons parted like the red sea, abandoning their free purple lipsticks and plastic totes on the counter. On lady scurried off with only half her complimentary makeover completed. Silence fell over the department. Mr. Vagabond stood, looking victimized and glaring at me. Stepford girl gasped and dropped the glistening golden miracle jar on the floor.

I no longer shop there.

He’s a large child, really.

To preserve the holiday spirit, I waited.  We women can keep the little things simmering for ages. It’s a talent.

Months later, while standing at the counter of his favorite auto parts store, he regaled the cute female clerk about his awesome, super-modified Jeep. He was mid-sentence, ordering yet another part that he didn’t need, but really wanted, when I casually interjected. 

“Just let Me know when you’re ready, baby, and I’ll go out and start the Jeep for you.” 

For those of you who have never owned an old Jeep, I should explain. I can neither drive, nor start it. Operating his Jeep requires a level of active participation, coordination and length of leg that I simply do not possess. He prides himself on being the only person who can manage it.

I thought he was going to die. Or kill me. Or both. The girl behind the counter almost looked scared for me from behind the smirk that she couldn’t hide. 

He no longer shops there.


Maggie Moments

by Jeanette Levellie

My husband met me at the door, his eyebrows in V-formation, always a sign of worry. “Why were you gone so long, hon?” he asks. “You just went to mail one package.”
 I threw my purse and myself onto the couch, grabbing a cat for comfort. “I had a Maggie moment,” I sighed.  He shook his head and grinned.  A look of relaxed understanding took the place of the V-formation. 
Maggie, bless her darlin’ heart and ditzy head, is a crisis magnet. She’s the one person in our family we can rely on to add drama to our lives. Every errand turns into a screenplay for a feature film. Take a simple trip to the market for a bag of noodles.
“I think it was that checker’s first day on the job,” Maggie moans, dumping her sack of groceries on the kitchen counter. “She didn’t know where the noodles were, and had to call the manager. He showed me the right aisle, but they were out of whole-wheat noodles. So I decided to run up to the Pine Street Market—that took forever since I got behind a funeral—and then I discovered they’d gone out of business. I had to go back to the first market and buy flour and eggs to make our own noodles.  It’ll only take three hours. You don’t mind having dinner a little late tonight, do you?”
We’ve tried to analyze why Maggie thrives on trouble above her fellows. We can go to the post office, market, or bank and run into glitches that annoy us to Mars and back. Yet, we only get a tenth of the emotional surge from our episodes as Maggie does.  We still haven’t discovered why her predicaments are superior to ours. We may never. 

Oh, I see by your knowing smile that you have a Maggie in your family, too. I also see that same look of confusion on your face that we get every time a Maggie moment happens. It sure helps to know we’re not alone. 

Although the solution to dealing with Maggies is not easy, it is simple. To paraphrase my friend Jesus, whose family was filled with Maggies, “You just gotta love ‘em.”

“Nutty with a dash of meat” best describes Jeanette Levellie’s speaking, writing and life. She has published hundreds of humor/inspirational columns, articles, greeting cards, and poems. A spunky pastor’s wife, Jeanette is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and waitress to four cats. Her debut humor/inspirational book, Mirth and Worth in the Real Lane, releases in April of 2012. Find her mirthful musings at www.jeanettelevellie.com


Getting Thrifty

by Patti Wigington

I’m not a very good shopper. My friends tell me I shop like a guy – I know what I want, I walk in, I buy it, and I leave. Shopping is a “Wham-bam-thank-you-Kohl’s” experience for me – other than cute shoes and pretty lingerie, there aren’t many things I really dig shopping for.

And yet, I love the thrift store. My thrift store – and by “my,” I mean, the one I go to because it’s convenient and huge and full of good stuff that nobody wants anymore – is housed in a former K-Mart, so it’s basically several acres of stuff. It’s in no particular order, although the women’s stuff is one side, the men’s on the other, and allegedly it’s all arranged by size. There are no fitting rooms, so everything is a crap shoot, unless I plan ahead and wear a pair of yoga pants and a tank top, in which case I can try things on over what I’ve already got on. I walk in, I grab a bunch of stuff, and I walk out.

The thrift store isn’t shopping. It’s a treasure hunt.

Kids need winter jackets? There’s a perfectly nice LL Bean down-filled one at the end of the aisle for just $12 – and it’s Orange Tagged, which means on Wednesdays that coat is only $6. I found a vintage Mary Tyler Moore-esque coat for $8 – the perfect size for my very tall 11-year-old. Like fleece sweaters? Here’s a bunch of them for under $5. Okay, the blue one has a small hole, but I can stitch that shut in five minutes – it’s worth it, because it’s from Cabela’s and retails for $45 new.

There are three aisles of jeans. I’m running between sizes now, thanks to weight loss, but that’s ok. I’ll grab a couple in the two sizes I might wear – after all, they’re only $3 a pair right now, and I can take the ones that don’t fit and give them to my college student. For Halloween, I was a Toddler Pageant Queen, and found a lovely blue formal for only $16. It still had the tags inside it from David’s Bridal, where it once sold for a hundred bucks. It’s a nice dress, and I’ll save it for future costume shenanigans - or maybe a wedding, if anyone ever is desperate enough to tag me as a bridesmaid.

There’s also plenty of awful stuff at the thrift store, but for dirt cheap, I’m willing to pick up things just for the ridiculous factor. I’ve bought fish slippers, three absolutely hideous red Christmas sweatshirts for my daughter and her college friends, and a copper jelly mold shaped like a lobster. And there’s some stuff that’s just so frightening I won’t go near it, like the Vera Bradley bag that smelled like roadkill and beer, or the flannel hoodie that probably belonged in an evidence locker rather than a thrift store.

I’m very excited to announce that tomorrow is Pink Tag Day, which means I’ll be trolling the racks for something good. I need a new pair of jeans… and I’m pretty sure one of my friends will be thrilled with the lobster-shaped jelly mold he’s getting for Christmas!


Thrifty is nifty

When I was young and broke, I would leaf through cast-off catalogs at the library and fantasize about buying clothes from Banana Republic or L.L. Bean. Now that I’m older (and still mostly broke) I realize that even if I were a millionaire, I couldn’t order a $70 insulated shirt from those high-dollar catalogs; once you pay $20 for a working TV at a thrift store, there’s no looking back. 

Once you get a taste of the good deal, you’re hooked. Some women dream of Brad Pitt; I dream about the ultimate discount store, stocked with everything I want, and I still get change back from a ten-dollar bill. Yes, I’m a thrift store queen. If they don’t have it, I don’t need it, which explains why most of my movie library is still VHS. 

My home may look like it’s furnished by a bag lady, but when I glance around, all I see are the amazing bargains I scored, like the $50 futon that serves as our couch (okay, the cats claim it, but they let me sit there occasionally) or the $5 entertainment center which houses the aforementioned TV. OK, so it’s not a flat screen or plasma or LCD, but it does help heat the living room up in winter. 

My biggest “get” perches on a shelf below the TV: a CD/cassette player/radio stereo system with speakers and a six-CD changer, all for $6 because a tooth is missing from one of the cogs in the changer. Hey, it’s worth a few hundred bucks to press “skip” on the CD player occasionally. 

I admit, I’m a purist. When I hear other people squeal over “just” paying $200 for a blouse at a designer sale, I choke on my McD’s dollar tea. Unless a shirt comes with built-in puppet hands to lift my boobs and make them look perky all day, I’m not paying over $4. 

You won’t see me on Black Friday, pushing and shoving with the masses for one-day only deals. But when you try to use that new gadget without reading the instructions, give up, and donate it to a bargain shop, I’ll be waiting.


Throwing elbows

by Stacey Graham

There are power shoppers then there were my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law. These ladies did geriatric workouts before heading to the stores for their weekly bouts of elbow throwing, you haven’t seen dedication to the art of shopping until you’ve witnessed a ninety-year-old woman stretching out her hamstrings.

In the morning, my husband’s uncle would drop them off at the entrance of Walmart or Fred Meyers on his way to work with a wave goodbye and promises to return hours later so as not to throw off their groove. They would saunter in and greet the store employees like family, then shimmy down the aisles to pick over what they’d missed during their last marathon shopping trip the week before. Candles, throw pillows, and slippers – you name it, they checked the price and moved on, blocking the aisles with their shopping carts and discussing lunch. My mother-in-law could root out an orange "priced to sell" tag hidden in the depths of a center bin within minutes of rolling up. Shoppers quickly learned to not be fooled by her sweet smile, she'd cut you off at the knuckles if your hand strayed too close to her chosen item. 

As news of their excursions grew, the family knew where to find them at any hour thus they received visitors in the bedding aisle. They'd be hustled off for lunch then returned to the store so they didn't miss another showing of The Lion King on the store's multiple flat screens. Inevitably, there would be mix-ups. We'd receive phone calls at 2am asking for a ride home from the pair, the uncle forgetting to swing by after work.They'd just pile in after we rolled up, sleepy and confused, and chat about what they'd found that day hidden behind the toilet cleaners.

Holidays - schmolidays. For Janis and Gerda, it was Christmas shopping year round. Need slippers in the August heat? BINGO -- Gerda had four pairs tucked away in various sizes. Knife set? Check. Sweatshirt with adorable bunnies splattered across the front? No need to even ask, my friend. Last minute shopping was as foreign to them as spending the week without hearing the ping of the registers.

As age and dementia claimed my grandmother-in-law, the trips slowed but I have no doubt there's a motorized scooter out there with her initials carved into the handlebars.

Stacey Graham runs An Army of Ermas with an iron fist. An iron fist usually filled with chocolate. Don't judge. Please visit her blog, betwixt & between, and see what mischief she's up to on Twitter. She has two fabulous books coming out next spring, The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide and the Zombie Tarot because she's cool like dat. She promises to stop referring to herself in the third person and slipping in "cool like dat" for future columns.


The S-Word

by Janna Qualman

Let’s talk shopping.

Because what other S-word gets a lady’s heart pumping, promises a certain amount of action, and, when done right, involves the exchange of money?

Oh, I know it can be scary. We all get intimidated from time to time. Expectations are high. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it well. (And, sometimes, do it cheaply, but that’s another story.)

Let me encourage you, fair ones. The way I see it—and stay with me here, no letting your minds wander—there are several important benefits worth discussing.

First, as mentioned above, heart health. Gals, we are responsible for our own well-being, and this may be one of the best ways to get a body moving, thus stimulating proper circulation and thorough blood flow. It’s almost as effective as aerobic activity, some might say, and it’s definitely more fun! (Side note: Shortness of breath and fatigue can be symptoms of heart failure, but in this case they mean you’re doing something right.)

Also, when mindful of your technique, it can prove a great approach for building confidence. Since the more you do it, the better you get, and the more sure of yourself you feel, the more satisfactory your results. Am I right?

Feeling good about ourselves and what we’re doing, in turn, makes us feel beautiful. Puts a swing in our hip. Makes our eyes sparkle. It makes our skin glow! And when we feel beautiful, we want to do more of whatever it is we’re doing, thus creating more beauty. It’s a flat-out glorious, rewarding cycle.

Relaxation is another benefit. I, personally, find the whole process therapeutic, almost cathartic. It’s the getting lost in the moment, sort of forgetting about the stresses of everyday life. It’s a great way to decompress, if you ask me.

Variety. It is the spice of life, no? Which is why it’s so great that this can be done alone, or with someone else. Just depends on your mood, I suppose. Sometimes you’re feeling the need to go it alone, take your time, be more thoughtful with the whole process. Other times you want a buddy, someone to assist.

And last, satisfaction. Need I say more?

Shopping. It’s what all the cool ladies are doin’. 

Janna Qualman can be found at Something She Wrote

Image credit: launchboxpro.com


Cart Wheeling

By Amy Mullis

Not long ago, I had a near-death experience in the grocery store.  I was bending over to check out Mrs. Fields’ fat grams when a woman wielding a grocery cart like it was a runaway bumper car rounded the corner on two wheels.  If it weren’t for quick thinking on my part, I might have required a trip to the Crisco aisle to disengage that buggy from my body. 

For a second I thought I saw a bright light, but it turned out to be Register Five calling for assistance.  With that thought in mind, I offer 8 Simple Rules for a Successful Supermarket Experience:

1.                  Show proper care for your vehicle. For the safety of everyone on the floor, do not select a buggy with uncooperative steering that can be guided only by a team of Iditarod sled dogs.  Also, be on the lookout for features that may interrupt the aerodynamics of the cart, such as toddlers left over from a previous shopper.
2.                  When perusing different item choices on the supermarket floor, please be sure to park only in traditionally acceptable parking areas.  Nobody cares if you set up camp in front of internal organs in the meat department, but if you pause to check the fat content in the cookie aisle, we will forcibly transport you to the dairy case and secure you to the yogurt section with string cheese.

3.                  Please observe crowd-friendly speed limits.  I know you’re in a hurry to rush home and get those tacos on the table, but don’t careen around the corners so fast that you initiate an awkward meeting between Betty Crocker and Orville Redenbacher.

4.                  Practice defensive shopping.  You must understand that if you stop in the middle of the aisle while trying to decide between creamy and crunchy, you may end up in a jam.

5.                  Please show concern for the safety of other shoppers.  Do not execute a sudden lane change without at least warning the gentleman who is presently rolling his cart over the heels of your Reeboks that he may suddenly find himself neck deep in summer squash.  Likewise, don’t speed up suddenly, causing the six-year-old boy who is riding below the cart in front of you like a mudflap on a tractor-trailer to wrap around your front wheel like freshly chewed bubblegum.

6.                  Do not accelerate like Richard Petty on the straightaway at Talledega to beat me to the Express Lane, especially if your buggy is loaded like a Conastoga and you’re counting all 24 cans of Friskies as one item to make the 10-item limit.  I have killed for less than that.

7.                  Most importantly, steer clear of the lady dressed in stretchy pants and flip flops, who is wringing her hands and circling the snack aisle with a cart that contains an open bag of Ruffles chips, two boxes of Ding Dongs, and a frozen pizza.  It’s me and I can’t decide what to have for supper.

Join Amy Mullis at www.mindovermullis.com for more "Don't Let This Happen to You" moments. And just to make sure there's no trouble, steer clear of Aisle 5.


The Straight. The Proud. The Observant.

by Pauline Campos

I swear I’m married to the only straight man in the history of the world who notices a new pair of shoes hidden under the cuffs of my flare-bottom jeans. I bet my mom $5 he’d notice, and she owes me.

We trekked out to the stores the other day for a little retail therapy and The Husband knew I was coming home with A pair of cross trainers (for the workouts I keep promising myself I’m gonna do). And I bought them. But I also found the cutest pair of Skechers that were just calling my name. So I left with two boxes and rationalized that the Skechers were actually an investment since they would be my dedicated everyday shoes and therefore would save my new Pumas from
needless abuse and thereby lengthen their precious lifespan by months while I troll around the house and Tucson doing Mom-stuff and really, that totally makes the sixty extra bucks I spent on the second pair of shoes a smart move on my part, right?


And yet, a little part of me was really hoping this would be the one time in our entire relationship that The Husband would not use his “I’m Observant, not gay” powers of observation to scope out the new kicks I was planning on sneaking in.

I didn’t make it two steps in the door when he oh-so-casually says, “New shoes, huh?”


Keep in mind that I had purposely left the empty box for the Skechers I wore home at the store to try and cover my ass. Not that it mattered. I’ve tried everything, including the classic “Buy It Now and Hide It in My Closet for Three Months” move before walking past The Husband in the shoes/dress/T-shirt/Purse I had thought I had so brilliantly Deep-Covered into my wardrobe only to have to answer a raised eyebrow accompanied by a “And how long have you had that?”

“What?” I’d blurt out in my best “What the hell are you smoking now?” voice.

“The (insert item here) you thought you were gonna get past me.”

“Oh,” eyes wide and oh-so-not-innocent. “I’ve had it for months.” Which was technically true.

Gimme that lie detector!

By this time, he’d be laughing. Hard. “I’m surprised you made it this long before pulling it out. That must have killed you!”

Oh snap.

Busted again.


The Genes in my Jeans

by Sara Spock

I like genetics. Our genes are filled with twisted little secrets about our past and our future, unraveling everything from eye color to hereditary diseases. But in and amongst these micro-marvels there are bundles of ambiguity. When facing down the season of Shopping-ZOMG-Sales-Ican’tbelieveit’sthatcheap-Extravaganza, I’m reminded of one such brainteaser. Why wasn’t I born with the gene that gives you a nose for bargains and an eye for fashion? Why can’t I answer questions like: Does this blouse go with those pants? Can I wear Chucks with this dress? Does this sweatshirt clash with my skirt? Why are those children staring at me in horror?

My sisters will text, call, and email with sales, “Did you see those cute Couture shoes for 42 cents at Mega Cheapo Emporium?” or “Don’t pass up the imported Parisian purses at Deals for Dummies!  Buy 1 get 6 free!” and “You’ll never believe it! I found 16 outfits for the boys for a penny a piece!” One will track down jumbo sales on the most fabulous things while I go cross-eyed at the thought of plain white tees at Target.  The other can plan outfits for entire flocks of nieces, nephews, and random garden gnomes from two states away. I can struggle into jeans and wear my PSU sweatshirt like nobody’s business! Don’t misunderstand, I love looking nice - but when your brain goes blank and your blood runs cold at the thought of stepping one Tom-soled shoe into the mall, it’s a near impossibility.

I recently started substitute teaching and needed to snag a few updated items for my mostly mommified wardrobe of the latest in Spit-Up Fashion. Spit-Up Fashion: it’s the season that comes between, Large like a Barge and in Charge, and Hand Me the Spanx, I Think My Jeans Will Fit. During the Spit-Up season, friends may have to pry the sweatpants, yoga pants, warm-up pants, and tracksuits away from new moms in favor of actual clothing. The situation can be exacerbated because she may have to size up to dress up. And who wants to admit they’re going from size Hippo to size Elephant?

Dressed in the finest hoody and yoga pants I could scrounge, I forced- er, invited my baby sister and mother to go shopping with me to find new trousers. If I was going into the foxhole, someone had to cover my left flank and those yoga pants weren’t cutting it. Four stores and seven years later, our mother gave up, found a nice bench in the middle of the mall and declared, “I’ll wait here.” My sister bravely soldiered on in search of the perfect 35” inseam, which eventually turned up with a buy-one-get-one sort of bonus sale. How’d she do that?

So, my genes betray me and my jeans don’t fit, but I have a pair of sisters that know how to make me look my best, even at my worst. And when push comes to shove-that-love-handle-into-those-pants, there’s always online shopping with free returns!

~Sara Spock is a Mom, Wife, Penn State Graduate, Substitute Teacher, Freelance Writer and Chocolate Addict.  When she’s not freezing up in the face of fashion, Sara can be found over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. blog. post. at. a. time.


Shopping with the Sin-dicate

by Rhonda Schrock

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, actually it was a Thursday.  The cupboard was bare and the small fry were threatening to mutiny.  My husband, doing the “hard thing,” volunteered to stay at home with Little Houdini, the toddler, and “let” me go with the kids. 

As I recall, it all went south over by the meat case.  That’s where I ran into our next-door neighbors and made the grave mistake of turning my back on the mob.  Mistake number two, as I soon discovered, was letting them have their own carts.  

Done with the neighborly chat and ready to shop, I noted that they’d disappeared, leaving me alone sans cart.  Muttering, I started on the list, keeping one eye out for any glimpse of them.  Catching up in the chip aisle, I deposited my load, which they proceeded to divvy up amongst themselves, and tossed in a bag of Doritos. 

A fight broke out when the youngest one proclaimed exclusive chip-carrying rights.  The senior, wanting to demonstrate his authority/superiority, snatched them up out of Little Brother’s cart (cart C) and horked them into his own (cart A).  In the melee that followed, son #2 saw his chance and darted in to pilfer the grapes from Little Brother, smuggling them into his cart (cart B). 

Not even stopping to find a phone booth, I donned my “special suit (you know the one)” and moved to quell the protest.  Then, leading the small sin-dicate in 1-2-3 order through the cereal aisle, I exercised my right as a parent to frustrate them utterly and said “no” to chocolate flavored sugar bombs, “no” to Fruit Roll-Ups, and a loud “no” to a plea for Pop Tarts. 

I lost them again in ethnic foods.  I didn’t actually notice until I was cantering through fruits and vegetables, carrying seven cans with nary a one of my three able-bodied sons – or their carts – in sight.  Spotting the neighbors at the end of the aisle, I gave them a weak smile.  I would have waved, but I was too busy juggling my seven cans. 

When I caught up to them again in dairy, they were still playing hot potato with the chips.  As son #1, cart A, made the umpteenth grab and streaked past the fish tanks, a lady standing close by snickered into the yogurt, and when I announced to those remaining that I was considering adoption for the whole lot of ‘em, there were outright guffaws. 

Recalling my paranoia in earlier years regarding kidnappers, I laughed out loud.  Where, I asked myself, is a good, old-fashioned kidnapper when you really want one?  I turned my back for an extra 90 seconds just to give him plenty of time if he happened to be lurking.  When he didn’t appear, I reluctantly collected the hooligans, trailing grapes through the baby food aisle, and headed for home. 

Now you understand why I voluntarily “admit” myself to the local coffeehouse for regular “therapy.”  Twice a week isn’t excessive; it’s the bare minimum. As for the sin-dicate, there will be an altar call when I get back from “therapy.”  All little sinners are expected to repent forthwith.  And regarding their father, next time I will “do the hard thing” and “let” him take them shopping for once. 

Rhonda Schrock is the mother of 4 sons (ages 21, 18, 13, and 5).  She is a working-from-home transcriptionist and also pens a weekly column for The Goshen News, appropriately titled “Grounds for Insanity.”  You can see why.  For more insanity, visit her at “The Natives are Getting Restless."


Man’s Malady

by Adam Slade

Birthdays are great, aren’t they? All that attention, and all those presents. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than the smile on a person’s face when they receive the brightly-coloured package that I wrapped just for them. The smile generally lasts right up until they get the wrapping off to find ‘Rocks Greatest Hits 1994’.

It’s not that I’m a bad gift-buyer, per se. It’s just that gas stations have a limited selection, and most other shops are shut at that time of night, or need more than two hours notice to order something special in.

Yup. I was a last-minute shopper. I’d find out the date of the birthday/occasion way in advance, find out what kind of things they wanted, then think, “Plenty of time yet!” and forget about the whole thing until someone reminded me three days before the party.

I know what some of you are thinking – typical man – and it’s true. Male DNA is missing certain key... uh... thingies, which makes it very difficult to both retain dates and prepare gifts with more than twelve minutes to go. Also, we’re often lazy. That’s genetic too. To be frank, they are serious flaws of ours, and we deserve sympathy. And puppies. 

I mean tattoos. Yeah, that’s it. Grr. Tattoos of puppies.

This pattern continued throughout my childhood years, teens, and into my early twenties, before I came across a way to deal with what I like to call ‘Man’s Malady’. The Internet. Lemme explain.

You see, shops these days are available online, as well as in meatspace, and in many ways they are superior to the old-fashioned ones which expect you to put clothes on before you enter. Online stores are fast to browse, which is ideal for the male’s limited attention span, have the shiny things in prominent positions, which makes them easier to spend too much money on, and, most importantly, they deliver.

Yup. You can order your plastic roses and red lacy lingerie that is only suitable to be worn on a bet from the comfort of your own boxer shorts and stained white t-shirt. You don’t even have to stand up!

On discovery of this, and after gaining a debit card and an account with a positive number, I rejoiced heartily (that’s like normal rejoicing, only with deep laughs and backslaps). Never again would I suffer from Man’s Malady! All I had to do was order something a few weeks before the event and throw the box into a cupboard. The only effort required was checking my fly was closed when I answered the door to the mail-lady. I even remembered most of the time.

Nowadays, my troubles are behind me. As the days pass, I sit back with a smug grin, safe in the knowledge that I’ve taken care of things way in advance. On the night before the occasion, I wrap the gift up tight, then place it reverently – like normal placing, only you have to sing a hymn while you do it – upon my glasses case, so I’ll remember to take it with me when I wake up. Perfect.

Still forget the card, though.

The result of a caveman breeding with an ingot of un-distilled sarcasm, newlywed Adam Slade was always going to go places. Some days he even makes it as far as the kitchen. Adam is an author of fantasy and humour works, and when he's not writing, he's reading or goofing off on the Internet. You can read about his exploits on his blog, Editing Hat, and on his Twitter.

Image credit: timorinvest.com