Today I went shopping at the mall for the first time in several months. The husband and LittleBird were along for the ride, and as we rolled into the main entry, packed with teenagers in the smae clothes and families and old women in fleece vests and people just carrying bags and bags of stuff under the flourescent lighting with all the piped music and cars packed in the pathway, and kiosk kids hasseling other women my age who have time and money to burn, right?…
I just…. whew. It was a moment.
Let me rephrase: It was a weird moment. Weird, because I love to shop. I always have. My shopping dates are marathon, and you better bring your walking shoes and plan for a coffee break.
…at least they used to be.
It’s been a long time since I had time to burn at the mall. And in these, the years of living frugally, something about these giant, high-ceilinged stores packed with the same clothes, hundreds of the same shirt on the cheap cause it’s only $10 so why not buy 3 of them… these stores make me anxious and irritated.
I got this weird little shake-up a few weeks ago when I wandered into another all-in-one store and actually had time to poke around the clothing section. I threaded into the clothing racks looking forward to snagging a good bargain on something cute… and the whole experience just felt too claustrophobic, too manufactured by someone else and their Board of What Looks Good Now.
The last time I was this weirded out by American Shopping Culture was when I returned from 6 months in France, way back in college. And I shopped in France! There were boutiques aplenty, chain stores, and teh equivalents of Payless shoes, Best Buy, and Target or Fred Meyers. There was even a kind of Costco… but it was so far out of town and down the train line that I never went. And still, all those other equivalents…. they somehow still weren’t as huge and pervasive. Even the supermarches weren’t nearly as super as our markets.
The first time I went with my mom to pick up some milk and shampoo at the store, I just stared in confusion down the double aisles a seeming mile long, waiting for my brain to kick back in. “Oh! That’s right! that’s what it’s like here!”
It’s kind of the same with these recent experiences at the mall and the all-in-one. We’ve been living pretty frugally for a ong while now. At least, it’s certainly a far cry from “My first apartment and my first real job” when I had cash to spend on a new sweater or beautiful shoes every other month (They were always on sale! And I still love them!).
We still shop, but as a treat… a reward when one of us finishes a work project, or for birthdays. Sure, there are still “just for fun” items… but we tend to hold off on those till we realize we’ve been back to the same catalog page or website 5 times in the last 2 days. It’s sort of an extension of my old shopping philosophy… if it’s over $x, walk out of the store and leave it. If you’re still thinking about tomorrow, go back.
We’ve also been trying to be much more careful with our dollars… I shop a lot of vintage/consignement/goodwill, and if we spend a little more money, it’s on a good brand and in quality fabrics. We hit the mall from time to time, but it seems to get longer and longer between visits (though it may be more often now that the rain is returning and I once again join the legions of mall-walkers with strollers).
Anyhow… somehow it’s just different lately. And strange. It somehow isn’t sitting right in my bones.
Is it possible to have “re-entry issues” at the mall?