A foreign report claiming that Malaysian men are now caught in a shopping muddle following the National Security Council directive that only one person is allowed to go out and buy food supplies throughout the movement control order (MCO), has brought to the fore the issue of how men manage when it comes to buying groceries.
It has reached a point that not having a shopping list is now considered the new macho.
The genesis of this argument can be traced back to a March post online by social media influencer Muhsin Zaidi, who wrote the real meaning of panic buying is when the head of a household is sent to do grocery shopping alone due to the one-person-only rule in private vehicles.
He added that not knowing the difference between ginger and galangal or celery leaves and coriander had caused menfolk much anxiety.
Muhsin’s post quickly racked up 3,700 reactions, 986 comments and 10,000 shares.
Administration executive Rachel Chan from Ipoh, Perak, said a little bit of guidance beforehand from the wife could be useful.
Chan drew her husband a layout of the supermarket nearest their home, with details of where items could be found so he would not get lost when grocery shopping for the first time.
Housewife Tang See Yoon pointed out that no specific gender was mentioned in regards to the one-person rule in a private vehicle.
She said as such this meant the fairer sex could still carry on their routine of buying groceries.
“I do the grocery shopping and only send the man out when I need basic things, like eggs, ” said Tang, who relies on husband Chin Kong Tai to provide back-up when she needs it.
When accountancy graduate Lavaneethen Yajapalan from Seremban was sent by his mother, Gowri Balan, to buy brinjals for dhal curry, he returned with a bagful of the long variety, not realising that round ones were preferred.
It was also a lack of specific details that led to private tutor CS Tan coming home with a whole coconut instead of the grated kind for mother-in-law Susiela Devi.
“I should have known better, she makes chutney every other day.
“After that, I made sure that if there was any doubt, I would call her first and ask again, ’’ said Tan, adding that he would sometimes make up to five calls per errand.
However, there are men who are very experienced in grocery shopping and more than capable in handling the task.
Feedback from a group of mothers revealed some husbands were already seasoned shoppers before the MCO.
“My husband is the handsomest tomato picker in the supermarket, ” said Hwang
Pei See, a marketing director of a dive resort in Terengganu.
Hwang said husband Ronnie Ng was a pro at grocery shopping after two years of buying everything the resort needs for its daily operations.
Retiree Chow Syn Nee said her husband had always done the cooking, even before marriage.
“So he knows what to buy. He thinks about what we will like, including my mother whom he also goes grocery shopping for, ” she said of her husband Dennis Lim.
Motoring journalist Hezeri Samsuri said Muhsin’s post was meant to be taken with a pinch of salt.
“We have a name for people who take what social media influencers post online as fact — straight as a ruler, ” said Hezeri.
Reminding that the difference in shopping styles between the two sexes had always been fodder for gender jokes since time immemorial, the father of four said it would be unrealistic for married males with children and family commitments to not know how to shop.
Retiree Cheong Fook Choy said shopping for groceries was easy because every product was labelled and there were signs to indicate the goods in each aisle.
Before the MCO was implemented, engineer Zawani Hamidon’s husband, tour guide Anis Razali accompanied her to the supermarket.
Anis, whose parents run a mee rebus stall in Batu Gajah, Perak, was also his mother’s constant companion when she went marketing.
Just 16 then, he would fetch her to the market on a motorcycle.
Supermarket manager Syed Hassan Syed Amir said from his daily observations, male shoppers had not displayed signs they were “lost” in the aisles.
From the 2,800 shoppers daily visiting the supermarket he works at, he said approximately 1,000 were males who knew what they needed to buy.
“In fact, our employees get more ingredient queries from young girls when it comes to buying foodstuff, ” said Syed Hassan.
However, for men, the sheer variety of feminine hygiene products usually leaves them stumped, especially if instructions have not been spelt out properly.
“So to play it safe, I would take a picture and send it to my wife first before buying, ” said Anis.
On how wives should react if the husband got something on the list wrong, housewife Kiki Quah said being flexible helped to maintain peace.
“At this time when certain ingredients are hard to get, I am not specific or insistent about having certain things.
“Instead, I tell him to get a specific number of vegetable varieties and then decide what to cook based on what is bought, ” said Quah.
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