Wherever there is hardship in this world, there is someone else who’s trying to help. Be it oppression or adversity. Cruelty or injustice. It seems that everyone has an advocate.
But, sadly, there’s one group whose anguish has gone overlooked for far too long:
You can actually pinpoint the cause of our pain to one fateful day.
October 8, 1956.
To most of us, it seemed a day like any other.
But on that day, a man named Victor Gruen, opened the first indoor shopping mall in Edina, Minnesota.
The mall was called Southdale.
And guys everywhere have been tortured by the invention ever since.
Lest you blow this off as a joke, pay attention next time you’re in the mall.
Take heed of our distress.
Note the pained expressions.
We look forlorn.
Sometimes, we even look as if we’re giving serious thought to jumping.
“Would it really be worse than Ann Taylor Loft?”
You see us draped over faux gold railings. Tracing an index finger over the bars.
Remembering what life was like on the outside.
Meanwhile, strains of Christmas carols pipe ubiquitous from the ceiling. “The most wonderful time of the year my ass.”
As we pass in the hallways, shackled with Nordstrom bags, we exchange a somber, knowing glance. It’s the same look neutered dogs give each other when they cross on the street.
“I feel your pain. Now let’s never speak of this again.”
In the mall, we men revert to dissociation. It’s a self-preservation technique where the mind blocks itself off to prevent trauma. You’ll often see it in cases of extreme psychological distress. Guys who have been through wars. Guys who have been through natural catastrophes. Guys who have been through Victoria’s Secret.
The expression is universal. It’s more vacant than a Paris Hilton bookshelf. And it crosses every imaginable social barrier. Black or white. Young or old. Yankees or Red Sox.
Worst of all, our suffering is senseless. We men are dragged to the mall against our will by wives, girlfriends, and girls we’re trying to sleep with.
Why do you make us come along?
There must be a good reason to torture us so.
You might say that, “some guys like to shop.”
But “some guys also like to pierce their genitalia.” Chances are, you’re not with one of those guys.
More often, you shlep us to the mall under the guise that you want our opinion. That you value our keen eye for women’s fashion.
To this I say, “do you really?”
We wear golf shirts embroidered with obscure corporate insignias.
Usually, the shirts have been in business longer than the companies.
We wear our 1996 Gap Relaxed Fit jeans without thought of a belt. The pants stay up fine without one. So what’s the point.
On our right foot, there’s a navy blue Jockey crew sock. On our left, a black Hanes. It’s inside out. But we don’t care. Why should we? You can’t see the seam unless you take off our white New Balance tennis shoes.
So, ladies, do you really want to know whether we prefer the Boot Cut or the Flare?
Keep in mind that many of us own flannel.
And yet, despite our appalling sartorial sensibilities, you insist that we join you at the mall. Sometimes, you even play the “we never spend any quality time together” card.
So, reluctantly, we follow you into Arden B.
And so the suffering continues.
Once inside the women’s clothing store, our only solace is the Man Chair.
This is generally shoved in a corner by the dressing rooms. Leaving us eye-level with a rack full of Granny Panties.
Awkward? Perhaps. But it’s far better than the alternative.
See, these days Man Chairs are few and far between. They’re an endangered species. A dinosaur from more considerate times.
So, while you ladies duck into the dressing room for a small eternity, we’re left to fend for ourselves in the wild.
This is a major dilemma. Because let me tell you. A man is never more naked than when he’s alone in a women’s clothing store.
Guys, you know exactly what I mean.
At first, you stand. Hands in pockets. Rocking back and forth on your heels. You contemplate a coffee stain on your shirt. You check your watch. It’s a collector’s edition Ravens watch. You frown and try to take solace in the reflected testosterone.
But it’s no use. You’re surrounded by pink things. They’re embroidered with silk and estrogen and described with adjectives like “pretty” and “soft.”
Manhood receding, you glance around the store. Most of the women are alone.
You silently curse their husbands who are fortunate enough to be at home, at the bar, or dead.
As your eye leaps from face to face, an attractive blonde girl inevitably catches your gaze.
You smile sheepishly.
She does not smile back.
It’s then that you realize that you’re the creepy guy who’s in The Limited by himself.
Lurking by the dressing room.
Your smile vanishes as you offer an expression that is at once innocent and apologetic.
It’s a look that you only hope telegraphs “No! It’s okay! I don’t own a website!”
You pull your hands from your pockets (which, of course, makes it look even worse) and avert your eyes to the nearest clothing rack. With desperation, you start touching things.
As you lumber around the racks you try your best to feign interest. You feel a pair of sweatpants, purse your lips and nod. You hope that this look passes as normal. The expression of someone who appreciates fabric.
“These are nice sweatpants,” you announce to the woman across the table.
She stares for a moment, then walks away.
You shrug and continue touching the sweatpants.
They say “JUICY” across the ass.
You realize this isn’t making you look any less of a pervert.
Your mind races. Desperate to think of a way to not look awkward. You’ve never been more unsure of what to do with your hands.
Then you have an idea. You approach the free-standing display shelves.
“Could I sit there?”
You give the clothes a nudge and slowly lower your backside to the display.
After testing the surface with a tentative butt-cheek, you decide it’s not sturdy enough. You stand up and wonder if anyone noticed.
The hot blonde girl shakes her head and frowns, wondering why you felt compelled to touch your ass to the ladies’ undergarments.
You quickly straighten the stack of lace panties, making a conscious effort not to finger the glittery lettering that spells “Vixen.”
And so it goes for guys in malls. A constant dance of awkwardness, boredom and emasculation.
Sadly, as long as there are malls, the senseless suffering will continue.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ladies, consider this a plea on behalf of all men.
Next time you go shopping, let us stay home.
Let us sit on the couch, watch sports and scratch ourselves.
Let us eat pizza and drink beer.
Let us fart.
Give us our dignity.