Halfway inside most women’s clothing stores is a couch.

You’ve seen this couch before I’m sure. Rarely populated by any of the store’s target demographic, its purpose seems curious. It just sits there, typically back-less, empty, and seemingly useless to the shoppers pinballing about the store. Not until you find yourself shopping companion to a determined woman does the couch’s true purpose become clear:

It is the only safe place to wait.

Despite the popular notion that the couch “is a trap”, you can’t go wrong waiting on the couch. The novice move is to take-up residence at the door and check your phone. Worse is to suggest you go visit men’s shops in the vicinity. Both will result in accusations of “ruining the togetherness” of the shopping activity. Hovering too close is perhaps an even greater offense as this can cause stress on the part of the shopper. “You’re rushing me” is the common refrain.

A delicate balance must be struck and the couch is where you strike it.

I find myself currently sitting on such a couch, deep in enemy territory, on what must be my third or fourth tour of duty (sixth if you count family outings). I’m not sure where I am, but I’ve surveyed most of this store’s wares and feel a bit like a vegetarian at a deli counter. At least I made it this far.

Depending on a store’s contents, a varying degree of chaperoning is necessary to get you to the couch. Cosmetics departments for example are difficult to navigate alone, and can prove precarious for the lone male traveller. Couch locations are often obscured by mirrors or hidden behind friendly shopkeepers spraying perfume with reckless abandon.

Layouts like “Zara” can be the most tricky, as their couches are often tantalizing close to escalators, which as noted, are escape routes only for the uninitiated.

Once you find the couch, phoneless as noted, the purpose of your presence may come into question. Two prevailing hypothesis exist. First, the male shopper is often called upon to give his opinion on important matters, like shoes and bags. It’s important to take a strong stance on these issues, even if your opinion has yet to formulate. Expressions like “oh wow” or “way better than the last one” are your best bets.

Alternate hypotheses point to your effectiveness carrying the bags home, which is why the couches are often so close to the checkout, and help perpetuate the “couch as trap” theory.

Shopping with a woman can be done, but not without a couch.

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