Monday, July 11, 2011

A Guy Walks Into A Lingerie Store ... Studies In Gender Miscommunication

The other day I was in a kind of fancy bra and lingerie store, completing a complex transaction.  Unfortunately it was not a "complex transaction" as in "Oh, but don't you have this in the chantilly lace in Tequilla Sunrise Orange?" It was just a complex transaction in the most boring way, as in "I'd like to return this and use the credit to order these other things you don't have in stock."

It was one of those situations where the woman who knows how to do the transaction was in the dressing room providing some Excellent Customer Service of the kind you get in these kinds of stores, and the woman at the register was a little befuddled.  I wasn't in a rush though:  the afternoon was broiling and the store was air-conditioned.

As we stood there together, me the model patient customer and she the increasingly nervous sales person, a guy came in, alone.  No big deal, but this guy was wearing mirrored sunglasses, responded to an offer of assistance with a gruff "no," and went on to . . . well, I'd have to say he went on to fondle the panties in a box that was sitting on the cashier table. 

We stood there aware of his fondling as we tried to sort out the transaction.  I found myself feeling creeped out and nervous, but initially unable to explain to myself why I felt creeped out.  I mean, if you're going to buy some panties, touching them to see how they feel, checking the texture and size, is completely normal and appropriate -- whether you're shopping for yourself or for a gift for some woman.  What's the problem exactly?

What was the problem? 

Well, part of the problem is the way certain guys sometimes give you a feeling like they are going to fly off the handle.  Sometimes you get a feeling from a guy that even though they're acting very patient and nice for the moment, something is going to make them snap and when they do it's going to be bad.  One of the things that makes guys snap, it seems, is rage over sex -- I mean, the feeling that they want to have it with someone and no one wants to have it with them.  So a guy with mirrored sunglasses on, experiencing who knows what mood, in this lingerie store with all these women -- is he going to fly off the handle somehow?

This is the sort of thing that you'd think statistics and empirical facts might help you assess, but for me, somehow it doesn't really.  I mean, it might be statistically uncommon for a guy to fly off the handle in that particular way, but somehow that fact -- it doesn't make it feel different.  For me, I just sometimes get the feeling like a certain guy is going to fly off the handle at a certain moment, and I get scared.  And I'm a relatively fearless person, generally.

You often hear women say "I was scared to say No."  And you might wonder:  why exactly?  Did someone threaten you?  Was there a history of violence?  Often the answer is Yes. But even when the answer is No, guys can be scary.  This feeling one gets from them when they're angry may be part of the explanation for why they can be scary, and especially in those kinds of contexts.

On this occasion, the guy was perfectly patient and polite; he waited 'til we were done, then paid for his panties.  And he was probably just shy and nervous.  But honestly, mirrored sunglasses indoors?  It sure makes you think a guy has something fishy going on.

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