Monday, August 12, 2013

Shopping for things no man wants to buy.

There are many things in life that are unavoidable.  Death, taxes, and if you're a married man, buying feminine hygiene products.  That's right guys; sooner or later you're going to be sent to the store to buy pads.

To be honest, it's really not that big of a deal.  Somewhere along the line most of us have to buy all sorts of embarrassing things at the drug store.  Condoms, pads, hemorrhoid ointment, laxatives, and so on.

When I was in college, I worked for a while at a small drug store, and got to witness all the very best of people buying embarrassing products.  Over time, I classified these folks into various groups:

The Lurker - This one is my personal favorite, and you see it most with teenagers; especially teenage boys buying condoms, but also sometimes with teenage girls buying pads.  You can always tell they're buying something embarrassing because of the way they hang back.  If you watch, you can usually see them trying to keep whatever they were holding out of sight.  Then they'd keep waiting until the least threatening cashier is available; usually a cashier of the same sex if at all possible.

The Catatonic Shopper - Sometime people choose to cope with their embarrassment by walking boldly up to the counter, setting their purchase on the counter, and then completing their transaction without making a sound or any eye contact.

The Over-Compensator - Every once in a while, you'll get a shopper who wants to make sure you know just how comfortable they are with their purchase.  They will tell you, at great length, just how comfortable they are buying hemorrhoid cream or Nix.  How funny all the easily embarrassed people are.  Don't be fooled.  What they're really saying is, "Please let me keep talking.  If my mouth stops moving my entire face will turn beat red and you'll know how embarrassed I am."

The Over-Stuffed Cart - The final technique (other than shoplifting) is to simply load up a cart with so much garbage you don't really want, that nobody will notice the one embarrassing item buried in the random shopping.

Over time, we all learn to get over it.  When a 45 year old guy needs to make a potentially embarrassing purchase, he tosses a box of condoms, a tube of lube, and some Metamucil onto the counter because his wife has been nagging him to get more fiber and does it without a care in the world.  He has the same inane chat with the cashier that he'd have if he were buying a carton eggs, and then he heads out.

Just about everything get's easier, but there's one thing that continues to be a nightmare for men, and that's buying pads.  It's not because there's anything inherently embarrassing about buying pads.  Once you grow up a bit and get over it, it's no more embarrassing than buying toilet paper or a package of underwear.  What makes it difficult for us guys, is that we have to spend 45 minutes carefully reading each and every package of pads to figure out what to buy.

I was sent to the store to buy pads recently, and given a brief description of what to buy.  Seemed simple enough; "the really absorbent ones with wings."  Let me tell you something folks, it's anything but simple.  There are approximately 4971 products in the feminine hygiene isle, and roughly ⅓ of them fit that description to a T.  However, they all claim to be extra absorbent, and most of them have wings.   But was she looking for, "amazingly absorbent for something so thin," or was she looking for, "so big it looks like a ciabatta loaf and so absorbent it could be used to clean up an oil spill in the gulf"?

With Wings!

Now, you might think that you could just take an empty package to the store, but that doesn't work because it seems that at some point, all of the major manufacturers got together and agreed to completely redesign their labels, and re-brand their entire product line, every 28 days.

There's no apparent purpose to this, except that it means any man who is sent to the store to buy them will be forced to call his wife at least twice and stand in the isle long enough for someone to notify store security that there's some wierdo hanging out in the feminine hygiene isle.