Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Dear men, for the love of god, go away and do something else

Here’s something that has puzzled and troubled me in equal measure for years: why do men hang around in women’s clothes shops? 

If I am being kind, it might be because they actually like shopping, and supporting their partner in choosing something new and beautiful. My observed reality is that it is generally nothing of the sort. 

Aside from the rare, but there, and now well publicised, pervert getting off on watching women change, or worse, attacking them in the process, there are other insidious reasons. I have seen men gripping the purse strings so tightly that their cowed wives are unable to make their own purchasing decisions, let alone their own purchase. I've noted men so controlling of their wives’ appearance that their partners have replaced perfectly lovely things at their countermand. And I've experienced men practically occupying the women’s changing rooms to exert their influence. I have always felt angry and sad to encounter such coercion in practice and in public. 

Apart from telling lurking men to move away from the curtain as they make me uncomfortable, I have been largely unaffected by such attentions. Always my own woman in the matter of, well, everything, including choosing my clothes, for my sartorial mistakes, I have only myself to blame. But today takes the bias binding.

I am in a super shop selling the kind of soft unstructured clothes that I know suit me rather well. I select a long skirt and try it on in the cubicle, but to have a better view in the larger mirror in the shop, I swish around a bit and ask the very helpful shop assistant what she thinks. Before she can answer, the husband of the only other woman in the boutique pipes up “really nice” and nods his head vigorously. And that’s when the joy of the moment evaporated and I felt my gore rising. Who the fuck asked you? I wanted to say. What I managed to say was “I don’t need your opinion” and I flounced back into the cubicle, fuming.

What on earth did this man think he was doing? I am nothing to do with him. Nothing. Yet he felt entitled to answer a question that was not directed to him, as if he was the god of all women buying clothes in town this morning, as if his opinion was the one that was essential. He is not and it was not.

After he and his wife left, purchasing nothing, the shop assistant said she thought he was paying me a compliment. I explained how this was a misreading. He wasn’t. He was asserting control, and I will not be controlled by anyone I know, let alone a complete stranger. I wish I’d had the guts to tell him to sod off and mind his own business, but damn it, I’ve been too well brought up. 

So, men, please have the good sense to bugger off out of the shop, buy a paper and drink a cup of coffee somewhere quiet for half an hour or so. And NEVER think you are entitled to comment in this way to any unknown woman, EVER. The next one of you who does so to me is going to be on the receiving end of me losing my good manners. It won’t be pretty.

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