Recently I reported via my Facebook status that I had lost my joy where shopping was concerned. An old college chum commented “I hope it was brief”. She knew me in my youth when shop ’til you drop was a form of feminine weekend warrior pursuits.
The two of us could wile away an afternoon in and out of the little shops in downtown Iowa City. Hours alone could be spent sifting through cast off treasures at the thrift shop. While Leslie could wear a sack and look like an Elle cover girl, I was not blessed with her dancer’s frame or carriage. Thrift store clothes looked it on me. Still I loved to go shopping despite never having the money or the body for my purchases.
Throughout my life retail, whether it be recreational or therapeutic, has always been high on my list of things to do. But since leaving the U.S. and settling in Canada, I’ve slowly lost interest in consuming and have even come to regard it as a chore. Maybe it’s because of the driving involved now that I live in a rural hamlet and the nearest shopping – a Wal-Mart – is a good twenty minutes of country roads and highway. The fact that it is a Wal-Mart also dampens a person’s enthusiasm more than a little. I can’t get past the guilt of purchasing cheaply at the expense of – well – everyone. I can’t get past the cheapness of the goods period. And it doesn’t help that every time I walk through the doors I am reminded of my late husband’s unshakeable belief that a person could walk into any Wal-Mart in any part of the world at any time of day and never fail to find at least one person who was missing one or more of their front teeth. Strangely, or maybe not, I have never been able to avoid crossing paths with the toothless at a Wal-Mart since.
Living in Alberta too we have a demand versus supply problem. The credit cards are willing but the stuff just ain’t available. There is also the pesky service problem. Canadians are a bit like the native populations the early European settlers of the New World tried to turn into slaves. They aren’t temperamentally suited for service. Oh they are nice enough, but they have one speed and it’s a leisurely one. As my dad once observed after a trip to Quebec,
“Even the dogs walk slowly up there.”
But with December looming and a family to appease with goods, I need to find my AWOL joy and kick it in the arse. Someone has to make certain there will be prezzies under the tree and that someone will not be my husband.
Rob believes Al Gore invented the Internet specifically to free men from having to ever step foot in a mall. I can be assured of heading to the post office at least once in the coming month to pick up the sum of his Christmas shopping which he will at least wrap himself. And though I have begun to see the wisdom of online consumption, it feels wrong to my American side.
Back in the States I would brave the day after Thanksgiving with my best friend while her husband braved the day with our children. We planned the day like generals. Plotting our stops and purchases with a precision that didn’t even leave our refreshment breaks to chance.
So far I have managed to acquire the appropriate Barbie paraphernalia, new socks for all and talk my husband into building a dollhouse. I even have his yearly supply of new underwear, despite the fact he will only wear it when he goes for his massage. Yeah, our massage therapist thinks that’s weird too. But I haven’t made a list for myself and the whole gifties under the tree thing is making me tired just contemplating the walking and perusing and standing on queue.
The funny thing is, however, I don’t miss the old material me much at all. I am looking forward to a trimmer holiday where things like the Santa Claus parade and cutting down our own tree are the highlights. While my old friend wished me a speedy recovery from my shopping malaise, I am hoping it is terminal.
This is an original 50 Something Moms piece.