Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of buying new things. If there’s a pair of jeans that will fit me like a normal human being or a candle holder that perfectly aligns with my political leaning — I’m all in. I’m going to enjoy procuring that specific item and appreciate the fact that my life is now better for having it. But just the general act of “shopping,” it seems, is an activity meant to demoralize, dehumanize, and just generally drain the morale of its participants. And with Christmas around the corner, I’m afraid this is something I’ll be dealing with a lot in the coming weeks.
1. Salespeople are horrendous.
Here’s the deal, I used to work at a tiny, upscale boutique where we were paid on commission. I no longer work for them, and will never work for a place like that again, because being paid to harass and lie to unsuspecting clients is something I ethically cannot do. I would often be reprimanded for “not pushing hard enough” or being honest about it when a boot a woman was trying on made her look as though she was punishing her upper calf for war crimes. Commission is the devil. And even for employees whose dinners aren’t riding on whether or not they make that final sale, they are still instructed to relentlessly follow and pester customers until they have fully sapped their will to live. Nothing — and I mean nothing — gives me such immediate, frantic anxiety as being followed and harangued by a pushy, unflinching sales associate. I am overwhelmed with the desire to scream at them “NO I DON’T NEED HELP, AND STOP RECOMMENDING THAT HORRENDOUS SKORT TO ME.” But as I am frozen in my overwhelming fear of seeming rude, I will just murmur “I’m okay for now” and scuttle off awkwardly into the sunset.
2. Dressing rooms punish me for the sins of humanity.
At some point in human history, there was some dark, shadowy boardroom meeting of evil people in suits that concluded with the statement, “That’s it. Fluorescent, overhead lighting for all dressing rooms until the end of time.” Granted, there are certain places that go too far in the other direction and practically smear the mirror with Vaseline to obscure all flaws, but in general — the lighting is out to get you. Who hasn’t been out, feeling vaguely good about themselves, ready to see what this charming little shirt has to offer — and then glances at themselves in the dressing mirror only to be greeted by a slightly green corpse that has clearly been dead for the better part of a week? It’s as though the rooms are there to remind us simultaneously of our own unattractiveness and our impending mortality.
3. Stores will not stop lying about the function of their clothing.
Leggings are not pants. Leggings are similar to pants, in that they cover the leg portion of your body, but leggings are not pants. When one wears a shirt with a pair of leggings and boots, it has an effect similar to walking out of the house in pajama pants. It shows that you had the intention of getting dressed, but somewhere around the halfway point lost your morale. Tunics are not dresses. Tunics are similar to dresses, in that your arms go into the sleeveholes and they cover your torso, but tunics are not dresses. When you wear a dress that only covers to southernmost point of your buttcheeks, you are wearing a dress that started with the best of intentions and ended things just a bit too soon. So many are the times that I’ve found myself walking around Paris and I see a tall, thin, beautiful woman walking by whose aesthetic appeal I am brutally interrupted from considering by the overwhelming question, “WHERE ARE THAT WOMAN’S PANTS.” Wearing an oversized button down shirt, similar to wearing a tunic, does not constitute wearing a dress. Stores must stop encouraging these brutal lies.
4. You can never just be looking.
Granted, there are times when all you want to go is hang out in The Sharper Image for four hours and test the buzziness of their various buzzy chairs “delectably buzzy, intriguingly buzzy, coquettishly buzzy…” but for the most part, if someone is just window shopping, it’s because they’re planning for a purchase they’ll probably make at a later date. They’re saving up, maybe, or they’re trying to decide what to get. Regardless of the reasoning, the second associates suspect that the shopper is not going to be leaving with bags full of overpriced salad shooters, it becomes a not-so-subtle race to get this potential thief out of the door. You can sense that your allotted time to look at the products and perhaps decide to buy something was up long ago, and now you are just using up precious molecules of oxygen. It is incredibly uncomfortable, and frankly turns you off ever shopping in that store again.
5. Stores around Christmastime make me lose my faith in humanity.
People trampling each other to get to a Bratz doll, salespeople hiding in the corners and waiting for it all to be over, the same Barbara Streisand version of Jingle Bells blasting on repeat (if you’ve never listened to that catchy abomination, it actually ends in “jinga beh jinga beh jing jang jong”), and children screaming everywhere — it’s just, oh, God. Nothing has ever been capable of making me question my intense, fundamental love for children — until I saw one child brutally bite the FACE of another to guard his place in line to see Santa and order his XBOX 360. Not even one of Starbucks’ holiday-themed CranRazWhiteDarkChocoMochaLatteBlasters could take me out of the incredible melancholy brought on by the mall that evening. It made me long to celebrate alone with just a cup of cocoa, some quiet music, and a gift card to J. Crew because my extended family is incapable of picking out a decent cardigan if their lives depended on it.