Just last night, I spent over $1250. at Anthropologie, over $800. at the art supply store Dick Blick, and well over $1000. at various Etsy stores, and this was a slow night. Now, I am sure, your mouth is hanging open and you are thinking about how shallow and offensive I am to flaunt my wealth. Well, let me explain. Last night, I went on my version of ‘window shopping’ and I didn’t spend a cent, which given the state of my bank account is a good thing. Please be assured that it is only in my wildest dreams that I could afford such opulent displays of wealth; however, I have been going on such ‘online’ shopping excursions for years.
First, I must confess that I hate malls — hate them with a passion. I’ve always been that way. Perhaps, it began because I grew up poor and we had no money to go to the mall anyway, so why go. As I grew older, I had friends whose weekly ‘to-do’ involved a trip to the mall — every single weekend. They had no more money than I did, and rarely bought anything, but going to the mall was their form of entertainment. As if they were inviting me to a get together at their house, they would routinely invite me to go with them on their mall excursion. Even though I politely declined, and had a big, sincere, smile on my face, It embarrasses me to admit that inwardly I was thinking that I’d rather stay home and clean toilets, which remains my least favorite household chore — ever. Drastic I know, but I told you that I hate malls. Once, I questioned how they could afford to go shopping every week and they looked at me askance and replied, “We can’t. We’re ‘window shopping.’
Naturally,there were those times when I needed to buy something, and way back then, (You know, before Al Gore created the internet and Amazon took over the world of shopping. In the event that you don’t get the ‘Al Gore comment, you’re too young and I’m too old. :)), malls were the only alternative. My perfect idea of a trip to the mall involved, and still does, an anchor store wherein I had no need to enter what I called ‘mall hell.’ I could park my car right outside the store, go in with definite ideas about what I needed to buy, find it, (If it was an item of clothing, I didn’t even try it on.), pay for it, race walk to the parking lot exit, and within minutes, I was in my car breathing a huge sign of relief that my mall excursion was over.
Sometimes, things did not go according to plans, and I’d have to venture into the mall to find the store that I needed. Invariably, the store that I wanted was as far away from where I parked as it could be. In addition, it did not help that I didn’t, I mean don’t, have the best sense of direction, and within 5 minutes, I was lost in a sea of people ambling along like they were at some intriguing tourist attraction. It also seemed that the timing of my mall forays always coincided with maximum foot traffic, so there were, in my mind, millions of people standing between me and my destination.
Anyway, time passed and the internet opened to mere mortals like me. In addition to loathing the entire mall environment, I travelled for work constantly. It was difficult to shop for that special gift for someone else or that beautiful sweater that I’d seen in an ad. Then miracle of miracles, a friend introduced me to the joys of internet shopping. At first, I used it sparingly because I had no idea what I was doing and what it could do. It was years before I understood the beauty of online shopping, but when I did most of my shopping nightmares evaporated.
It was ingenuous. No crowds, no getting lost, no fuss, no muss. All that it required was a computer and a credit card. I was able to drop the mall visits, in favor of shopping in my pajamas, when I chose, even in the wee hours of the morning.Wherever I was, I could simply log onto my computer and within a short period, I’d completed buying the gifts on my list. I loved the idea of not bothering with gift wrapping the item and, all too often, trudging to the post office to mail it. On more than one holiday season, I managed to complete all of our Christmas shopping on-line without a single trip to a brick and mortar store. Things couldn’t be better.
Everything was perfect until my health forced me to stop practicing law. I felt that I’d lost a part of me, and to fibromyalgia, no less. I was heartbroken, angry, in lots of pain, lost, and, you get the picture. My way of coping with the totally unexpected and unfortunate turn in my life, was shopping therapy and the internet made that all too easy. I shopped, and shopped, and shopped. The purchases gave me a temporary high and allowed me to forget the reality of my circumstances.
Finally, I arrived at a point where shopping didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel worse, and I realized that it had become a problem. In addition, I had a mountain of stuff that I didn’t need. Admitting that shopping was simply my way of dealing with my disability and loss of a career that I loved, was a turning point for me. Little by little, I cut back my online shopping to a more healthy and manageable level. I devised ‘online’ window shopping as one way to satisfy my shopping urge without impacting my bank account or mental health.
There is no doubt that I still loathe malls. I still shop online for things that I need because I appreciate its ease and convenience, and besides, I have Amazon Prime! But at times, like when I receive, among others, the Anthropologie, Free People or Garnet Hill catalogs, I get that urge for shopping therapy. Now, all that I need is my laptop, comfy clothes and time to browse. NO credit cards allowed. I shop until I drop and at the press of a button, I’m done, walking away excited by my “purchases” and not feeling the weight of incoming credit card bills, and thinking of all the money that I saved. No more guilt about adding to the mountain of stuff that I already own, and don’t need. Yes, ‘online’ window shopping is therapy for this shopper’s soul. You should try it sometime.
All Will Be Well, ~ Julian of Norwich