Posted by: Kate | January 6, 2008

Is it Bedtime Yet?

I’m not a shopper. Some people have this ability to just head over to the mall, wander around, check stuff out, browse, maybe buy, and go home again, all happy and fulfilled and interested. They don’t have to have an agenda in mind, and if they go home empty-handed they can still consider it a successful trip.

Not I.

I find shopping an irritating, overstimulating, painful experience. There are too many choices in the stores, too much crammed into a space so that I can’t back up and take in the big picture, too many subtle nuances in determining how much you’re actually paying and whether one item is truly a better deal than another.

And that’s just the stores themselves; I would get overwhelmed and spaced-out if I had the store to myself, just taking it all in and processing the details. But the thing about shopping is that other people go at the same time, many of whom act as though they actually do have the store to themselves. They have an odd sense of personal space, sometimes pressing themselves to the side as though they’re worried I’m carrying a lethal electric charge and brushing past will result in certain death, other times moving in so close that I’m a little embarrassed we didn’t introduce each other before this physical encounter. They forget that they drove to get there in the first place, and so aimlessly wander down aisles without any sense of order or right-of-way; this happens in any store, but if they’re allowed to use shopping carts? Fuhgeddaboudit.

I just don’t like it, Sam-I-Am. I’m a very focused shopper; if I have to go to the store, any store, it’s armed with a list and a mission, and I go in, head to that aisle, make my selection and escape. I do enjoy the successful shopping experience; the one where you go and find precisely what you were looking for and at a lower cost than expected. It’s just that my rush comes from successfully leaving the store, not in entering.

It’s not a gender thing, because both my father and my son are champion browsers. Nothing else to do on a weekend? Let’s drive down to Portsmouth and wander the shops for a few hours! They could invest nothing more than the gas it took to get them there, will visit 42 different cute-quaint shops, and come home energized, while I have entered into a coma by about Store #3. I think it’s like having blue eyes or liking the taste of raspberries, you’re either born with it or maybe you can pass it on to your children, but it’s not an acquired taste.

I have some confidence that it’s not a trait I’m likely to develop with time, because I grew up without money, to the point that it was not uncommon to have to raid the couch cushions and the car floormats to buy milk. Travel was restricted to wherever we could drive in less than a day, and impulse buying was not only financially irresponsible, it was outright dangerous, because your random CD purchase could mean that someone else went without food or medicine. My parents did a good job with it, and my dad excelled at his ability to go shopping without buying, so it was fine. But I always wondered, maybe I would like shopping better if I didn’t feel so strapped for cash? Maybe the experience would be a positive one if I could see, desire, buy and pay without negative consequences?

Fast-forward to remaining poor, in the college-student sense of the word, from when I left home at 17 until about a year ago, when we finally started to get our heads above water, financially. We’ve reached a point now where, while we’re still living paycheck-to-paycheck for the big stuff, there’s enough left over each pay cycle to allow for fun-spending. Willem can afford the music he wants, I can afford yarn, and we can indulge the kids when we want to (meaning that now when we say, “No,” it’s because we want to, not because we have to). We’re not papering our walls with Ben Franklin’s portrait, but we’re doing okay.

And guess what? I still hate shopping.

Every once in a great while, a bit like the vegetarian who wakes up with an old, unexpected craving for meat, I find myself in the mood to shop. It’s an odd sensation, and I’ve learned to acknowledge it when I can because it will fade quickly. Thus, yesterday morning, Jacob and I found ourselves in the local department store’s whites section, originally planning to buy a new tablecloth and napkins because we had a nice dinner planned. (Emily stayed home, because she inherited my distaste for the commercial endeavor.)

I recalled a recent conversation Willem and I shared, about how unhygienically old our bedding was. Let’s just say that the rule that you’re supposed to replace your pillows every two years? Yeah, we didn’t do that. So, let’s check the bedding selection, while we’re here. And lo and behold, they’re having a big sale, and no one else was in that area so I could spread things out and think and take my time. (Jacob, meanwhile, was flop-testing all of the pillows, to his great delight.) I ended up coming home with a completely new bedding set, from sheets and pillows to a down comforter and duvet, for more than I’d have spent at MalWart but less than the regular prices there, so I was happy.

We came home, and I threw myself into dinner prep; my dad and his girlfriend were joining us, and I have a new pasta-maker to play with, so I was all gourmet and stuff. My sister Sarah made homemade lobster raviolis, I made shrimp scampi with fresh egg noodles, more of the amazing mushrooms (I have to post the recipe sometime, they’re unbelievable), a salad and so on. We spent hours in the kitchen, overate to a ridiculous degree, and then some of us fell asleep on the couch while others bounced between the football game and the presidential debates.

All a very pleasant evening, and then. Then, after my dad and W left, Willem and I went into the bedroom and remade the bed.

Oh, my dear heart, it was a wonderful thing. It’s like sleeping in a hotel, only with fewer keys to the room. I took flagrant advantage of the fact that Sunday is Willem’s day to get up with the kids, and slept past 10:00 this morning. And I’m thinking I may just have to go to bed early again tonight, just because I have such a pretty new setup in there.

So shopping isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe I’ll do it again… next year.


  1. Congratulations on a succesful shopping trip…I so totally understand this post to the very heart of it. I have joined the masses of interent shopping however I am growing a stronger distaste for that as well.

  2. I’m absolutely with you on the hating shopping. My daughter tells me I’m a ‘power’ shopper. Really it’s just an overwhelming desire to get in, get on and get out. When I do shop, it’s usually for food, other people’s pressies or as you say, some nice bed linen! I’m with you on that 100%. Nothing like fresh pillows and new sheets! Now if I can keep the dog off, that would be a coup!

  3. Ohhhh yeah, I hate shopping. Odd because I can browse yarn online for a good while.
    But new bedclothes? Be still my heart! Good stuff, that.

  4. Bedding is the only thing I will splurge on – I figure if it’s supposed to be comfortable, it better not be covered in tatter balls after the first washing.

  5. I’ve gotten so spoiled by online shopping. I get really irritated now if I have to shop, unless it’s Target. I seem to live there.

    Bedding is our big splurge item. There’s nothing quite as decadent as slipping into bed with brand new luxurious sheets. We switch to flannel for winter, but in summer we have wonderful Egyptian cotton 400 ct sheets we bought at an outlet mall. They’re so cool and crisp when it’s hot outside.

  6. I hate shopping too and do as much as possible online. Last year I bought everyone new down like blankets for Christmas. JCPenney sent them to my door. They are unallergenic polydown and are easily washable.

  7. I get in bed every night and say, “I love this bed.” It’s a great feeling.

    Getting new towels has also made me really happy in the past.

  8. So if everyone hates shopping, why are there still stores?

  9. so I think this calls for a picture posting . . .

  10. I, on the other hand, waited 30 min. in line at the Coach outlet to buy a belated Christmas gift. While in the LOOOOONG line, someone totally rude let off a STINKBOMB. No, not a fart, but an actual stinkbomb. But damn if I didn’t keep my place in line and suffer thru it. All for the sake of a bargain. I AM A SHOPPER.

  11. I am soooooo jealous of the new bedding, sooooo jealous. I was drooling literally over a set at Sears on Saturday, but with the move could not bring myself (or allow Jerry as the case maybe) to spend the money on one right now.
    So now I want to see what you got, so that I can dream and drool like I did over Em’s

  12. […] specific purpose. We turned the lights down low, slipped into something a little more comfortable (brand-new bedding, oh my sweet comfort), and actually, literally, discussed […]

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