Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Musings on Shopping

When I was a girl, shopping was an idle pastime. We would go to some suburban downtown and poke around a favorite store. Betty's sticks in my mind. There was no real agenda, and I don't remember having much money (and I saved all that I would earn--all my kids know how I was able to spend a summer backpacking around Europe on babysitting and birthday money)

When there was a big occasion, your mother would take you to try on dresses and then you would have lunch somewhere. As teens in the 70's we discovered malls. Mom was not invited. We scoped for boys, ate fries in the food court, and tried on makeup at the department store counters.

Then I grew up and went away for college. Shopping became an ordeal of necessity--find a kid with a car and trade favors for a ride, or get on a bus for an hour to get to the mall and then trundle it all back. Shopping became a chore, not a way to while away the time I did not have.

Then I went off to New York for grad school and shopping became an adventure. I rediscovered the thrill of the browse: Soho on Saturday, street vendors in Alphabet City late at night on the weekends(before New York got cleaned up), window shopping on Fifth Avenue, Korean deli bar poking around on Broadway, or getting LOST in Strands Bookstore in the Village. I never bought much, but I acually got addicted browsing. Then, I finished school and moved to downtown Chicago, and sometimes I would just wander through stores looking at Stuff to clear my head. I would still travel to ethnic neighborhoods for the adventure, but when I set up a grown up household, somewhere in there, shopping stopped being a form of amusement and once again became a task on a large list of things to be accomplished: find a lamp for the reading area, get a throw rug for the bathroom to replace the one the cat destroyed. I even had a few jobs where shopping, or procurement, was a JOB. I got paid for the ability to source and obtain strange items for a reasonable price. This was a handy skill to have in an artistic career---and to this day I can find artistic inspiration in a hardware store.

Now the internet makes procurement so much easier. The ease has made me forget how much work SHOPPING can be. And the predominance of internet procurement in my life means that I have totally fallen down and forgotten to teach my kids how one shops(except thrift shops, antique stores on vacation and rummage sales--I have taught my kids how to Scavenge, not Shop). My sister in law had picked up the slack with a yearly ritual of an outfit and a lunch, but the demands of her own kids and full time job took that off the table. And so, I found myself last weekend, at an upscale mall with my youngest. I needed a winter coat, and I should have known that if I could not find it online, it probably does not exist(orange down, with inside pocket, under $100) but in the interest of connecting and introducing my child to a tradition, off we went. My daughter LOVED the day of being an only child with mama. She is a clothes horse, fashion maven and wanted EVERYTHING. But she now knows now that I am the pickiest shopper in the known universe, and I am not sure if she will ever shop again with me. We never found the coat I need. But she scored buy one get one free leg warmers, a Snoopy tee shirt on massive sale, and yet another Ugly Doll, on half off. (How man Ugly dolls does a girl need---as many as she can get!) She loved the way Nordstroms wrapped her package, and she compared and contrasted the ambiance and product mixes at the various stores. We liked Lord and Taylor. Kinda hated Macy's, which looked like the store had been raped. And we started late, so lunch turned into French Onion Soup and a pint of Guiness at the pub for dinner. Not a bad day. Not sure I will do it again, but though I bought nothing, I brought home a lot.


2KoP said...

Shopping — Ugh! Shopping hasn't been fun since my kids outgrew the baby department. I like Target, because I can get almost anything I need there at a semi-reasonable price. I love Abt — and frankly wish I lived in their store. I, too, can find inspiration in a hardware store, but not at the mall.

May I suggest Von Maur? Soon? It's an old-time shopping experience, with real bargains thrown in on occasion. Your little maven will be in 7th Heaven.

2KoP said...

P.S. Shoppers/non-shopper — a good 2KoP post. Free idea for your submission to my writing contest. Use it or lose it.