Saturday, March 14, 2009

Excuse me while I conspicuously consume this space.


Eve and I went to the mall on Thursday. I had bought jeans for Angus at Old Navy on Wednesday and they were too tight (ended up exchanging them for ones that were too big -- I know this is tangential, but WHY is there only 'slim' and 'husky' with nothing in between? But also, adjustable waistbands rock) and we were looking at a rather drastic pants shortage. We exchanged the jeans and had lunch in the food court, and practiced getting on the escalator, and it was lovely. But I also caved in and bought her a little Disney Princess doll. And this is why I can't 'go shopping'.

I don't really get 'going shopping'. In university, I had friends that would just drive around on the week-ends looking for different places to walk around buying stuff. When I shop, it's a hard-target search, get in, get what you need, get out. Because as long as I don't see stuff, I don't want it. When I'm out where all the stuff is, I end up buying stuff I don't need. I know not everybody is as weak and easily distracted by bright shiny objects; but I personally think I would benefit from fewer shopping hours and maybe having to answer a skill-testing question before being allowed to buy another t-shirt or candle-holder.
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When I was a kid, there was no Sunday shopping and no evening shopping except on Thursday and Friday. Obviously this was inconvenient for a lot of people, and extended shopping hours are helpful in a lot of ways, especially for groceries. But with so many people talking about 'simplifying' and 'de-cluttering', and the glaring imbalance in lifestyles between our society and others, doesn't it seem a bit -- I don't know -- unnecessary, unhelpful, something like that -- that we place so much emphasis on shopping that we have to be able to do it whenever, wherever?

I end up with a headache every time I try to buy toothpaste. The toothpaste aisle seems to denote the very essence of first world decadence and self-indulgence. Because Jesus, how many different kinds of toothpaste can there be? Whitening, freshening, bubbling, bursting, scouring, cinnamon, freshmint, gel mint, vanilla mint... it's enough to make you yearn for the days when they just chewed on a splintered twig after they ate their bannock and bear grease.
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I just flipped through my copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver looking for this quote, but I can't find it. The book is about a Baptist minister who takes his four daughters and his wife to the Belgian Congo in 1959, and the effects it has on their lives. One of the girls marries a Congolese revolutionary and has four sons. On one occasion she brings them home to Georgia and takes one of them to the supermarket. When he's staggered by the amount and variety of goods on display, she tells him Americans have a lot of things they don't need, and he says "But Mama, how can there be so many kinds of things people don't need?" I think of this every time I try to buy toothpaste.

I know, I know; we live in a capitalist society, supply and demand, blah blah blah. It's up to me to learn to buy only what we need, to teach my children that new is not always better, to cut down on waste. And not only because we don't have space for any more bookshelves.

4 comments:

Amber said...

I think on-line shopping takes things to a whole other level. Talk about reducing the barrier to spending money. I can sit here in my PJs and surf, I don't even need to find a parking space.

But the place that really blows my mind is still the pet store. Nail polish and breath mints for dogs. Really? This is what the world needs? Craziness!

alison said...

I love The Poisonwood Bible. Though not enough to name my girls after the characters therein. I named them before I read the book.

I have to agree with you. I've been drumming it into my girls' heads that we go shopping when we NEED something, not because we WANT something, and certainly not because we're bored and looking for something to do to pass the time. (Of course then I had to explain exactly why I NEEDED the stand mixer I bought last weekend. But the hand-mixer's motor had gone belly up last month, and Rachel insists that she NEEDS home-made cookies, and I was starting to get tennis elbow from mixing dough with a wooden spoon, so that did fit into the 'need' category. My scruples are intact and my hypocrisy meter is still on 'low'.)

Bibliomama said...

Well, obviously. A stand mixer is a basic necessity of life.

They have breath mints for dogs? Okay, we have a winner.

NoisyBluebird said...

No, no, I've seen strollers for dogs.