I get given a shopping list and sent to the shops with a clear instruction not to screw anything up. This would seem like a reasonable demand however when you look at the breathtaking choice of even the most mundane items in a supermarket this task becomes much more difficult.
On this list of items (apart from the usual pointless treasure hunt for fringe items such as “lemongrass” and “rice flour”) are a number of “lady” products which are basically sources of anxiety for most men.
First up, tissues.
I use tissues for two things, wiping crap off my arse and snot out of my nose. In fact the latter I often just perform a snot rocket and then use a sleeve. A simple roll of the stuff is fine, it is easily divided into the amount I need for whatever use I have for it.
However girls have a number of other uses for tissues such as wiping coloured chemicals off their faces, wiping food from their lips and crying. All of these new uses mean that now some new variables become important such as the size of the tissue and it’s method of delivery.
The decision as to whether to get “mansize” or “regular” or “minis” or whatever is further complicated by whether they should come in a box, a packet, a roll or some hermetically sealed plastic that smells of Aloe Vera. I hadn’t even begun to try to understand the textures and flavours as well.
I guessed right with whatever I bought which is better than usual. Apparently there is a rule against bulk buying of arse wiping paper and of it being any colour other than white.
Next up – Hair Products
I would like someone to explain to me what the difference is between “volumising”, “lifting” and “flumping” when it comes to hair. I was under strict instructions to get a small bottle of VO5 “extra flimp” which was in a small pink triangular bottle. There were a number of identical pink triangles on the shelf but only one was not on some sort of 2 for £5 offer and quelle surprise it was this one.
But none of this prepares a man for what is probably the hardest thing in the world to buy. More nerve racking than going into Boots as a young man trying to buy condoms and coming out with yet another meal deal and pack of batteries, more hazardous than buying one of those magazines shrouded in grey film (you may end up with 50s and over or ginger birds) and certainly more stressful than buying a house.
You know what I am talking about.
Now I’ll let you into a secret. There are a couple of rules about marketing things to girls. One is that some girls will only buy anything if it is packaged in pink. Another is that some girls will not buy anything that is packaged in pink. This creates a problem for manufacturers of ladies essentials which they get around quite easily by putting the same product in pink boxes and blue boxes.
However, this causes another problem, the consumers then believe that the company is patronising them by putting the same things in different coloured boxes. “Do you think we are stupid? Just putting the same stuff in different boxes is not going to make me buy it”. This is true. Can you think of anything where a company markets the same thing but differentiates on colour just to sell more to idiots?
Anyway, they get around this by giving the products different names which then confused the hell out of me because I trying to think about (but at the same time trying not to think too much about) what could possibly be the difference between “Ultra Fresh”, “Micro Fresh” and “Super Fresh”.
Once I have tried to navigate the hygiene factors I then have to try and gauge the “size and volume” dimensions that are described in a similar way to how the navy would categorise their fleet. Should I go for the light and fast “dreadnaught” or the slow and heavy “HMS Trident”. I don’t even want to consider nuclear options.
It’s a minefield it really is.
But I survive and make to the checkout, looking out for a frown from the lady who serves me that I may have made a bad choice somewhere in my pile of fresh spices and feminine hygiene products. Instead she hands me one of those supermarket “price match” coupons at the end that informs me
“CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Your shop here with us today was 17% less awkward”.