In 1968 Harry Nilsson sang, “one is the loneliest number…” Well, now comes confirmation via a story by Shanshan Wang and Eric Pfanner in the New York Times that old Harry had it right. And nowhere is this loneliness more evident than in China. All over that vast nation, male progeny of the “one child rule” are struggling to find a girlfriend. Or maybe they just can’t see the available girls through the smog.
Whatever. These poor guys are so forlorn that November 11 has become known as “Singles Day” for the utter melancholy “symbolized by the four lonely 1s of 11/11” (can you imagine the despair of 1/11/11? thank goodness it only came once), and on that day they turn to a deviant and unnatural act for consolation—shopping.
Now, I have a son and I know all about males and shopping. If you can get them inside the doors of a store, whatever their eyes light upon first is what they will buy. Whether the size is three times too small or three times too big, the shirt or pants fit “good.” I fully blame this phenomenon for the cultural touchstone so often seen on our streets and in our malls: low-slung jeans. These hip orbiters are not a fad, they are the result of severe dressingroomaphobia.
Once while shopping for new school clothes, an Indian woman, a Hispanic woman, I, and our respective sons all ended up in the jeans department of JCPenney. As we women looked around at each other, our common expression of long-suffering exasperation told us that we were kindred spirits and that cultural differences held no sway. We exchanged knowing smiles, understanding that given half a chance mothers like us could unite the world; for there is no more persuasive power on earth than a mother talking to her son in a clothing store.
In fact, the Hispanic woman and her son were locked in just such a negotiation as my daughter and I pretended to seriously compare the 700 styles of Levis while waiting for my son. The teenager, slouching and with his eyes downcast, mumbled some incantation that would render him invisible or at least smite those who witnessed him Out In Public With His Mother, while the woman intoned, “Try them on. Just. Try. Them. On.” And as I knew he would, because I had just been through the same bonding ritual with my dear boy, he shuffled off toward those “rooms of doom.”
Soon, we heard a door open and six pairs of eyes simultaneously turned toward the sound. My son appeared with the new jeans bunched in his hands. “How did they fit?” I asked, although I suspected he had just stood in the room for what he deemed an appropriate amount of time before coming out. “Good,” he mumbled, slouching and with eyes downcast. So we bought them and he wears them and I don’t ask when he hitches them up.
But now it seems Chinese retailers have overcome “male shopping aversion syndrome” by understanding one simple fact: men can easily “seek solace for their single status by buying electronic devices and other gear.” Thus, “Singles Day” has become a mammoth shopping day that makes Cyber Monday look like a child’s lemonade stand. This year Alibaba, the Chinese company that owns Tmall (the T-rex of online retailers) processed more than $5.75 billion payments.
So the truth is out. Who needs a real woman when you can take your new computer, smart phone, smart phone watch, tablet, television, gaming system, meat thermometer, 3D printer, wireless speaker ear warmers, GPS, “Call Me Gloves” (“Hey, Baby, can you come over and shovel my driveway for me?”), distance calculating talking golf caddy…well, you get the picture…back to your man cave for a little quality time?
This is, of course, no secret—just peer into any Apple Store any time any day of any week. It just took the Chinese to truly capitalize on it. But there was one more compelling (disturbing?) statistic from this year’s “Singles Day” extravaganza: also sold were 1.6 million bras and 2 million pairs of panties. Coincidence? I think not. The mind reels at what kind of hybrid electronowoman is being created by those lonelyhearted men.
I’m sure the folks at Apple are taking note. Can iMackenzie be far behind?