Keeping your masculinity while shopping for feminine products

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's early evening. My cute and talented wife looks beat, shoulders drooping, bags under her eyes. She's heading out the door with her purse over her shoulder when I speak up.

"Honey, you want me to go to the store?"

"Would you?" she asks. Her demeanor perks up. It's clear I'm doing a good thing.


Her shoulders droop again.

"What's the matter?"

"You're not going to go," she says and I understand.

"Feminine things?"

"Yes," she says. "I'm out."

I look at Callie. She's wearing exhaustion like a worn-out sweater. Four months of interrupted sleep will do that to a person. And, I must admit, she does way more with little Dawson than I do. Sympathy gets the best of me.

"Bring it on," I say, smiling bravely. "What kind do you need?"

"Kotex. Regular. With wings," she says. "Definitely not overnight."

I take a breath and repeat. "Regular. With wings. OK."

Faithful readers know I grew up with boys. Two brothers. Now two sons. Lots of uncles. Never have I had to buy anything from THAT aisle. I'm out of my element here, packages stacked ankles to ceiling, all sorts of colors. All sorts of brands. Scented. Not scented. Wings. Overnight. Short. Long. Medium. Thin.

Focus, Bob. Kotex. Regular. Wings.

I find the name brand. Regular, regular, regular. Aha, here they are. OK, now with wings. Wings, wings, wings. Where are they? Let's see, overnight with wings, no, no, not overnight.

My face is turning red. I want to make this a sniper job, in and out, a clean kill, dump the package into the cart before drawing too much attention to myself. Then I see a dude with a cart, a burly guy no doubt stocking up on razor blades and Old Spice. I avoid eye contact. I figure he's either laughing at or pitying me.

This is becoming an ordeal, now. Long with wings. Short with wings. Scented with wings. My gosh, you don't have this many wing choices at my favorite sports bar.

I search for what seems like 30 minutes when, blood pressure at its peak, I lose my nerve. I grab a Kotex regular package, toss it into the cart and move quickly to the hardware section.

I feel guilty for leaving without wings, but only slightly so. How important, really, can wings be?


Poor, poor Bob. He was so nervous he mistook the word "thin" (which every woman knows is very much akin to "overnight" in the world of feminine products) for "regular." And he came home with the smallest package of pads I'd ever seen -- so as to escape the notice of all the other manly men at the grocery store, I assume.

Apparently, for those lucky women out there who do have men in their lives willing to sacrifice their dignity, this temporary loss of brain function in the face of choosing the correct product is a common problem. A little Internet research to sites like and turned up some interesting solutions though.

1.) One woman tears the label off the end of the box and gives it to her husband to take with him to the store.

2.) Another woman took a picture of the box with her husband's cell phone.

3.) One man suggested that makers label the products in car parts-like fashion: 1A, 2K, and so on, to make identifying the needed supply simpler. As in, "Honey, while you're at the store, pick up a 5B please."

4.) This same guy suggested that companies consider men in their packaging strategy. Like camouflage or skulls instead of pink flowers.

5.) One wife said her husband views it as similar to buying toilet paper; no big deal, really. After all, she said, any one who sees him with the product will know it's not for him.

6.) One duo who shares the shopping duties in their household said they've struck a compromise with each other: The wife is willing to pick up jock itch cream and condoms if the husband occasionally picks up her tampons.

7.) Another wife convinced her husband that the cute girls at the checkout counter would be impressed with him for making such a purchase. Gotta know when to feed the ego.

I'm debating which strategy to employ in our house. Bob, how would you feel about a photo of a feminine product as the screen saver on your cell phone, instead of a photo of the boys?

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