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Posted on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

Help for the shopmentally challenged

By Mike Ball

The holidays are here again, and throughout the land families are getting ready for the fun. The average mom is working day and night, addressing the cards, planning the merry-making, and doing everything in her power to make sure that this Christmas will be the best ever. The average child is erupting in a sustained explosion of anticipatory excitement, like a little bottle-rocket in matching mittens and stocking cap.

And the average husband is curled up somewhere in a fetal position, sucking his thumb and counting the minutes until the specter of Christmas shopping has passed. Yes, this may come as a shock to many of my female readers, but men really aren't all that good at shopping. You see, women seem to find an endless source of joy in spending nine or 10 straight hours going from store to store in search of just the right shade of black pants.

An experience like that would have just about any guy spending the next 20 years waking up in cold sweats and screaming for the mercy of a quick and painless check-out. In fact, there are now support groups available for the uniquely male victims of what has come to be known as Post-Traumatic Shopping Disorder.

Ladies, there are several reasons you should learn not to expect much from your man in the way of Christmas shopping. First, by your standards a man is as color-blind as a beagle. If you say, "I'd like a blue sweater," we will simply go out and buy you a sweater that is blue.

Now, you will probably be amazed to learn that a man cannot grasp the absurdity of doing that. And you should know that on Christmas morning when you patiently explain to us, "It's really nice, but I need robin's egg to go with that mocha skirt your sister gave me, and this is actually more of a periwinkle," as far as your man is concerned you might as well be speaking Swahili.

Second, our concept of how clothing should fit is very different from yours. To most men, if a large is comfortable, it just stands to reason that an extra-large will be extra-comfortable.

This is apparently not quite how women look at it. A woman's main priority when it comes clothing size is to have the smallest number printed on the tag while still being able to stuff her body into said clothing without either risking a complete loss of peripheral circulation or triggering a matter-antimatter implosion.

To further raise a guy's blood pressure and leave him sitting in the mall fountain babbling dialogue from King Lear, it seems that the numbers describing a woman's clothing size vary depending on the store you happen to be in. This means that a "nine" in the Bulimia Boutique is not the same as a "nine" in Bertha's Palace for Plus-Size Goddesses.

Finally, the male of our species has an extremely short attention span where money is concerned. Women treat a purchase like a savings account, buying things on the premise that they can "always take it back." For this reason I believe that a woman keeps a sort of mental passbook of all her purchases, so she always has a pretty good idea of what she wants, what she has spent, and what she has in "return reserve."

For a guy, once a dollar is spent, he considers it spent. He buys whatever he thinks is cool, and expects it to stay bought. Don't tell him any different, and the odds are he will never know.

So ladies, try to be understanding when your husband cheerfully hands you a gift-wrapped Swiffer, a lime green pant suit, and a gross of AA batteries on Christmas morning. Just remind yourself that the poor guy is shopmentally challenged — and you can always take it back.

Mike Ball is the Erma Bombeck Award-winning author of "What I've Learned So Far..." and the book What I've Learned So Far... Part I: Bikes, Docks & Slush Nuggets - now available on Smashwords for Nook, Kindle, and all other E-readers.



Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

I was missing your column in the Current, so I'm glad to find you again here! I love your stuff.

Mike Ball

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Thanks for the good words! We're running a Holiday column every day through the 26th, so you can get a pretty good fix. You can also subscribe for free at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> - that way you'll get a column every time the syndicate does.


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

Wow. I would not have expected an article with such wild generalizations and bigotry would appear in an Ann Arbor news paper. Maybe next week we can talk about how women should all be housewives because they're better at nurturing!

Mike Ball

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

M, this is not a sociological white paper, or even an op-ed, it's a joke. It is certainly not intended to imply that all women should be housewives! I'm sorry I offended you.


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

That's nice but are the husbands &quot;returnable&quot;? Ladies, keep your marriage receipt just in case you need to return your hubby.

Mike Ball

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

My wife has kept my receipt under a heart-shaped magnet on the refrigerator for 36 years. Just sayin'.