So I had a couple of interesting shopping experiences in the last few days that I felt like sharing with my little internet community.
Yesterday, in one of those lucky strokes of genius that reminded me why I love my job, I headed down to Midtown Comics in lunchtime to pick up a graphic novel published by a guy I'm meeting with today. The store is on the second floor above a film developer and a deli, and is accessible through an elevator in the photo place. But it's pretty clearly marked, and totally bright and clean, so in I go, and up I head.
Now, I knew what I was looking for, what precisely I needed, so on coming out of the elevator into the big room filled with shelves and shleves of books, its entire walls covered with single issues, I headed right to the cashier and asked for the book I wanted. He called over another guy to help me find it, which we did -- the last one they had in stock -- and then I did a little browsing of my own.
I'm by no means a comic book expert, but in the last few months of so I've read a fair number, mostly in graphic novel form, since I read too quickly to be satisfied with single issues, and I hate waiting for conclusions. So as I browsed, I noted a number of books I'd read, checked out what else was available in that series, poked around some of the most popular names (yum... Wolverine), and glanced around me at the other shoppers.
All men. Each and every one of them. And now, granted, I think it's a pretty safe assumption that yes, the majority of comic book readers are male, but even in the very midst of midtown, on a Tuesday lunchtime (and a late lunch at that), the guys at the comic book store looked like... well, like guys at a comic book store. I didn't notice any suit clad bankers sneaking out for their much needed fix of Spider-Man, or lawyers slipping a classic Batman comic into their leather briefcase. For the most part, it was casually-clad guys with messenger bags and personal numbers they recited when they brought their purchases up to the register that got them free stuff. I felt like I'd sneaked into their secret hideout, an oasis from midtown stuffiness.
Then, on my way back to work, I remembered another store I'd been in this weekend, where I felt a complimentary vibe. (No puns intended.) Wandering around the Lower East Side looking for a specific dress shop with two girlfriends, we hit the previously named Toys in Babeland, now just Babeland. Which is just what it sounds like -- toys for girls. Adult toys. And, well, I found it interesting to compare my two shopping experiences.
At Babeland, I was surrounded by other women, not the only one in the room. And despite the titilating nature of their products, the shopgirls at Babeland were friendly, eager to help, offering advice if wanted. At the comic book shop, there was more of a sense of privacy -- like this was a very personal thing, shopping for comics, and we're going to leave you alone so as not to disturb you. Which, in comparison... funny.
At Babeland too, I had to admit I was a little bit familiar with their stock. I have a couple toys of my own, and have a writerly interest in some of the reading material they stock. So there too, I felt like I could look around, see what I was familar with, maybe take a peek at some similar products, picking them up and flicking them on, or paging through them.
Again, there were areas in the store where I was completely out of my element, but going in with a couple of friends was easier than being somewhere alone -- one of us could pick something up or point it out with a "do you believe this?" or "so how does this work?" -- that I didn't do at the comic book shop. And in both places, I have to wonder how different the experience might be if I went shopping with a partner -- someone to point me towards the best stories to read, or wanted to try some of the toys with me.
I think the conclusion I'm going for here was an examination of the various social tropes attached to both types of shops. One is cool and trendy, located in a hip downtown area, and there's a certain cache to knowing where it is, and sharing stories with your friends about what you have from there, or what you've heard. And the other, for all the success of movie adaptations, is still a refuge, in some sense, of the socially awkward. Yes, I know, geeks are cool now, and I take great pride in being "a geek's dream girl," as one fellow gamer termed me.
But I'm not rushing out and telling everyone I know about either of my shopping trips. One because it's personal, and one because it's private, and in the long run, despite all the differences between them, it's the same thing.
Does that make any sense? Discuss among yourselves. I have to get ready for my comic book meeting.