What Happens When Men Shop for Women



Story by Mark Carlisle

Valentine’s, birthday, anniversary, Christmas. These are the dates that nearly every man fears.

Even to the most macho of men, there’s nothing quite as intimidating as walking into the women’s section of a department store, without a clue what you’re doing. Every man wants to light up his wife or girlfriend’s face with an amazing gift, but most have no idea what they’re looking for.

“(The hardest thing about shopping is) deciding what to get,” said senior political science major Ovidio Sanchez, who has been in a relationship for a year and a half. “In her words, ‘It's very easy: food, jewelry, cloths.’ Those are very broad terms. It doesn't get more specific than that. I am left to wander malls for hours trying to decide.”

Many men have no idea what to look for when it comes to women’s fashion, as Mary Kendrick sales associate at JC Penney, said.

“A lot of guys walk in here a little, a little lost,” she said. “They don’t really know what to get.”

Sanchez says that often he tries to avoid fashion all together.

“I usually opt out for restaurants, shows and trips,” he said. “I make an effort to list down any offhand remark about things she wants. I never really risk going into areas where she would be picky like clothes or jewelry.”

One of the times that Sanchez braved the world of fashion, it backfired on him, not because of bad taste, but because of weather.

He said his worst gift for her was a thick jacket he had seen her admire on a phone app. But he forgot to factor in the warm Southern California weather. “I just went for it without really putting too much thought into it,” he said.

Lara Acedillo, Sanchez’s girlfriend and a senior athletic training major at Chapman, agreed it was her least favorite gift from him – she has yet to wear it.   

Kendrick said that some men have a much harder time picking out clothing.

“Some guys just don’t have a clue what they’re looking for,” she said. “A couple times I’ve had someone be about to buy a blouse or something, and I kinda gotta say, ‘Why don’t we get this instead?’”

However, Carter Tomsu, a sophomore at Rice University in Texas who has been in a relationship for four years, views jewelry as a safe area.

“The biggest struggle is finding gifts that are either not jewelry or something that has an inside joke connected to it,” he said. “I still haven't found a good gift in between these two categories.”

Tomsu said it’s important to have a strategy going in.

“I usually start by shopping online, looking at different brands and types of gifts and then once I decide on a brand or style go into a store,” he said. “Jewelry is what I'm usually looking for.”

Tomsu and his girlfriend Lily Judge, a junior at the University of Southern California, agree that gift-giving becomes harder the further into a relationship you get.

“It was easier at the beginning, but I feel like I’m running out of ideas for big things,” Judge said. “I’m always able to find him little goofy inside-joke related things, but as far as nice, bigger gifts, ideas can be hard to generate.”

However, Sanchez disagrees.

“I tend to think it gets better (the longer you’ve been dating),” he said. “The more conversations I have with her, the more information I have to avoid going for generic gifts.”

 Judge and Acedillo agree that, from a women’s perspective, the best gifts are the creative ones.

“The ones that make me feel the most special are the ones that he clearly put more thought and planning into,” Judge said. “Those are the gifts that show he really wants to make me happy rather than just be a good gift-giver.”

Acedillo said that her favorite gift Sanchez has given her is when “he took me to Vegas. It was an incredible surprise and I will always remember it…I love when he plans surprise trips or weekend getaways. Definitely the best gifts.”

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