Like many men at this time of year, I have had the misfortune of being dragged to the shops. This, as any fellow male will attest, involves standing outside a variety of changing rooms while your beloved tries on an astounding and never-ending array of different outfits.
'What do you think?' she will say as she pulls back the curtain and emerges wearing the latest potential new skirt or blouse. As she says this she adopts a weird catwalk-model style pose that she never, ever uses in real life and attempts to hold her stomach in, as if that will improve the look of the outfit.
The correct answer to her question, however – and even if your better half is wearing an item of clothing so hideous you want to turn to your side and vomit into a plant pot - is always 'that looks great darling, it really suits your figure, and have you lost weight recently? You look so slim’ (NB: it’s very important to say it without any trace of sarcasm).
Of course, as one learns in time, nothing you say makes any difference whatsoever as to whether the item will actually be purchased or not.
Even if you tell your partner she looks like a cross between Diana Dors and Audrey Hepburn in their prime, she will grimace, mutter something along the lines of 'I'm not sure, I think it shows my bulges', look at herself in the mirror from various angles for a further five minutes, then decide not to buy it. The exact same process is repeated in a number of other stores throughout the course of the day.
It is a very trying and testing process, not made any easier by the fact these stores have no consideration whatsoever for the male shopper.
Outside the changing rooms of any shop selling women's clothing there will always be, at any given time, at least four or five weary and fed-up blokes holding a pile of shopping bags in their hands, waiting with the same pained ‘how did my life come to this?’ expressions.
The least these stores could do is provide some chairs or settees for us fellas to sit on or maybe stick up a TV showing Match of the Day.
This is a serious point: I mean if River Island or Topshop built small cafeterias directly outside their women's changing rooms, they would make a fortune from blokes having a brew and a bacon butty while their partners tried to squeeze unsuccessfully into yet another maxi-dress.
But while I detest going shopping with Mrs C, I can only doff my cap in admiration at her technique. As she enters a shop, she pauses and stands erect then sprints down the aisles with the precision of a guided missile, taking in entire racks of clothes with one swift glance.
She can spot an item she wants to buy from 20 feet and pounces on it like a lion devouring an antelope. Once, in the M & S knitwear section, she elbowed a pensioner in the head just to reach a cardigan of her choice.
It is seriously impressive to watch Mrs C in action and just a pity she doesn't show the same speed and dedication when it comes to washing-up.
The good thing about women's fondness for shopping is it makes Christmas a hell of a lot easier.
Of all the presents we had to buy for various family and friends, I’d estimate Mrs C purchased 99.7 per cent of them.
In the days following Christmas, various folk asked what we had bought for our daughter Mary. ‘Erm, I’m not entirely sure,’ I’d answer, vaguely, and then have a slight pang of guilt – but only slight, and very fleeting – that I hadn’t been more involved in the selection and purchase process.
She even wrapped them too – my contribution to the entire procedure was handing her pieces of sellotape and making the odd encouraging comment (‘ooh, that’s lovely wrapping paper’).
If she could only do her own clothes shopping too we'll have cracked it.