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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 6, 2003

Here's to the man-chair, the ultimate refuge from shopping

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By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Now that we are clear of all that holiday and post-holiday madness at the malls, it might be a good time to gather ourselves and reflect on one of the most powerful and meaningful symbols of the season past.

The man-chair.

You know it. That Spartan oasis for the mind and pups. The man-chair! Not to be confused with "The Man Show," which, by the way, is co-produced by one man and two women. Or the Manwich, the wonderful culinary con job that sells you a can of red sauce and asks you to supply the main ingredient, meat.

God bless the sales genius who first figured out that putting a lousy folding chair somewhere between the dressing rooms and the cash register would greatly increase the probability of a sale. Sate the grumpy spouse/boy-friend, this visionary knew, and you free the real shopper to do her stuff.

I don't mean to get all Hootie Johnson exclusive about the man-chair (or "respite seating" as one PC clerk at Bloomingdale's referred to it). I've man-sat next to worn-out women, tired children and all manner of heel-dragging shopping victim. And it's not like women don't ever wait stone bored for their male partners to make their way through the first floor of Sears.

It's just that men seem to lack that little mental enzyme that can digest a three- or four-hour shopping trip. It is most often a man who will lower his 1,000-yard stare into the circular rack of Maidenform underwear as he sits with shopping bags at his feet and his wife's purse on his lap.

The man-chair is something to be treasured. Without it, we'd be trapped forever in that dopey bit of shibai we guys do in those first few months of a relationship. You know, following your partner around the racks with that painful look of affected interest while spewing out cloying drivel like,"Well, it looks good on you." and "I think that was designed for someone shorter and fatter."

Of course, not all man-chairs are created equal. You can tell a great deal about the morals and integrity of a store by the quality of the man-chairs they provide.

Say what you will about Banana Republic, but those comfy leather man-chairs tell me that good people make their interior-design decisions.

In contrast, Cinnamon Girl might seem like a quality operation — locally owned, high-quality stock, courteous staff — but their man-chairs suck. They're not even chairs; they're stools with cutesy things like "Sugar Daddy" and "Bored Friend" painted on them. Better to wait in the car.

Of course, the pricier the store, the better the man-chairs. The Chanel store in Paris has nice high-back seats and free beverages. Louis Vuitton in Rome has a gorgeous chaise lounge. Tiffany in New York has a great man-chair near the elevator, but don't go there unshaven and wearing a T-shirt unless you want two security guys flanking you the whole time.

There are also a few man-chair rules to be observed. First, it's every man for himself. This isn't the bus; you don't have to give away your seat to the old or infirm. Second, the man-chair is a sacred space, like a urinal, so no chit-chatting with the guy next to you. Third, show some pride. Do not, do not, do not acknowledge the sales clerk who chuckles "Oh, you poor thing" in your direction.

One last thing: Out of respect for your fellow Y-chomosomers, once you have secured a man-chair, never, ever utter the dreaded phrase of death: "Take your time, honey."