Retro Girl and New Man have fun out shopping

It is at times like Christmas that many men find it most difficult to be “New Man”.

And likewise, many women find it hard to be “Retro Girl”.

New Man and Retro Girl are fast becoming the superheroes of the 21st century. He can do everything a woman can do, much of it better, but with daily beard growth. She can do everything her grandmother did, but in full-time work.

But neither New Man (he cooks, he cleans, he irons) nor Retro Woman (She sews, she crochets, she knits) has yet found a way to make Christmas shopping an heroic act.

Even when New Man and Retro Woman sally forth together, they cannot quite overcome the feeling that there must be more to life than shopping.

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This is how it goes – every single time.

“We need to go Christmas shopping, I’m afraid, New Man.”

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“That’s fine, Retro Girl. You know I’m happy to go shopping with you. I shall adopt my expression of bliss.”

“You never look very happy.”

“Do I ever complain?”

“Er, yes.”

“I do not.”

“Not immediately, I grant you. It usually takes about 10 minutes.”

They set off for a well-loved men’s outfitters on the edge of the town centre. They can park their retro-mobile there, the shop assistants are unfailingly helpful and, if he’s about, the proprietor will always come over and have a chat.

New Man manages to hang on until Retro Girl has nearly finished retro-steering into a parking space but can hold back no longer.

“We haven’t got to get much, have we?” he bursts forth.

Retro Girl has created her shopping list on a cross-stitch wall-hanging and it lists the names of three three male relatives for whom presents are required.

His face falls – so many – but he quickly rearranges it into a mask of radiant happiness. It is one of the weapons in New Man’s armoury.

“It won’t take long,” Retro Girl smiles encouragingly. The encouraging smile is one of the weapons in her arsenal.

Okay, it’s not quite as effective as an AK47 or the accoutrements on Batman’s utility belt but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

“Take as long as you like, darling.” he says.

New Man twitches as he goes through the door but Retro Girl takes his hand for reassurance. She knows shopping is to New Man as slight exposure to green kryptonite is to Superman. It saps his strength.

Was it Selfridges that provided a men’s cr�che, last Christmas? Was there face-painting, colouring and Lego?

Once over the threshold, New Man defaults to his ‘I-really-am-interested-honestly’ expression and, dropping back a few paces, follows Retro Girl into sweaters and socks.

For a few minutes he manages to focus on colours and helps to choose a sweater. It is another successful mission for New Man.

“Is that it, then. Can we go home now?”

“I knew you’d do this. You always do this,” hisses Retro Girl with her special power of super hiss (it can be heard over a radius of one hundred metres).

“You know we still have two more presents to buy.”

“Oh, yes. I forgot.”

“You didn’t forget, you were just hoping I would give up.”

“No, I wasn’t. I thought we’d finished.”

By now, Retro Girl is getting a bit grumpy but she tries to smile ... Retro Girl doesn’t do grumpy. She is always happy to defer to her man. When he arrives home for work, she always has supper ready, has bathed, changed and applied pink lipstick.

Well, perhaps the manual (c1952) is a bit out of date.

Resolutely she continues to apply herself the task in hand and heads over to the designer accessories to admire the stylish socks: “These are nice...” she says and realises she is talking to a complete stranger. The complete stranger (a woman) nods understandingly.

Meanwhile New Man has placed himself equidistant from all the display stands. He knows he needs to react quickly if called. His body is poised for action but his body language says: “I am out shopping with that one over there - the one fondling socks. I am compliant but not enthusiastic.”

Before long another man arrives with his super sidekick and looks enviously at the spot where New Man is standing. That would have been his chosen place.

A minute or so later, homing in on a New Man adrift, the shop’s owner appears to rescue him by engaging him in conversation.

It is a master stroke. How will Retro Girl deal with the situation? She takes the opportunity to go upstairs to the Ladies’ Department. “I’m going up to look at the women’s clothes now. I’ll go ahead and you catch up with me...”

With a turn of super-speed that would have left The Flash still pulling on his red and yellow lycra at the starting blocks, she is up, up and away.

The solitary man in Women’s Wear (the department not the garments) has found a special place to wait where there are no handbags, jewellery displays or rails of designer jackets. No man wants to come between a woman and her browsing.

But even Retro Girl is starting to flag. Outlandish thoughts of microwaveable bread sauce and ready-prepared sprouts are starting to crowd in on her.

She realises she is showing the early signs of over-exposure to Christmas shopping and calls a halt. By now, New Man has joined her.

“I think that’s all we need for now.” “There’s no hurry... I love shopping.”

“No you don’t.”

“Yes I do.”

“No you... You’ve booked for the pantomime, haven’t you?”

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