By Sheersha Majumdar, Batch of 2022
Nowadays, everyone hires an advocate whenever a tragedy strikes but sadly, there’s one half of a species whose anguish has gone disregarded for far too long – Men.
You can actually pinpoint the cause of our distress to one portentous day.
October 8, 1956.
On that ominous day a man named Victor Gruen, who was absolutely clueless about the fact that he was playing second fiddle to the devil, opened the first indoor shopping mall in Edina, Minnesota. Men everywhere have been tortured by this heinous 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 our pained expressions.
You see us draped over faux gold railings, tracing an index finger over the bars, remembering what life was like on the outside.
As we pass in the hallways, shackled with shopping bags, we exchange a sombre knowing glance. It’s the same look neutered dogs give each other when they cross each other on the street, “I feel your pain. Now let’s never speak of this again.” In this despicable place, most of us 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. Men who have been through wars, men who have been through natural catastrophes and men 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.
Why do you make us come along?
You might say that “some guys like to shop”. Granted.
But “some guys also like to pierce their genitalia”. Chances are, you’re not with one of those guys.
More often than not, you drag 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 now?”
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?
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 and reluctantly, we follow you into Arden B and the perennial suffering continues. Once inside the women’s clothing store, our only solace is the Man Chair. They are generally shoved in a corner by the dressing rooms, leaving us eye-level with a rack full of glittery stuff. 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, all men follow the brain ingrained manual of ‘The subtle Art of not coming across as a Pervert’ as we’re left alone fending for ourselves in the wild.
At first, we stand. Hands in pockets. Rocking back and forth on our heels. We contemplate a coffee stain on our shirt. We check our watch. It’s a collector’s edition Ravens watch. We frown and try to take solace in the reflected testosterone.
But it’s no use. We’re surrounded by pink things. They’re embroidered with silk and estrogen and described with adjectives like ‘pretty’ and ‘soft’. As we continue glancing around the store, we start feeling more and more emasculated with each passing second.
We silently curse other husbands who are fortunate enough to be at home, at the bar or dead.
We lumber around the racks, trying our best to feign interest. We feel a pair of sweatpants, purse our lips and nod, hoping that this look passes as normal – the expression of someone who appreciates fabric.
“These are nice sweatpants,” we announce to the woman across the table.
She stares for a moment, then walks away.
We shrug and continue touching the sweatpants. Realizing that this isn’t making us look any less of a pervert, our mind races, desperate to think of a way to not look awkward. We’ve never been more unsure of what to do with our hands.
And so for guys in malls, it continues to be a journey comprising of the 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 to our heart’s content.
Give us our dignity.