The woes of retail therapy

Given the stress of a new school year, a friend and I decided to spend some time on ourselves. We dubbed it “retail therapy,” and spent the afternoon shopping, not because we needed the clothes, and not for lack of anything better to do, but because we both wanted to experience the joy of buying new things. This, I’m aware, is the epitome of materialism and the result of living in a fairly capitalist society.

I’ll be the first to admit that the whole idea seems ridiculous. As a self-proclaimed tomboy and riot gurl in my former years, I can’t say I’m used to being up for a full-fledged day of consumerism. The thought of someone devoting their time and money entirely to themselves just seems wrong, not to mention selfish. Someone with such a privileged ability would surely find enough satisfaction with what they have and dedicate time to a more selfless cause.

Such was not the case on a fine afternoon last week when I dropped quite a lot of coin ... and I can’t wait to adorn my body in these new items.

I’m certain that, had I spent the same amount of time volunteering at a soup kitchen, or reading to the elderly, I would have felt more satisfied with myself and my abilities as a contributing member of society. And, yes, I know of this wonderful feeling first-hand.

But I found myself questioning my former logic and asking, what was wrong with spending a little time entirely on me in a blur of consumption? I discovered that there actually is something very troubling about this form of therapy: the fact that it is almost entirely a female phenomenon.

I used the reasoning that I felt overwhelmed with school work and extra-curricular activities to justify my shopping spree, but the truth is that, as a female, I feel the need to adorn myself in beautiful garments, not for the sake of fashion, but because it makes me feel better about my mental state.

I recently told my housemate about this, hoping she’d offer some advice. Anita is a post-doctoral student, specializing in social justice and development. She told me I did all of this because, as a female, I’m triggered by oppression. Women feel the need to shop ’till they drop because they are on a persistent search to prove themselves worthy by the clothes they wear. I shudder to think that, yes, she’s right. After all, my closet is chock-full of the fruits of these outbursts, and a lot of them I rarely wear.

A remedy for the blues this isn’t—a far cry from it, apparently. And it’s turning into an addiction. When I feel down, I turn to my debit card, instead of a good friend, to numb my pain. It’s pretty pathetic, and it’s in no way a solution. If anything, it’s just a temporary fix.

I’m afraid I’ve become a willing victim of the spending culture. I used to participate in the annual Buy Nothing Day in order to curb my consumption. Now I spend money on things I don’t actually need for the joy of materialism.

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