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Jewish World ReviewDec. 17, 2004 / 5 Teves, 5765

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

On male shopping | Get this: shopping fills men with stress.

According to a study by Lands End, nearly 50% of men think shopping is more stressful than being dumped by their girlfriend, losing their job or having to move back home with mom and dad.

There's a reason men hate shopping and women don't. It's a complex reason that few people comprehend these days: men and women are different.

Let's be honest with ourselves. How many women do you know who have already completed extensive amounts of gift buying? Now how many men do you know who haven't started yet?

I haven't started yet. I did buy one gift for my father but that's only because, after stumbling home from the pub, I came across the QVC channel. Apparently you can purchase items right from the television these days.

But otherwise, I've done no shopping. This is because I hate the mall. I hate the crowds and the crying children. I hate the tinny holiday decorations. I hate the smell of popcorn and soft pretzels and the sticky stuff all over the floor.

But women? They thrive in this environment. All five of my sisters spend hours every year shopping for the perfect gift for my father. Every year I tell them to get him something he wants — chrome lug nuts or a hydraulic car jack. Every year, they buy him another sweater, despite the fact that knitted items rank high on our list of gifts we don't want.

No, we hate the mall. We hate gift shopping. The only shopping we like is car shopping. I was doing that just last weekend. I got the new car bug. Men know about this. You wake one day and you're consumed with the need to shop for cars.

But it's not shopping the way women do it. No, car shopping is competitive for us. The car salesman is our opponent. Our goal is to defeat him. Only when the floor manager is berating the fellow for giving the store away is our shopping experience what we'd call a pleasant one.

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Alas, there is a reason for this — one rooted in biology. According to Dr. Russ King, who holds a PhD in psychology from Cambridge University, it goes back to more primitive times.

"Men would hunt for meat, make their hunting implements and protect the tribe," writes King, "while the women looked after the children, gathered vegetation and grabbed any insects or small animals that crossed their path"

He said it, not me. He continues.

"With natural selection favoring these specific traits, we now have modern men who are genetically programmed to focus on one task at a time, while women are adapted to keeping an open mind and making the most of everything they find."

In other words, men are wired to track down and kill, whereas women are wired to look all over the place for everything and never fully make up their minds. King says, in fact, that a man's propensity to wait until the last minute to shop is also rooted in evolutionary behavior.

"It is the male trophy mentality. Men like to show off their bravery, as this demonstrates the superiority of their gene pool. Managing to buy 20 presents after 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve is an impressive feat."

Actually, it's not so bad. Nobody is at the store then. What you do is get liquored up at the pub, then stumble into the mall, grab what is leftover — so what if you have to buy a staple gun for your nephew. You're in and out in 30 minutes and the superiority of your genes is showcased yet again.

As I said, the reason for all of this is due to the radical concept that men and women are different. Sure, I know there are exceptions. In fact, if you know of a woman who gift shops the way I do, please forward her name to me.

I want to marry her.

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© 2004 Tom Purcell