Maybe women shop because gathering is in their genes

Shopping

Women enjoy shopping more then men. No surprise there. The question is why. Perhaps we have our ancient female ancestors to thank, or blame, depending on your point of view.

I’ve been a teacher for 17 years and, when meeting new high school students, I often ask them about their interests. Without fail, some kids list shopping as their favorite hobby. These students, so far, have been female.

I try not to roll my eyes and then explain that a hobby is generally something where one might engage in creative or artistic pursuits, collect themed objects, or perhaps play a sport or instrument. Still, the girls smile and insist that shopping is their hobby.

I read recently that the average woman spends approximately 400 hours each year shopping, and can blissfully browse for prospective purchases for two hours before tedium strikes. Conversely, men quickly get bored with those trips to the mall and grocery store, losing interest after just 26 minutes.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the women who usually spy the empty cupboards and resupply the milk and toilet paper and dog food and all of the other stuff needed to run a household. So, of course, they spend more time at the store. But, even when we discount those “we gotta have it now” moments, women are still in shopping mode much more than men.

I wondered why, so I put on my history teacher cap and thought about our ancient ancestors: those hunter-gatherers who foraged for food and resources until they started to settle down in permanent communities about 12,000 years ago. The hunters, we suspect, were generally men. The gatherers, mostly women. It’s estimated that 80% of our ancestors’ diets consisted of wild fruits and vegetables. While the men were out looking for something to kill and drag home, women and girls were peering intently at foliage and digging in the ground, looking for groceries. And their rummaging probably wasn’t restricted to foodstuffs. No doubt a pretty rock or feather might have found its way into a woman’s basket, perhaps to use for barter later on when food ran out.

What does this have to do with the modern female shopper? Here I have a completely unscientific hypothesis, though one that makes perfect sense to me. Human beings – and all creatures alive today – had to adapt in order to survive. So, perhaps, buried in our DNA is a “shopping” gene, passed on from our ancient female ancestors. Those women, who had to examine fruits and berries and roots and leaves, were forced to take great care and time to make sure they selected items that didn’t poison their families. They also had to stock up enough goods to make it through the harsh times of the year. Thanks to our female ancestors abilities to pick the best available provisions, they were able to survive, reproduce, and pass their genes down to us.

So, don’t feel too badly about enjoying that time at the mall, just leave your beau at home. I, in the meantime, will try to stop rolling my eyes at my students.

Anne Montgomery’s new YA novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain will be released on March 28, 2017. The book’s launch will take place at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore at 4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101, Scottsdale, Arizona on April 2, 2017 at 2:00 PM. 

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