On Shopping With My Husband, And The Parka That Got Away

A recent cold front turned my thoughts to the winter jacket I needed replacing this year, and ended up turning us towards the closest shopping mall to eyeball a few just-arrived winter jackets. I admired the colors — plum, tangerine, teal, and ivory. At least, before I turned the price tags over.

“Aiya,” I said to my husband at a whisper, still reeling from some serious sticker-shock. “And they said this was a sale?”

But John just smiled. “Do you like any of them?” He sounded like a guy ready to whip out his platinum credit card for me — that any price was still a good price to him.

I shook my head. “Too expensive, we should just wait until the after-Christmas sales.”

“But you need a new jacket,” he said. He smiled again, as if to say, go ahead, look around, I have an undisclosed bank account I’m about to tell you about.

My pragmatic side didn’t even notice. “No, I’ll survive without it, my zipper still isn’t totally broken yet.”

I linked my arm with John’s arm and pulled him towards the door. I could have sworn I saw him taking one last, longing glance at the plum-colored parka I loved only moments before.

“You really wanted to buy me that jacket, didn’t you?” I asked him the following day.

He grinned and leaned back in his chair. “Sure, I just want to take care of you.” Then he met my glance and added, “It’s my responsibility.”

I’ve called John “husband” for years, but I still can’t get over the way he loves to take me shopping — and shower me with only the best (even if we end up leaving the place empty-handed).

Before I went to China, I never before knew any guy who would willingly take me to the shopping malls — without the requisite eye-rolling or jokes about all the guys who end up sitting outside the stores, holding their wives’ and girlfriends’ purses. But in November 1999, only a little over two months into my first foray into China, a Chinese guy — a guy who would fast become my first boyfriend in the country — specifically wanted to take me out shopping. Not for him, but for me. “I’d love to see you in bright clothing,” he once said, a phrase that perhaps belied his true feelings for me. But to me, the very idea was a revelation: that in this world, there existed men who didn’t consider shopping with a woman as an assault on their masculinity, and who didn’t mind holding my purse and waiting for me to try on, say, that bright red button-down shirt.

In August 2002, only weeks after John and I officially became an item, he decided my wardrobe needed a few more items as well. So off we went on a Sunday to Hangzhou’s Intime Department Store. I happened to wander into the Esprit store, a place where I never did much beyond just “window shopping,” and paused before a lovely knit sweater with large scarlet, purple and tan stripes. But I winced when I read the pricetag. Just as I was about to walk away, I ran into John — and a smile that suggested I stay put a little longer.

“Do you like it?” he asked me.

Did he have to ask? “Well, it is rather pretty,” I said. “But it’s a tad expensive, you know. Just forget it, I don’t really need it.”

Then John studied the pricetag. “Try it on, I’m buying.”

“Are you sure?” John just quit his job, and made only a fraction of what I did — how could he possibly have the cash for this?

After I returned from the fitting room with the right size, he strutted up to the cashier and dug 500 RMB out of his pocket (about $60 back then). He even carried the bags when we walked out, and smiled every time I mentioned wearing it for him.

I’m sure I would have smiled just a wide if John persuaded me to buy that gorgeous plum parka I saw the other night. But we’re long past the honeymoon stage of our relationship — when my husband was still borrowing cash from his friends to treat me (true story) — and now have to balance our wants and needs with the realities of a budget. We can’t go out shopping every weekend, and we wouldn’t want to anyhow. He has papers to read, I have stories to write, and we’re often catching up on things during Saturdays and Sundays. But as I left the store with my arm around John, I was sure of one thing. Come after Christmas, I knew he’d be right by my side, helping me pick out the perfect parka, holding my purse, and carrying the shopping bags for me.

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25 Replies to “On Shopping With My Husband, And The Parka That Got Away”

  1. This is probably the sweetest shopping story I’ve read. I can just see how much you and John love each other, and how much pride you take in your awesome marriage.

  2. I give credits to John for being nice. But not all of us want to show affections the same way. It does seem to fit certain stereotypes how Asian males take care of their women.

  3. What a really sweet story. When I dated the Korean guy, he treated me to restaurants and movies. I don’t think he ever bought me clothes hehe.

  4. I loved reading this, it really made me giggle.
    I learned a valuable lesson one winter, don’t buy a coat that is ‘too cheap’ because then everyone will be wearing it! haha

  5. See…we asian guys aren’t as bad as everyone thinks. ha ha ha. One time my wife saw this LV handbag that she couldn’t resist. I knew she wanted it. She kept saying “oh it’s too expensive”. I kept saying “it’s OK, I’ll just pass up on the new iphone and get you this handbag.” I ended up losing this psychological warfare when she said “yes” and had to pay $800 for it. It was the most overpriced crap I ever bought for her.

  6. WOW! What a great man (John)! Jocelyn, you truly have hit the JACKPOT by marrying him! Even though I am a White boy, I am going to try to emulate the Chinese male mentality a little more especially if I want to date a Chinese goddess. I still am not able to get a Chinese goddess yet, but now that I am learning more and more about the Chinese culture on this site of yours and on how a Chinese man thinks, I think that I will be able to better use these skills once I get a Chinese goddess. John, I must admit that you are one of the greatest men of all times. I give 2 thumbs up to John.

  7. @MyTwoCents

    Ahh you played psyychological warefare and lost……women are good at this game, even when a man thinks his won he hasn’t; women have a way of making men believe they have won when in fact they haven’t.

    Are most Chinese men brought up this way “to take care and look after the women”?

  8. Well, I do not buy expensive material for my dates or girlfriends. Actually I hardly buy any gift at all though I might treat my date with decent dinner.

    I am Chinese but really cheap. But there are women who love “cheap” men.

  9. No. We are not all brought up to look after and take care of women. Some of us want to find partners in life and don’t want to carry purses. I also don’t want to pay for everything and appreciate when women offer to pay too. If you like to drink and have a good time, you are not a “bad” girl.

  10. I take care of my wife. I do everything for her. It’s good to buy something expensive. We buy something that has value and something that will last.

    @Manny, keep on learning from Chinese men. You will like it because it’s different.

  11. I think my GF has paid more on my behalf than the other way around, even though we make about the same. I’m indebted to her, litterally.

  12. @Bruce. I will continue to learn from you and Jocelyn (my masters). You two can be my “sifu” and I will be the disciple.

  13. @Mira I think you’re right. Just the other day my wife brought up her 12-year old Sony Ericcson dumbphone into our conversation. She made me feel guilty by telling me how her friends stared at her antique phone while all her friends were carrying the latest iphone. I can’t say no now that I have an iphone myself. No I don’t think we Chinese guys are brought up this way. I think it’s in our genes to serve women. hahaha.

  14. I don’t do gift much or feel she is my responsibility. But I am not frugal. Never feel guilty if I can’t afford something. If a woman can’t stand that, better break up sooner. I respect her as an individual and don’t tell her not to do anything because of me.

  15. To find love is about convincing your love interest. Just look at American political campaign. Candidates need to make voters fall in love with them. There is no simple formula to convince uncertain voter. So there is no definitive approach to love.

    There is no right and wrong approach to convince your interest. Different people need different approach. Gifts, emotion, verbal skill, financial ability, body building, whatever it works.

    For me, my frugality becomes a virtue of future orientation in the eyes of my love. Indeed, I am very aggressive in investment. Frugality had been family traditition with very successful delayed gratification (quite a lot of my relatives are quite wealthy including my grandparents). With assortative mating, I attract equal minded ladies.

    On the other hand, I totally understand generosity as important love factor. Materialistic help is ingrained in genes for courtship from bird to human. It is very hard to raise human offsprings in most human history in cold climate. Without male materialistic help, offsprings would die in most temperate and polar zone. Females developed strong dependency on male in these zones. There is nothing wrong for females from such zones want to have materialistic security. It is in their DNA. Lucky for females in tropical regions, they do not need male to raise offsprings.

    In modern developed society, females no longer need male to raise offsprings. But such instinct has been emotional legacy from hard ancestral time. The same can be argued for sexual need of people who choose not to have children. To those guys want to date females with ancesors in cold climate, you need to demonstrate such commitment in material and emotion to win their love. Yes, northern european types and northeast Asian types are the ones who need strong commitment in material and emotion.

    I am not very poltical incorrect here.

  16. I like the associative mating theory. Some truth there. Climate idea is outdated with all the migrations going on.

    When people still think Asian males are more of care givers, it is stereotype. Most AMWW female couples seem to have those dynamics. If you want to treat your partner as equal, she can’t be a princess.

  17. @Biologist

    It makes perfect sense that biological imprint remains. Black people will not turn suddenly white because they immigrate to nordic countries. Nordic women will not suddenly became black and loss of their attraction to wealthy guys.

    To those guys who would not like to provide material wealth, black ladies are your best chance. Want a nordic type blonde? You better be good provider.

  18. When we go shopping, I pick outfit for her as well, not just absent minded moving clothing hanger. I usually give a lot inputs on choosing clothes, jewelry and furniture. But hey, I am very much an artist, she has to give me that respect 🙂
    My thinking is : since we are already in the middle of shopping, may as well participate the selection process. Usually we look for best values not just cheap. Why buy something we don’t truly enjoy and throw out eventually?
    I love to make her dress well and look good. Keep the place elegant, neat, and clean. That is just me.

  19. @Biologist,
    I like the way the theory is explained but I have lived in both climates and in fact is the opposite.
    Scandinavian people, even though the weather is very cool, are not materialistic. They like simple things and they prefer to build things by their own rather than purchasing.
    On the other hand, my African, south East Asian, south Amercan colleagues, where the climate is warm, are the ones buying/trying to buy, brand bags, expensive cars, and they are the ones wearing bright things ..etc etc
    Then I could say materialistic depends on your point of view, on your family, education and yourself.
    It is said that counties that experienced a hard past are those that in the present/future show a trend to purchase more and more goods, because in the past there was lack and they want excess for the future…

  20. I had opportunities to meet women from all three Nordic countries. All are very pretty, blonde, well mannered and highly educated. No one is materialistic. Quite refreshing comparing to the stereotypes about blondes in US. Can’t go with books about everything.

  21. @Biologist
    I am Scandinavian and I can tell you that in general women and men are very equal in Scandinavia. Very often the women pay for their part and the men for their. If the guy pays then it often means he likes you, so if you do not feel the same way then you should pay for your own part.
    I have lived in eastern Europe for a long time and here it is just normal that the guy pays regardless of what his intentions are.
    A Scandinavian man would not go to the mall with you just to buy clothes for you.
    And as already mentioned we do not really care about how much money our boyfriends have to us this is not important. Scandinavian women are raised to take care of them selves and we feel that we do not need to relay on the wealth of our future husbands to live a good life.

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