"I have nothing to wear. I have to buy new clothes." It is a common refrain you will hear if you live with a woman or have a close friend who is a girl. And if you are like most guys, then you will wonder about the allure that shopping holds for women. Here it is from the horse’s mouth…
“You know that thing when you see someone cute and he smiles and your heart kind of goes like warm butter sliding down hot toast? Well that’s what it’s like when I see a store. Only it’s better.” – Rebecca Bloomwood, Confessions of a Shopaholic
Comparing a physical attraction to buying something seems a little far-fetched, doesn’t it? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It’s not a comparison I would personally make, but I understand it. Shopping means different things to every woman – a necessity, a sanctum, a religion, a way of life, an adventure. Whatever be the meaning of shopping in their life, it remains important to them. Most men do not understand how something that involves walking around, trying fifteen things, and lugging around huge bags can be relaxing, but then it is a girl thing. We do not expect you to understand but we will try to explain the rationale (if you can call it that) behind it.
What Does Science Have To Say
Most men (and I say men because they always seem bewildered by our love for buying things) tend to think that our indulgence in malls has to do with an emotional weakness, our inability to resist pretty things, our need to have what the another woman has, and also an excuse to just spend some time with our girls. While all of these may or may not be true (I’ll reserve comment on that for later), science is on our side and gives us a very valid, basic explanation for the shopping itch.
Scientists have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the seemingly irrational love women have for shopping. And if their research is anything to go by, then it is all in our genes. It is a primeval instinct, one that we have inherited from our ancestors. According to a study released in 2009 by Daniel Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan, it is only natural that women like to shop. The instinct dates to back to a time when the male was primarily, ‘the hunter’ and the female, ‘the gatherer’. Men looked for a prey, hunted it, and brought it back. Women gather fruits and vegetables. They foraged for the ones that were ripe and sweet, selected the best of the lot and brought it back home.
Millennia later the basics remain the same. If you send a man shopping, the chances that he will walk into the store and walk out with exactly what he needs are very high. At the same time, send a woman in and she will look, rummage, and forage for the best possible option, buy a couple of other things in the process, and come out at least ten times happier with herself. It is our need to ensure that we are providing our family and ourselves with the best options there are. We are checking the metaphorical fruits for signs of ripeness.
So the next time you wonder why we enjoy shopping so much, remember that even science agrees that it is a genetic flaw that we have to look for the best.
What The Fairer Sex Has To Say
When I started writing this article, it only seemed fair that I ask other women why they indulge in retail therapy. Some self-confessed shopping addicts had a lot to say, from how it helped them de-stress to how it was difficult to resist a shiny, pretty, little thing. Others emphasized on how it made them happy. And there were still some (a minority) who talked about how despite the fact that they did not love shopping, it was a necessity. The reasons I give in this article are a cumulation of what all of us think.
Because it Makes us Happy
“Why do girls love shopping? The answer is simple, it makes us happy! And don’t they say happy girls are the prettiest?” – Meenu Goel
First things first. This is true for every person who walks the earth. I know many men who would attest to the fact that owning new things makes them happy. Retail therapy is not a textbook theory. It is actually true. When you are depressed or feeling a little down and out, buying something new can work wonders for your soul. It may not last a long time but the effect is pretty magical. One of my friends describes the mood-elevating effect that shopping can have in the best possible terms, “It’s almost as good as having a chocolate-filled, chocolate-covered donut.” Who could disagree?
Because we Love Pretty
“For me, shopping is like religion. People go to churches and temples to find inner peace and calm, and I go to malls to find the same. The moment I see something that is blingy and bright, I need to have it. When my card is swiped and I finally have the beautiful coral top that I had been coveting a month, I feel instantly happy.” – Rimlee Bhuyan
Beautiful things are to a woman what a flame is to a moth. Maybe the comparison is a little skewed because the moth does die in the process, but you get the picture. We cannot resist pretty things. The moment we see something that is breathtakingly attractive we are possessed by an irresistible need to own the same. We have an intrinsic desire to look beautiful and dress up. We like to make our surroundings look good. So while a guy may not see anything pretty in a birdcage (if you do not have a pet bird), we may look at it for what it can be; a lamp, a jewelry holder, or even just a knickknack for a corner of the room. We like the basics, but we love our gild.
Because we Have the Money
“I love carrying multiple shopping bags and walking down the street! And at that time all I want to tell onlookers is, “Self-indulgence is blissful!” – Puja Lalwani
As someone who has been working for just about five years or so, I can vouch for the fact that there is something extremely freeing about being able to spend your own hard-earned money on yourself and the people you love. There is a sense of independence in being able to buy a pair of Steve Madden shoes without the guilt of spending someone else’s money. It is nice to know that when you get your paycheck at the end of the month, it is yours to spend and to save. No one wants a debt-ridden life, but an indulgence once in a while is great way to remind yourself that you are special.
Because the World is Not Enough
“A woman shops and then shops for more, because she can never have enough pairs of shoes or clothes or whatever it takes to make her look and feel good about herself.“- Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
We see that one pretty dress in the display of a designer boutique, save enough money, go and buy it. The exhilaration lasts just a while before we see another dress that we just must have. It is a familiar situation for all of us. Women are never satisfied with what they have. Even if our closet is bursting at its seams, we will still never have anything to wear. We can never have enough clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories. It is a girl thing that is mystifying to men. Trust me that as a woman no amount of introspection has helped me find a valid reason for it, except that it is human tendency to always want more.
Because it’s Much More than Shopping
“When women get together for shopping, it’s not just SHOPPING that goes on. There’s chatting, gossip, brunches, hugs, cribbing, and all other fun things that give us our very own SATC experience! Which girl wouldn’t want that!” – Sujata Iyer
For us it is about the experience. Period. If your girl tells you that she is going out shopping with her friends, then remember that it probably includes lunch, gossip, coffee, and more. We thrive in the company of our girls. We love them, we hate them, but we cannot live without them. We need their opinion on everything and what better time to get their views than while shopping? Add to that the benefits that retail therapy allows for. All that walking around in malls does burn a lot of calories. Put all of that together and it does make up for a dream day.
Because we Think we Need Certain Things
“Everything I do has to be done as per the textbook. Which means that I cannot make do with immediately available resources. I need the proper tools and devices to go about the jazz. If I am to cook, I will end up buying all kinds of spatulas, woks, cooking spoons, spoons, forks and the works. I will buy sauces of various kinds and then remember how exotic herbs are a must in every kitchen and then move over to the section which sells food I probably eat once in two years.” – Ankana Dey Choudhury
Women tend to do things in a certain order. We hate chaos. We like stuff to be kept just so and we like to use the right object for the right purpose. Also we are hoarders. Case in point, my mom keeps buying jewelry that she never wears and hopes that I will, knowing fully well that it is a hope against hope. We will buy clothes that we want to alter just a little so that they flatter us, pendants that will look great as earrings, heels that we will never wear, a fur jacket which is useless in the tropical island that we live in; all because in our heads we come up with a use for them sometime in the future. It is a problem that we readily acknowledge.
Because Contrary to Popular Belief, we Do Need Certain Things
“I’m not one for impulsive shopping. Though I do indulge myself on rare occasions, I generally step out when I simply cannot postpone it any further (read: when the sole of my slipper comes off, when I’m out of fresh veggies, when the dog food needs replenishing…).” – Niharika Arya
It may come as a huge shock but there are times when we shop only because we need to. Oh and before I forget, there are actually women out there who do not like to shop. Sorry to burst that little bubble. Yes, we all have our moments of insanity, but not all of us dream of having designer clothes, shoes, and bags. The generalization comes from the same book that said men love their gadgets. We are actually capable of walking into a store, buying things off a list, and coming back home without spending an extra minute on anything else. And no, I’m not talking fantasy fiction here.
Shopping is a lot of things to a lot of people. Truth be told, the journey can be tiresome. There are days when shopping expeditions can leave you feeling dejected, ugly, and depressed. No dress fits you right and no color flatters you. Those are the days when you want to curl up into a cocoon and stay there never to come out. But on most other days, it can be the only thing to cheer you up. To most women, it is not only the experience of buying something new, it is the thrill of looking for something that they did not own before. It is like a treasure hunt, a game that you are playing alone. A mission, at the end of which, you find something that was lovingly created only for you. And for that, we love shopping.