Cell phone grocery shopping is rapidly becoming the rage with male seniors. Retired guys seem to have given up on programming their VCR's and turned to the more user friendly cell phones for marital enrichment.

After retirement, men eventually learn to explore a variety of activities and interests, and it seems to include grocery shopping and cooking. They're also getting smarter because I've frequently heard them on cell phones calling home from grocery store aisles for advice and food purchase confirmations.

This expanding phenomenon - men grocery shopping and cooking - has apparently reinvented and sometimes enhanced their spousal image. It's also made it increasingly difficult for those of us untalented food shoppers/cooks to explain to our wives why we're not like "those guys."

I've experimented in the grocery store and kitchen with disastrous results. My wife even told me it was safer and more efficient if I just stayed away from these areas altogether. Besides, she likes to browse, feel, compare, and purchase grocery items. I think it's the dormant female "gatherer" gene coming into periodic prominence. I've learned not to interfere during this ritualistic time. When I accompany her, albeit rarely, on one of these selective gathering adventures, my job is to push the cart without running into her heels.

As for the kitchen, I tried that too, with similar results. I can trash the countertops and floor and have no edible food to show for it in far more time than it takes my wife to whip out a gourmet meal. Every time I tried to be helpful at lunch or dinner, things went terribly afoul. I'm one of those people who can screw up boiling water. It's only within the last year that I mastered making drinkable coffee in the mornings, and the machine I use actually advertises "even a small child can do it…"

I'm a lucky man because she has a true gift and love for food preparation. I finally learned that staying out of her way in the kitchen, her primary domain, works out fine for both of us.

When I see and hear a guy at the grocery store on a cell phone with his spouse, I cringe. I know that either he's attempting to score huge retirement points or his wife is as inept in the kitchen as I am. Either way he's screwed because eventually, his non-cooking friends will take advantage of his culinary skills and begin inviting him over to their houses to cook for both couples.

I broke one of my personal rules a few days ago and cautiously ventured into new territory. This is rare, but on my own initiative, I went into the grocery store and selected a few food items that seemed to be missing in the pantry. It gets scarier. I used the "check-yourself-out" lane for the first time. To me, this was comparable to the drive-through at the bank. I've tried to use my insurance card to withdraw cash, so you can imagine where this adventure is going.

I placed my first food item on the scanner and waited; nothing happened. After a number of brief conversations with the interactive screen, I understood what to do and not to move anything until receiving permission. There's nothing quite as humbling as being publicly scolded by a computer-generated voice. Fortunately, the line behind me was comprised of inexperienced male checkout artists who were frantically taking mental notes. Finally, after a bout with weighing bananas, I was finished, or at least that's what I thought.

I loaded my bags into the cart and proudly rolled toward the checkout maitre'd. My vocal computer friend called me back for one minor oversight. I forgot to pay.

I called my wife on the way home and told her about my accomplishment. She was astounded. I assured her that everything went fine and I pulled it off like a seasoned grocery-shopping expert. Huge mistake and a lesson for guys like me who don't intend to make a habit of this activity: do not brag about your conquest because you'll be expected to do it repeatedly.

I have renewed respect for those people who enjoy and excel at grocery shopping and cooking, and I reconfirmed that my most refined talents are eating and encouraging those who prepare the food. This also opens the door for my continued search for additional retirement activities. My wife told me she would hand me the phone and hold the door open for me whenever I decided to pursue another adventure.

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