Men shop on Mars, women just shop

By Mir
February 2, 2009

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning about being married again is that men and women really are just fundamentally different about some things. Much of the time those differences are “cute” or “endearing” or at least tolerable, and occasionally those differences are just plain baffling.

And I’m not just talking about what baffles me, either. I know for a fact that Otto is baffled by my shopping habits on a daily basis. He does not, for example, understand why I need so many shoes. I probably haven’t done a very good job of explaining it, either (“I JUST DO!”), but that’s because I’ve never needed to explain it to another woman. I require many pairs of pretty shoes; this is something he is learning to accept about me.

Just as a FOR INSTANCE, and based on absolutely nothing at all, really, just TOTALLY RANDOM, let’s take a look at a couple of differences in the ways Otto and I approach a major retail purchase. Just for FUN.

Me: I decided that I might like to replace our kitchen table and chairs, as the set we currently have was a perfect fit (size and decor-wise) in my old house, but here, it really isn’t. (Side note to my father: This is ALL YOUR FAULT. Love you!) We have this print hanging over the kitchen table, and so of course a retro chrome-trimmed diner-looking set would be ideal. Right? Right. Wow. What a good idea. I start perusing Craigslist about once a week.

Otto: Otto decided he’d like an old, smallish car to use for his daily commute, as the Family Car (capital F, capital C) we traded his prior car in on is kind of a beast for just tooling around town by himself. Otto is very knowledgeable about cars and a decent mechanic, so if he gets a car he can easily work on for not too much money, it’s a great idea. He starts perusing Craigslist, eBay, and various car trading sites for approximately six hours a day.

Me: I don’t find the set I’m looking for at a price I’m willing to pay, so I stop looking.

Otto: Otto doesn’t find the car he’d decided he wanted, so he does “some more research” and decides that instead of a 15-year-old something-or-other he ACTUALLY wants a 20-year-old something-else. He steps up his Craigslist time to seven hours a day.

Me: One morning I notice the kitchen table is really pretty badly scratched up. I wonder if I should maybe look again for a replacement set.

Otto: Otto finds a suitable car several hours away and gets a friend of his who knows cars and lives closer to go check it out for him. Friend gives it the thumbs-up, and Otto plans to make the trip a few days later. Then the seller calls to let him know the car has been sold. Otto is despondent. Otto then goes and looks at three other cars and none of them are suitable. Otto talks of nothing but valves and rims until I smother him with a pillow in his sleep. (Just kidding! I really never fantasized about that. Much.)

Me: I find a dinette set on eBay that’s described as “lemon yellow” but looks chartreuse in the pictures. I email to ask the seller for some outdoor pictures, and it is, indeed, chartreuse. I stop looking again.

Otto: The person who sold The Ideal Car calls to say he knows of another similar car. It is Not The Right One. Otto steps up his Craigslist surfing to eight hours a day. Success—he finds another Right One a mere two hours away!

Me: I give up and buy a dress on clearance. It is pretty, and I am happy.

Otto: Otto rounds up a couple of friends and heads out bright and early Saturday morning to see and potentially buy this Ideal Car. He kisses me goodbye and assures me that he will be home by noon. He texts me at about 11:30 to let me know that there was a “small problem,” and when he finally gets home around 4:30, I find out that his perfect new car blew a hose about an hour from town, and there was a Who’s-On-First-esque adventure involving getting a trailer and a truck and towing his new (BROKEN) car home. He then rolls his OTHER (BROKEN) old car out of the garage and puts the new (OLD, BROKEN) car inside, and then volunteers to take the kids to the bookstore to make up for the fact that he was gone for a day, but mostly so that he can buy a manual on how to fix this car.

Me: My head explodes. Sadly, I’ve not even had a chance to wear my new dress. On the up side, I no longer care about the kitchen table.

Otto: Takes the kids to the bookstore AND buys them chocolate. And then comes home and insists on showing me the engine of the car and various diagrams and is basically very cute and endearing even if I have no clue what he’s talking about.

And then we watched the Super Bowl and ate chicken wings and I asked him to please, never speak of this car again (unless, you know, it starts with, “It’s fixed!”).

The next morning (today), I send him a photo of a dinette I found for sale a couple of hours from here. He claims to love it, because he is no fool.


  1. Megan

    I think I shop on Neptune. My shopping goes:

    I need this [thing]

    [Thing] will cost money

    I really don’t need this [thing] at all, right?

    Wait several months until old [thing] is now decrepit, falling apart [thing], smoking at the edges and with bits falling off. Then go replace thing but fuss the whole time about how it means SHOPPING and I don’t like SHOPPING and why doesn’t the world just stop with the entropy business already because I hate replacing perfectly good [things]!

    Except shoes of course. Bought a lovely pair of… well, okay orange… pumps this weekend and will wear them with a perfectly happy heart.

  2. Leandra

    This sounds remarkably like the time Kent bought a motorcycle that didn’t run. Did I mention he doesn’t know anything about fixing any type of engine or motor (I know there’s a difference but I certainly don’t know what it is). He then traded THAT motorcycle for yet another motorcycle that didn’t run. And then, when he finally realized he was screwed, he sold it. The only upside is that somehow, somehow, he actually made money.

  3. jennielynn

    Ah, the shopping habits of Mars and Venus.

  4. Ani

    LOL funny. But just try to drag the strange creature that is the car-obsessed (or in our case, baseball cards or electronics) man into the mall to buy some pants. It’s like giving a cat a bath.

    :-) Hope your dinette rocks.

  5. exile on mom street

    A wise woman once told me, “Women are from Venus, men are from Stupidhead World.”

    She was absolutely right.

  6. kate c. w.

    I saw this on Google Ads and thought of you, Mir. Have you ever heard of Baconnaise?

  7. Otto

    FYI, Feb. 13? Plan on wearing your dress. Around 6 p.m.

    We won’t take either old, broken, not-fixing-til-later car or new/old, will (hopefully) be fixed car.


  8. All Adither

    Oh, look at Otto’s comment! So sweet.

    My husband researches his purchases until his eyes are bugging out of his head and drool is sliding down his chin. And then he researches some more. I feel your pain.

  9. bob

    and your point is?

  10. Keyona

    Sweet and funny Otto! Love the story.

  11. Kath

    Barry and I are the opposite. We shop pretty much the same way and for the same things … furniture, clothes, cars, food – he loves to shop and I’m learning. Needless to say we spend too much money!

  12. Em

    I think me and the first commenter, Megan, are cut from the same cloth. The thing about shoes, I try to tell my husband, is it is like art (but usually way way cheaper. Usually). Sometimes, they are just too pretty not to have.

    P.S. Otto’s comment gave me vicarious butterflies (not as uncomfortable as you would think, very pleasant actually). Enjoy your Valentine date.

  13. Katie

    My husband will research the heck out of anything over $100. For days. Drives me insane. For as wishy washy as I usually am, I’m a pretty quick when deciding on purchases. Our first grill took him a few weeks to pick out, going to various stores, comparing BTU’s, whatever. When the movers broke it 4 years later, I bought a new one in half an hour. And that’s just cause it took them 25 minutes to wheel it out from the back.

  14. Lisa

    The husband does not understand why I need so many pairs of BLACK shoes. It may something to do with being deprived of them as a child as my mother would not allow me to wear black. My therapist and I will discuss this at a later date. In any case, I simply buy them and duck until the explosion blows over. At least they generally come from Target or Kohls.

  15. ikate

    Awww – that comment from Otto is “very cute and very endearing” even to me. How sweet!!

  16. just beaux

    That is some funny stuff. I am so frugal I go, I look and I don’t buy because everything cost so damn much. Unless I am buying money (because I am a coin collector) than I always pay way too much for it.

    Wife: How much did you pay for that silver dollar?

    Me: Fifty-five dollars! Did I get a deal or what?

    Wife: Yeah…Right. I guess.

  17. Barbara

    Aahh! The commercial side of St. Otto. Not pretty. Very masculine, however.

    It’s like, well, the difference between x and y.

  18. MomCat

    My DH shops like Otto one day and you the next. It’s very disconcerting. We’re getting a new car, we’re not getting a new car, new car, no new car. I think he plucked too many petals from daisies as a child or something.

    I like pretty shoes, too, because I have worn the same shoe size since 1978, so it seems more like an investment than a fashion whim.

  19. The Other Leanne

    I have been looking for that same dinette set for five years. They are either extreeeemely expensive or inexpensive-but-with-a-major-design-flaw (see I think the TV studios have corralled every last decent piece. Target does sell one online, but it’s hard for me to tell if I like it without being able to touch it in person (see again,
    If I find one, I’ll let you know. You do the same. Or we’ll just forget it and buy new shoes.

  20. Katie in MA

    Awwww-ing @ Otto’s comment with everyone else. (Psss! Hey, Mir! I think that means you need a new pair of shoes to go with your dress!)

  21. Kaycee

    Nothing makes me want to slip into a coma like car/truck babble. Except for maybe football babble…

  22. Gaylin

    There is something wrong with me, I am female and own 3 pairs of shoes and only wear 2 of them (not at the same time).
    My ex-husband from years and years ago, loved to go shopping, loved to spend money, loved to hide new things until the bill came in . . .

  23. Lindy

    This sounds like my parents, except backwards. When my mom finally got granite counter tops in her kitchen after 20-something years, it took her over a year to pick it out. Then it took another 4 months to actually get it installed. My dad, however, gets bored on a Saturday and boredom turns into wild hair up his ass and the next thing Mom knows he’s bought a motorcycle at a yardsale and is doing donuts in the front yard.

  24. Lindy

    Wait. I’m not sure that’s backwards or not. I’ve confused myself. Nevermind.

  25. Beth

    Oh goodness, this was just too eerily familiar. Except instead of “car for husband to drive” substitute “new-to-us computer”…for ME. After the months of research (him) and the discussion of aesthetics (me…white good, aluminum bad, glossy screen very bad) it is now allegedly on its way. And it had better not do the computer equivalent of bursting a hose on the way out of town!

    What I want to know is, what does Otto plan to research after he fixes the car? My husband has already moved on to DVRs. Meanwhile I’m obsessing about buying, or probably not buying, some pretty yarn. :)

  26. Heather

    I heart this post. It is very informative ;-) And I like Otto’s comment too…that was just adorable.

  27. Lori

    My husband does that too . . . and then after he buys whatever it is that he’s spent a billion hour researching . . . the buyers remorse sets in and all I hear about for weeks is how he shouldn’t have spent all that money! And then, of course, the research begins again for the new thing he must have.

  28. tj

    Be thankful you were aware of this happening. The way it happened for me was something along the lines of. Go away for a fun weekend with the girls, come home, wonder which of hubby’s friends drive the decrepit piece parked next to his car, walking in the house finding no friends, asking who left their car over here, and head exploding once finding out that it is in fact OUR car now :). The end.

  29. Michelle

    I am so frugal it’s obscene. Today I told myself I didn’t need that extra slice of cheese on my grilled cheese because it would cost me 10 cents. On GRILLED CHEESE.

  30. Chuck

    Reading this, I am hoping that my current car, 12 years old, lasts another few years so I don’t have to have a car-buying experience anytime soon.

  31. Karen

    Oh….I think that Otto is a keeper. I’m not sure the guy I’m married to would have been that smart.

  32. Stephanie

    Otto and Jack seem like very similar sorts. When he’s not working, Jack is looking at cars online or talking about cars online…he LOVES cars…he would love nothing more than to *collect* cars, if we had the money and the space. I, on the other hand, see the car in a much less revered light, much to his chagrin.

  33. Laura

    My 3 car garage is filled with broken stuff. Maybe Otto would like another piece to add to his collection? A hot rod or a riding lawn mower or jetski perhaps? There are at least two computers and a giant snow blower too.

  34. Becca @ the Stanley Clan

    Haha that’s seriously hysterical. My hubby does that all the time. We’re not even needing a new car right now and he is always looking! Of course I guess I’m always looking at clothes and such too :-) thanks for making me smile today!

  35. Lulu

    I have a $600 Lexus I’ll sell to anyone who will come take it away. When Frank said “I’m going to [town 100 miles away] to look at it.” I actually laughed at him and he was startled. “You are not going to look,” I said, still laughing. “I don’t want you to, but you’re going to buy that heap. Don’t fool yourself.”

    It broke down on the way home, of course. It sits gathering field mice in the grassy alley out back.

    I do, however, have two of those diner/dinette tables. I’d consider selling the big one from my dining room (it has a gray top and one minor ding), but I live out on the west coast. Shipping costs would kill the deal.

  36. momzen

    Personally, I like Bob’s comment the best.

    And Otto’s, of course. :)

  37. Trish/Astrogirl426

    Aww, sweet Otto! I have a date with the hubs for Valentine’s, too! Except that, um, the kid will be with us and we’ll be headed north to the freezing cold Adirondacks to go see an Ice Festival. So, yeh.

    Also? Just replace “car” with “tractor” and you have my experience from last year, except that I came home to find said tractor sitting in the yard, needing to be fixed. It never did get fixed, and hubs traded it for this year’s supply of firewood. On the upside, I now get to remind him of it every time he thinks of making a major purchase (and we’re not spending anything on heat this winter). So, yay!

  38. k

    as soon as i saw the title, i knew exactly what this was about. tweeted this the other day … but i felt sorry for otto about 5 sec then realized YOU were the one who deserved my sympathy!

  39. just beth

    I love Otto. Almost as much as I love you.



  40. Elisson

    Men are from Mars, women are from…the Andromeda Galaxy.

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