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Jeff Ward: Do I Really Have to go Shopping With My Wife?

It takes weeks of therapy to recover!

Please tell me I’m not the only red-blooded American male who’s had to endure this kind of agony. There has to be some other hapless husband out there who’s felt my pain. And if I do find even one compatriot, perhaps we could start a Geneva support group for husbands who choose to go shopping with their wives.

Because whether it’s Trader Joe's or Target, the problems always start with her amazing capacity to simply vanish—cart and all. I’m not talking about temporarily losing her in the crowd. No! I’m talking about picture-on-the-side-of-a-milk-carton, Bermuda Triangle gone.

One minute we’re standing side-by-side in Dominick’s vegetable section, I turn to reach for some garlic, and she’s disappeared. The only possible explanation is she was either born with an inherent stealth capability or my wife is exponentially faster than any middle-aged woman I’ve ever met.

Personally, I’m betting on the former because trying to get her out of the house on time for anything other than school requires a crowbar and plastic explosives.

While I can usually re-locate her in a small venue like Trader Joe's, a vast expanse like Target is another story. That often requires the assistance of a search party. There are times I’ve actually had to call her cell phone and scream, “Where the bleep are you?!”

She missed her calling as a ninja. No wonder I sleep with one eye open.

When I do manage slip a GPS sensor in her pants and actually keep track of her, I find myself regretting that, because there’s no simple grocery question she can’t turn into a soap operatic exchange.

For example, at TJ’s last weekend I presented her with a rather straightforward query. “Since I’ll be using the rest of the tomatoes for sweet and sour shrimp tonight, should we pick up a few more?”

And like a good lawyer, I expected a simple yes or no answer. But her response went something like this: “Well, if you use those two tomatoes we should pick up a couple more, but I actually like these pearl tomatoes better, but if you need them for later in the week I’d get the beefsteak unless you prefer the tomatoes on the vine.”

By the end of that run-on sentence I was so confused I grabbed a bag of potatoes instead. Thank God I didn’t ask her for the meaning of life.

But my all-time favorite shopping pastime has to be the one where she asks a question that she wants answered a certain way, but I don’t have a clue as to what the correct response might be. Nothing strikes terror into the core of my being like this question: “Dearest, do you like the blue sweater with the cuffs or the gray sweater with the V-neck,” as she holds each one up in turn.

Now, if I could simply get away with giving her my honest opinion or just make a mad dash for the exit, life would be a piece of cake. But she doesn’t want my honest opinion—she wants me to magically come up with her opinion. So I just stand there stammering with beads of cold sweat dripping down my face because I know all my future happiness depends upon somehow coming up with the sweater she likes best.

If, like the knight in Raiders of the Lost Ark said, I choose poorly, despite whatever subsequent assurances I offer regarding her amazing taste, she will not buy the article of clothing she really liked and it will be all my fault. If I dare to question her motivation for soliciting an unnecessary outside opinion, I may as well throw myself in front of a car in the parking lot on the way out.

She even does this with different varieties of mixed vegetables. If I knew there was going to be a test, I would’ve studied for it!

But the incident that got us arguing was the one thing that makes me want to run out of the store screaming and pulling out what little hair I have left—moving the cart just as I’m about to put something in it.

While I shop the correct way, with a detailed typewritten list, my lovely wife has to meander every aisle in search of all the things she thinks we really need. This is why we have 30 cans of Dole pineapple in the cupboard. So on the rare occasion she’s actually within my field of view, the shopping cart is never in the same place for more than two seconds.

The end result is either, (1) I turn around to put the parmesan cheese in the basket only to have it clatter to the floor while everyone looks on like I’m some sort of complete idiot; or (2) Like Derrick Rose, I drive the narrow grocery store lane in an effort to slam dunk the frozen peas before she turns the corner, knocking over two carts and taking out three little old ladies in the process; or worse yet; (3) I accidentally put my wine in some other woman’s shopping cart only to have her beat me senseless with her purse for getting fresh.

“Why should I have to stand around and wait for you to look at a list?” she typically chides me, “We can get the shopping done faster this way.” Yeah! But you can also drive your husband to drink a lot faster that way, too. “Just tell me where the basket is gonna be, and we won’t have this problem,” I always answer, as the other shoppers start handing her domestic-abuse shelter pamphlets.

The irony is (there’s always an irony in my columns, isn’t there!), we go grocery shopping on winter weekends to spend some quality time together away from our housebound children. But after that last trip, I’m convinced the very thing that’s supposed to bring us together will be the ultimate cause of our divorce.

So, Geneva husbands! Join me in my struggle to end this needless shopping cycle. How’s this for a name for our new 12-step group, “Husbands Who Go Grocery Shopping With Their Wives, But Are Too Terrified to Talk About It ... ”

" ... Or Are Suddenly Celibate When They Do."

robert poznanski January 25, 2012 at 03:03 PM
You are just describing what every husband in creation must go through, when out with your "gatherer!" It was explained to me, by my father years ago, men are hunters, women are gatherers! Understand that, and you will be two steps up, on every body else! My favorite conversation goes, something like this!" Where do you want to go to eat, tonight? O, I don't know, you pick! OK, lets go to blah blah's! Oh, I don't want to go there! OK, then where do you want to go? I don't know,I asked you to pick a place! " I still love her though!!!
Jeff Ward January 25, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Robert, You're like a Zen husband! Perhaps you should start your own Patch advice column! Jeff
Mary Stith January 25, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Grocery stores yes. But, Gander Mountain or Dick's, this is a reversed tale. Which is why I never go on those trips with my husband. Let him take his bonding pals.
Justin Eggar January 26, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Katlyn and I have fun shopping together. Shopping with my coupon queen Missy in NC on the other hand is a "shoot me in the face" experience. After spending hours in the grocery store comparing coupons to sale deals (ooh, that's a $.01 savings per ounce!)... I will never take shopping with my wife for granted again.

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