So, as you may have read, my New Year’s resolution is to give up clothes shopping for 2015. How is it going so far? That is an interesting question.
During the last few days of December that formed the death knell of 2014, a few of my good friends took great pleasure in good-naturedly razzing me.
During a delicious spa day, my friend A. cheekily suggested I should go further with my resolution. “Why don’t you stop grocery shopping too? You could grow your own food!”
Given that I live in a condo in downtown Toronto where my only outdoor space is a three foot-wide balcony where the sunlight is mostly blocked out by other buildings, I’m not sure that I could.
Don’t get me wrong, the teasing from my friends is cool. It’s fun and funny and probably an inevitable by-product of any quirky, all-encompassing social experiment upon which one might embark. It gets really awkward, however, when people straight up forget your resolution and accidentally tempt you to rejoin the land of the shopping.
I was dog-sitting for my parents over the winter break. On January 1, I called my mom (who was on vacation in California) to wish her a happy New Year. In the course of our conversation, she asked me if I had any weekend plans. I replied that my good friend K. would be sleeping over in my parents’ guest room. To which my mother immediately responded “Will you be going shopping?”
My mom is not generally unsupportive, so I’m pretty sure that when she asked me this, she had totally forgotten about my resolution. I guess it takes time to stop reflexively seeing your kid as the shopaholic she’s been since emerging from your womb in spring of ’86.
My mom’s question illustrates how knee-jerk an activity shopping really is for many people. For most of my life, it certainly has been. When a friend comes in from out of town, what do we do? Well, sure, we go to the theatre or to film festivals and to cool new restaurants, but shopping is usually just as much a part of the menu.
Shopping is so much a part of the Modern Western World that I feel I am missing out on some sort of collective experience by giving up it up for 12 months. When my friend tells me how awesome the new Anthropologie store on Queen Street West is, I know I can go there and look around, but I also can’t buy anything. I can’t be included in the ranks of its shoppers. Even though it has a room devoted entirely to hats!!! OM MY GOD, HOW AWESOME IS THAT?
Of course, I know this type of commercial disenfranchisement I have voluntarily embarked upon is what less socioeconomically privileged people experience every day. It’s just that it had never occurred to me until I chose to stop shopping for clothes exactly how much of our culture revolves around shopping.
Shopping is a leisure activity, a bonding activity, an “I’m bored and don’t know what else to do” activity. And now it’s one that isn’t really open to me, unless you count window shopping, which I don’t, because it simply fills me with a soul-destroying want and frustration.
Not shopping is weirdly isolating. It’s only been a few days, but I already feel disoriented. I am suddenly less sure of how to navigate our commercial world now that I’m not permitted to buy a new dress for 12 more months.
It’s sad to me how excluded I feel from consumer culture after just a few days of clothes shopping prohibition. I mean, I’ve gone much longer than a matter of days without shopping before. There are times when I’ve managed to exercise enough self-control that I’ve stayed shopping-free for maybe even a couple of months.
The difference there, however, was that I could have bought stuff in a moment of weakness, or if I had happened to find a hundred dollar bill randomly on the sidewalk. Now, however, I cannot. I’ve committed to abstinence, no matter how many cool new Anthropologie locations open in Toronto between now and the end of 2015.
In short, I’m not completely certain of what I’m getting out of this experience yet, but it’s really, really challenging.
Wish me luck!