I was listening to a former student, a boy, describe his recent adventures in the mall. Though he spoke for about five minutes, the crux of his story was this: My friends and I went to the mall and other retail establishments in town and acted like twelve and thirteen year old boys. We ran up escalators, gorged on free samples and made a general nuisance of ourselves. As a result, we were repeatedly asked to leave these establishments.
I had many similar experiences as a kid, some stretching into adulthood. My friend and I used to play a game called Mall Football in which one of us (usually me) walked in a straight line from one end to the mall to the other without deviating course or speed while the other had to block for us, finding ways to remove innocent and unaware shoppers from our paths. If the shopper was not removed from the path, the ball carrier was required to bump into him or her to get by while maintaining course.
The last time I played this game was less than twenty years ago.
I won’t be more specific.
This game and the many others I once played sounded strikingly similar to the stories that my former student was telling me, and I think most boys have similar stories from their past.
And then it hit me.
No wonder so many men don’t like to shop. We’re programmed to despise retail establishments like the mall from an early age.
Young girls can head off to the mall and be perfectly content by spending the day staring at clothing that they cannot buy, chatting with friends, and trying to look pretty and catch a boy’s eye.
Boys aren’t happy unless they are running, fighting, competing or causing general mayhem. Even today I must suppress the desperate urge to run up the down escalator. I was at the mall last week and the escalator was broken. I almost used it as an excuse to run up it, even though a perfectly good staircase was adjacent to it.
To a boy, the mall is very much like a church. It’s large, open, gleaming and full of boyish opportunities for fun and adventure, but for reasons that baffle us, we must be on our best behavior or a Rent-a-Cop will throw us out (although getting thrown out of church is nearly impossible. As a boy, I tried like hell but never succeeded).
Even suitable diversions like arcades no longer offer boys a retail sanctuary, as most have been replaced by boring shops and stupid boutiques. Retail is simply not a welcoming place to an adolescent male, and as a result, we grow up to despise these places.
If society could accept a little more Mall Football and the occasional clogging of the escalator, women might find their boyfriends and husbands much more amenable to a day in retail hell.