Choices throw hunter off trail

Essay: Shopping provides only frustration for rusty husband.

May 26, 1999|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Today's Lesson in Matrimony: Buy Your Own Damn Jeans.

Hello readers:

(Sorry about the curse word.)

This might seem like one of those cute columns writers write when something cute happens in their life. But, in reality-based fact, this story exposes the dark heart of anthropology. And, as any student of humankind knows, there's nothing cute about anthropology.

Men, science tells us, are natural hunters. Men hunt cars or VCRs or CDs or boxer shorts. Men are not gatherers. Men do not gather information on boxer shorts. Men hunt them down until they are ours, all ours.

So, by nature, men are not shoppers. Shopping means "to visit a shop or shops so as to look at and buy or price things for sale." Nowhere in Webster's

New World definition is the word "hunt." Yet life sometimes calls upon us hunters to leave the cave and "visit a shop or shops."

I confess that in 14 years of marriage, I had grocery shopped four times; and three times I was accompanied by my wife -- I got to push the cart and do wheelies. Lately, though, I have had to leave the cave and shop routinely. This is fraught with disaster for the brave hunter. There are too many choices.

Milk is no longer just milk; it has sprouted devil children: Low Fat. No Fat. Used to be Fat But Look at Me Now. Others are cleverly named after percentages: 2 percent, 1 percent, 0 percent, .002 percent and new on the market, .000001 milk -- which resembles tap water. Gone are the days when you bought whole milk, which is now labeled "Premature Death by Obstructed Artery" milk (it has the black cap with the skull-and-crossbones).

Having picked up a dozen gallons of 2 percent milk, hunters then stalk the wily bread. The jungle, it turns out, teems with bread: Split-Top Wheat; Whole Wheat; Round Top; Honey Wheat Berry; Sun Grain; Butter Wheat; Stone Ground; Potato Bread; Italian Bread; Italian Lite and something called white bread, which sounds suspicious. Stone Ground sounds manly, so the hunter bags a loaf.

Next on the list is orange juice, but men can screw up this order, too. Pulp in O.J. is now strictly regulated. Labels now read "Pulp," "Pulp Free," "Some Pulp," "Pulp Fiction," and "Enough Pulp to Gag a 2 Percent Cow." The hunter is mightily confused. As anthropology also teaches us, men should stick to buying cereal. Fruit Loops, namely.

But the perils of food shopping pale in comparison to those of clothes shopping. This hunt begins when the man says, "I'll go buy you some jeans." Hunter trying to be nice. Foolish hunter.

The man tracks down a Gap store in search of jeans for his woman. Man is ushered to the back of the friendly Gap store where women's jeans are stacked corn-high. Then, he sees, for the first time in his life, The Gap Chart! The Chart lists and illustrates the types of jeans for sale. Like milk, jeans have been inbred to produce mutant, almost unspeakable offspring. The hunter is again confused by all these choices.

There's "Original Fit" and "Classic" and "Low Rise" and "Reverse" and "Flairs" and "Basic Carpenter" and "Carpenter Capri" styles. One is slimmer than the other; one is more tapered; one is fuller in the hips; one is tighter at the waist; one flairs at the ankles; one stops at the middle of the leg; one sits low on the waist; and one, god bless it, claims to be a regular pair of jeans.

Paralyzed, the hunter studies The Chart's illustrations. Surely this will guide him, but all the stick figures appear to be the same. "Fuller in the hips" doesn't look all that different from "tighter in the waist." And what's the difference again between "original fit" and "classic"?

The hunter feels very alone in the jeans jungle.

Finally he leaves The Gap, having snared the absolute wrong pair of jeans for his woman. Proudly he heads for his cave, remembering first to stop and pick up some orange juice on the way.

Pulp Free, he guesses wrong.

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