The Nation's Pulse

Manshop, Womanshop

Why can't a woman shop more like man?

By 8.25.06

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I coined a new word the other day. My wife has finally decided, after her old car added an oil hemorrhage to a list of already-existing ills (the locks don't work; the a/c doesn't work, etc., etc.) that she wants to buy a new car. "New" means new to her. We're looking at used cars. She wants me to help her, and, indeed, car shopping is something I'm pretty good at.

But, after a week of talking about available models, her desires, how much she wanted to spend, and the like, I found myself getting exasperated, the way a man will.

"Look," I said. "Just give me whatever the maximum amount of money you can stand to spend is, in cash, and I'll get on the phone and go out and manshop for a car for you and come back in an hour."

No, she didn't want to do that. And, after a day apart from one another, we both reached the same set of conclusions. She felt more comfortable buying a car from a dealer than from a private party. And she wanted to look at and drive a number of different models before making up her mind.

I SHOP ONE OF TWO DIFFERENT WAYS. If, for example, I decided that I was going to need to own a tuxedo for a number of formal occasions, instead of just renting one once in a blue moon, I would go to a good store and buy a tux within an hour. I know exactly what I'd get. If I couldn't get what I wanted at one store, I find another, and repeat the process.

That's manshopping, shortchanging the process to get to the result as quickly as possible. There may be any of several reasons for it. One may value the process not at all, as in the tuxedo example. One may have better things to do than buy socks, for example; it never takes me more than a few minutes to buy socks. Similarly, a new season's pair or two of Dockers can be taken care of in a blitzkrieg strike.

If there is such a thing as manshopping, there must also be womanshopping. The endless browse. The indecision. The delight in the process with no real concern about results. In fact, in looking for my wife's car, I was looking forward to womanshopping, to trying out half a dozen different makes and models of automobiles.

A year or two from now, I look forward to combining the two techniques. My old Caddie's Freon-based a/c system will probably be kaput about then, and it will be time to buy an Eldorado, vintage '97 or '98. I know exactly what I want: White or red with tan or brown interior, around $5,000, low miles, superbly maintained.

SO MUCH FOR LEISURELY CAR SHOPPING, man or woman style. I had discounted one motivation entirely: terror. Turns out Sally was so anxious over buying a car, she simply wanted to get it over as soon as possible. She's going to pick up a three-year-old Honda Accord, white, gray leather interior, today, Wednesday.

Turns out I'm not the only manshopper in the family. Nor am I the only one with reasons to do it.

Dang. Wonder if I can still come up with an excuse to go look at Chryslers.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.