Back in my B.K. era (Before Kim), I went shopping for shoes at a K-Mart. I tried one on and it fit OK, and it was inexpensive, so I put it in the box, paid for it, and went home. The next morning, I discovered that I’d purchased two right shoes. “That’s OK,” I figured. “I can find a way to make this work.”
I subscribe to targeted shopping. I know what I want, I find it as quickly as possible, and then I can leave the store. Kim, and I suspect many women, has a different shopping experience. She makes comparisons between similar products, evaluating them. She might go to more than one store. She may decline what a salesperson suggests, as she did yesterday with a salad-spinner at Williams-Sonoma. (I have never rejected a salad-spinner in my life.) She may even try on both shoes before purchasing them.
Now, Kim is not a person who simply enjoys shopping as a social experience – going out with The Girls for a day. And it’s not an aesthetic experience where you get a lift looking at beautiful clothes, furniture, or salad spinners. Kim’s usually too busy looking after me to shop just for the pleasure of it. No, Kim usually shops for stuff she needs, or we need, but it’s her commitment to something she calls “quality” that takes her a bit longer than it takes me. She does not shop for shoes at K-Mart.
When we got married, Kim took a long look at the clothes in my closet and made me an offer: For every three shirts that she threw away, she would buy me a new one. I was puzzled, but I accepted the offer.
She later told me about an incident when we were courting. Wearing an apparently memorable bright yellow shirt and a brown and yellow argyle sleeveless sweater, I approached her desk at the school where we both worked. She told me she thought it was a clever joke I was pulling, testing for her response. I’m not sure she believes, even today, that I had no such intention – that was just what I chose to wear. It may go back to my first marriage, when I had to leave for work early while my wife was still asleep, so I would dress in the dark. Some days I would be surprised to discover what I had “chosen.” This is why I put Kim’s word “quality” in quotation marks. (I later offered Kim’s son, Scott, $50 if he would wear the shirt and sweater out the door. Broke at the time, he declined my offer. The outfit was last seen in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum somewhere in Florida.)
Our friend Alice advised that in choosing an outfit you don’t want to be “all matchy-matchy.” I was delighted to realize that my fashion sense is cutting-edge. I’m pleased when I discover that my socks match.
It’s important to keep your primary goal in mind when you are shopping. For Kim, it’s a quality product that meets a specific need – boots to wear in the city in the winter, jeans that fit, look good, and will last for a while. Similarly, I try to keep my primary goal in mind: Don’t buy anything. I am not always successful. Yesterday I told Kim that I needed some black socks. “Yes,” she said, “I noticed that a couple of pairs had holes in them.”
“Three pairs had holes.”
“Did you throw them out?” Kim knows me well.
“Yes,” I lied. I was wearing one of them.
We left Macy’s with eight pair of black socks, plus two undershirts that Kim said appeared to be of higher quality than my graying ones.
Kim is, in fact, nudging me toward quality. For example, I love the quality of my new Merrill insulated snow boots. My old boots weren’t waterproof or insulated, and they were starting to fall apart, so I figured they had a few years left in them. So Kim found my Merrill boots online and bought them for me.