Monday, September 16, 2013

The Three Don’ts Of Shopping For Curtains

By: Ben Johnson

The birthplace of nightmares.

I like watching football, okay, you guys? I do. I really do. I’d love to sit and watch football all the ding dang day. Every Sunday, man oh man it would be great if I could just sit there and watch all twelve hours of it, and oh yes, also the same thing on Thursday nights and Monday nights. I know people who do this. They seem like they’re pretty happy most of the time. I’d like that to be me.

But I’m also a human being. So I don’t get to do that. Ever. I don’t get to look at my loving girlfriend and say to her, with a straight face, “I can’t look at window treatments with you because I have to sit and watch football today because it’s Sunday and football’s on.” Because she will, rightfully, yell at me. Our windows require treatment more urgently than my eyeballs require football. This logic is difficult to argue with. Watching football is not an actual need. Curtains, though also not an actual need, are an actual thing. And proper use of curtains can lead to increases in ambient nudity, which comes close to fulfilling an actual need.

I feel like some of the people I know for whom Sunday means football only might be quick to point out that shopping for window treatments is a fine thing for a girlfriend to do while the boyfriend sits and eats an entire pizza while watching some other dudes orchestrate a complex series of injurious thuds against each other. This viewpoint is hopelessly naïve.

Everybody who’s ever done it the right way knows that shopping for window treatments is a two person job. You need one person to lead the expedition and one person to validate that person. There are rules here. There are three main things you can do wrong when shopping for window treatments.

1.      Have no opinion. This is the same thing as thinking you can avoid participation by saying “whatever you like will be fine with me.” You can’t do that. You can’t prefer to avoid. When actually confronted with a curtain or curtain rod, you can’t look at something that you don’t care about and say “I don’t care about that.” If you do, this is the same thing as telling your girlfriend that you don’t care about her. It is horrible and cruel.

These are not curtains you are looking at. You are going with your girlfriend to look at metaphors for your entire relationship. You just happen to be in the curtain section of Bed Bath and Beyond. You can’t not have an opinion, even if you don’t have an opinion, because not having an opinion is the same as not caring, and not caring is not loving, and not loving is fatal to the relationship.

2.     Have the wrong opinion. Okay, so you’re going to make up an opinion about a curtain now. As long as it sounds somewhat plausible, you probably have it made in the shade, huh? Nope. Not even close. You just got through the first gate from Neverending Story with the big-titted sphinxes. Now comes the really hard part. You have to have the “right” opinion.

At first glance this means you have to guess the same opinion as your girlfriend. That’s a major element of the right opinion, but it’s not all. Get this: even she doesn’t know what her opinion is yet. You’re telling her your opinion, and that’s helping her form her opinion, and then you are going to make a better curtain choice. It’s a process. THAT’S WHY YOU’RE HERE.

The “right” opinion is less about finding the correct stance and more about participation and providing information. It’s not enough to like or dislike a curtain. You have to CARE about the curtain’s features, and demonstrate an understanding of the curtain’s many nuances, and in this way you are demonstrating a sensitivity to your girlfriend’s features and nuances, and thus demonstrating your desirability as a mate.

A good rule of thumb is one opinion about color, one opinion about fabric, and one opinion about logistics (length, how thickness will impact amount of shade, etc.), followed by a qualifier of some kind “it might look good in the LIVING ROOM too,” and ALWAYS end with, “What do you think?”

Remember, you can’t say nothing, because you can’t feel nothing. And if you feel the wrong, or more importantly the unhelpful, thing, it’s like you’re deliberately sabotaging this curtain-shopping occasion for some reason, and therefore you are sabotaging the relationship for some reason, and therefore you secretly hate her and you are one day going to snap and murder her and she’ll be one of those girls on 48 Hours where you watch and go, “You should have KNOWN back at the curtain store, you idiot!!!!”

3.   Display insufficient enthusiasm. Fact: you don’t want to be here. You want to be back at home watching football. She knows that. She has to know that. So you can kind of joke around and be sarcastic and roll your eyes every once in a while and she’ll cut you slack for it because you’re a good enough guy and you’re here and you’re inventing opinions and really participating in Fucking Curtain Quest 2013, right? WRONG.

You are there because you love it. You would love nothing more than to go buy curtains with her every weekend for the rest of your life. Remember yesterday when you didn’t buy any curtains and there was football, college football, which as far as you’re concerned doesn’t count but she does not know that, and she let you watch a little of it? That was football and she doesn’t understand why it wasn’t enough football, but she simultaneously hated it and was nice about it, which really since it was only college football you would've preferred to shop for curtains then. But what are you going to do, SUGGEST curtain shopping? The idea of curtains doesn't typically enter your consciousness unless or until you are presently wrapped in an on fire curtain. So of course you didn’t even realize the lack of curtains was causing her to almost DIE of embarrassment ALL DAY LONG yesterday while you were eating pretzels and being bored by LSU, and now you want to watch football on SUNDAY TOO? ALL DAY LONG? NO FUCKING WAY, buddy. No fucking way.

You are going to shop for curtains, and, crucially, you are going to LIKE it. That means no checking your phone incessantly for fantasy football updates. No desperately slumping on a bench where she can’t find you and recomposing yourself for five minutes. No stupid little hunched-shoulders sighing or cutting asides to bored checkout clerks. Shopping for curtains is a FULL SERVICE DUTY. That means you're on the clock and the boss is WATCHING.

You are here, you are present, you are concentrating on the task at hand, and you have a positive attitude about shopping for curtains because you love your girlfriend so much you’d walk over hot coals just to hold her spot in line at the DMV, or else you’re option two, an untrustworthy sleazebag who’s biding your time until you can sell her into white slavery.

This seems like an extreme dialectic until you realize that A. men rape, and B. our thought processes are as alien to women as theirs are to us. That’s why women seem crazy to us. They’re constantly trying to read the tea leaves because they don’t know the difference between “great guy who is nonetheless currently yelling obscenities because he dropped a hammer on his thumb while trying to put up the motherfucking makeup cabinet” and “barely contained compulsive killer potentially pushed over the edge at any given moment, such as for instance this one, and if you are not constantly vigilant he’s eventually going to stab you 40 times, roll you in a tarp, and drop you in the river.”

Women are obviously a little concerned about this distinction. They might have a vague sense that every man they’ve ever met has probably at some point wanted to stab somebody and dump their body. They do not know the internal distinctions which render this urge less vicious and pointed and threatening and urgent and permanent than a typical case of momentary road rage. Women don't have a great radar for the frequency, duration, or exigency of regular old average murderous impulses. Just telling them "oh yeah, we all have these random daydreams sometimes about ending a person's life, ha ha ha," is kind of hard to pull off without scaring the shit out of them. Case in point, the phrase "regular old average murderous impulses." Probably kind of a turnoff, am I right, ladies?

Women also, I'd imagine, tend not to view the fact that nobody has yet stabbed and dumped them as a constant life-affirming human triumph of restraint. Go figure. If I was a woman, thinking about my lot in life would suck so much it probably wouldn't be too far of a leap in logic for me to get "about to be attacked by a sabretooth tiger" level upset about whether or not my boyfriend is smiling at Target. I mean, I don’t know. I’m just guessing here.

So anyway, those are three major categories of things to keep in mind when you’re out shopping for curtains instead of watching football. They might not be the most fun things you’ve ever done in your life, but if you really commit to them, you’ll grow as a person. Which is, you know, it’s whatever. I mean, who cares, right? We’re all going to die and you might as well shop for curtains first.