Shopping – therapy, addiction or just plain fantasy??

Courtesy of chimidoro from Flickr

NOTE: This post was inspired by an article in the February issue of Ladies’ Home Journal by Catherine Newman. The article is very interesting and worth reading.

Even as a small child, I enjoyed shopping. Having something new was awesome. After my father died, shopping was a luxury. We only bought what we needed which made the smallest purchases special.

One of my fondest memories of my Aunt Hilda was when she took me shopping for a “pretty” dress for my birthday. I was pulled out of school for the day (that was huge! I wasn’t allowed to stay home unless I was on death’s door and the grim reaper could be seen strolling down the street).  We went into the city. Ok, it was really a town but humor me, it’s my childhood memory!

I dragged that poor woman and my mother through EVERY store that carried my size. It took all day and came with a fabulous lunch. In that experience, I learned how to milk the event for the ultimate feel-good feeling.

I tried on dresses with crinolines underneath and some that were sleek (at least to a 13-year-old). Some were shiny red and some were pink (my all time favorite color before I discovered purple). As I tried each on one, I lived a fantasy. I could date a senior in this dress (I wasn’t even allowed to date anyone let alone a high school senior four years older than me). Or perhaps, I would be a corporate executive in this one with a cute little jacket (assuming the dress would fit me in twenty years).

Ultimately, we bought a dress. The funny thing is that I don’t remember the dress. I just remember the experience. Subsequent birthday gifts from my aunt were a lot more simple.

For me, it’s about the fantasy, living the lifestyle. I don’t need to actually buy the article to enjoy the fantasy. Maybe that’s what makes it pleasurable without the pain of the monthly credit card bill. I have gone to Macy’s to try on wild evening clothes after a particularly contentious day at work. It soothes the soul. I haven’t a place to wear it so I don’t buy it, but I am happy. My fantasy was satisfied.

During the early days of my last job, I had one particularly tough Friday morning. All of Human Resources did. My co-worker and I terminated a couple of employees for cause. By lunch time we were drained and exhausted. I came back from lunch with a pair of shoes and she came back with a new white blouse (I swear she collected white blouses). We were both refreshed. We concluded it was cheaper than therapy and you had something to show afterward.

Courtesy of lilicui via Flickr

I still enjoy shopping but it’s not as much fun as it used to be. It’s difficult to create the fantasy when the 5 inch stilettos are killing your feet; the skinny jeans caress your love handles; and the gorgeous tops leave you freezing. Perhaps I’ll have to try those evening dresses one of these days. I wonder how they look with orthopedic shoes.

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9 thoughts on “Shopping – therapy, addiction or just plain fantasy??

  1. When I saw the photo, I thought, gosh, Kate has let her hair grow out. 🙂

    No wonder it was such a memorable day; you were one of the women, shopping, lunching, and putting on dreams with each dress you tried on. I’m not much of a shopper, but I remember as a little girl wearing those full skirts with crinoline skirts and twirling around in them. It made me feel beautiful.

    If you do try on some slinky, shiny gown and you are wearing orthopedic shoes, please take a picture to post.

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  2. Cheaper than therapy and you have something to show for it… I like that. And I subscribe to that notion, although I haven’t thought of it until now. Years ago an acquaintance of mine (a friend, but not a close friend) was having a problem and I listened to her tale of woe. When she was finished she asked me for my advice, and I said, “Buy a new nail polish.” I think she thought I was nuts, but I thought it would help.

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  3. I really enjoyed your story. It reminded me of shopping with my oldest daughter. We did hit every store in the mall that had clothes in her size. Then she wound going back in the first store and buying her clothes there. I will say, though, that she was always good about getting the most for her money. You’re right, it’s often the experiences that stand out, that stay with us.

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  4. Excellent and fun post!
    I was 15 when my sister (she was 19) and I were put on the train in our wee little small town in Nova Scotia and sent off on the journey of our lifetimes. to New York City to visit our Aunt. She too took us shopping (on 5th Ave, her husband was rich) and bought me a lovely RED dress
    ( I still remember it and how it felt too) AND my very first Bikini. (by today’s standards, it was a two piece) Anyway I loved that bikini too because it had a padded bra attached so I finally had SHAPE. I strutted my stuff back on the beaches of N.S. only to be humiliated when a boy whistled at me and pointed to my chest area, laughing. the pointy part was INVERTED since there was basically nothing under it. ha ha ha I was MORTIFIED……

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  5. wow … this blog entry sparked off several memories for me. I love your shopping memory with your Aunt. That is about as close to “queen for the day” as you can get as a kid. How much fun that must have been for you. I love it that you said you don’t even remember the dress, but just the experience. Bravo! Another chalk mark for “actions” versus “things”.

    Back when I was still in the corporate world, I did my fair share of retail therapy. Now that I’m unemployed and hovering on the cusp of being physically disabled, I’ve had to come up with creative (and inexpensive) ways to engage in retail therapy. I often do an online version of your “try it on just for fun” game. I will oogle and drool away at all the pretty things I would love to order, and then when I can’t stand it a moment longer, I will bookmark the page and tuck it away safely in my “shopping” folder … which is stuffed to the brim with things I’ll never buy, but just in case I suddenly have the urge to visit them again, I can always click on my shopping folder and let myself get swept away in the pretties.

    By the way, my shopping folder has a sub-folder marked as “sensible shoes”.

    I mean, seriously, who are we kidding?

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    • You made me laugh! I get tons of catalogs which I should of course throw out without perusing. However, every once in a while, my fantasy gets the best of me and I order something. Most of the time it goes back. I have turned into a sensible jeans and flannel shirt/t-shirt person but I can still drool. Those market folks know my buttons!

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      • Oh yes! I love the catalogs (but during the holiday season, I think I must have thrown out the equivalent of several trees’ worth of duplicate catalogs, no kidding). It has taken me a long time to finally figure out that often something I “want” doesn’t turn out to give me any of the satisfaction or enjoyment I thought it might … case in point … Many years ago I drooled over the Bose tabletop Wave CD player … for about two years I thought about how nice it would be to have sitting on my shelf, cranking out delicious sounding quality music. Finally I went ahead and ordered *the way too expensive* Bose Wave player, only to find that for the last several years, it has done a fabulous job of collecting dust while sitting on the shelf. I think the thing that finally tipped me over the edge was when they included a second remote control that had BIG BUTTONS that were EASY TO READ. They got me.

        Now I often give anticipated purchases “the Bose test”, if you catch my drift. Do I really, really, want it or need it? Or is it just the IDEA of it that I crave? It sure does help identify what stays on the list, and what gets discarded. better yet, what winds up in my online shopping folder!

        I swear the catalog companies have figured out that I go for sparkly, shiny, and colorful things, because invariably they will send me something with the sparkliest and shiniest and most colorful thing RIGHT ON THE FRONT COVER to tempt me. Clever marketing geniuses, they are! Little do they know that my other “virtual shopping excursion” is that I sometimes cut out the pictures and paste them into my “isn’t this pretty” spiral notebook. Some day I’ll be gone, leaving behind online folders and spiral notebooks stuffed with all the things I didn’t buy. They may find an occasional drool spot or wistful tear or two staining the page, but my credit card bill will be ZERO.

        I’ve learned to love ZERO. Especially shiny, sparkling, colorful zeroes.

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