“Let’s go shopping!”
It’s a big cliché of feminine bonding that women love to go and find clothes and shoes and try them on and kvetch in the fitting room about life and love.
No, thank you!
Not because I don’t like getting pretty things. I do! But I prefer to do it alone, focused and ready to do business.
And friends! I am not saying I’ve been going with you against my will all this time. I love spending time with you, in any way! I love being with you, honest! I have an elegant friend whose life takes her into the corporate world as well as the arts, so she needs a wide range of clothing options for each context. I’ve gone with my sister. A dapper gentleman friend has had me along.
They usually have some stated goal: I need a jacket. I need a sweater. But on these trips, I’m there to catch up and to provide my opinion on things. It’s about you, not me.
HOWEVER. This is a bad time for me to get anything done. It takes twice as long, since one of us might find something that needs to be tried on, and then the other person has to wait around. There’s the politeness factor of having to be in conversation-distance instead of wandering off to find your own thing. I feel so bad when that happens.
I blame my mother. My mother loved going window shopping. I remember being little, dragged around the mall to look at stuff that I wasn’t interested in, but my mom would go through rack after rack looking for . . . I don’t know. There was no clear goal. I don’t get it. The endless searching, searching. Disappointment guaranteed.
For myself, I go with a mission: perfect black pencil skirt. Socks. I know what I like, I know where I can get them, I know how much I can spend (whether I can stick to a budget is another story). Trying on a big pile of things does not make me feel guilty that I’m taking up someone else’s time. I don’t really need anyone’s opinion to choose things. I might get some advice from a salesperson, but I take it with a grain of salt.
I’ll even wander off to look at stuff I didn’t plan on getting if it strikes me. Again, no guilt! I’m only wasting my own time.
And if it’s not perfect, I don’t buy it. I want the platonic ideal, the quintessential, the immortal. Stuff I’ll wear the shit out of and love. If I had the means, I’d get multiples of some of my favorites and just wear the same thing until I find something else I like.
Does it make me weird? Possibly. Everyone else has a friend, sister, or mom hovering in the change room, asking for feedback: "Does this look good? What bra could I wear under it?" But I’m in there, trying things, twirling in front of a mirror, making decisions, and out.
Shopping with a companion also dramatically increases the possibility of being talked into something that I don’t want or need or actually like. I’m looking at you, thrift store early '00s gold quilted Baby Phat jacket. Yes, it was hilarious to try on. And it was only $4. And it made my friend laugh, which was worth it, but ultimately not a good reason to pick it up. (I forgive you, friend. It made you happy.)
But Mari! You’re all saying. What you’re describing is not special at all! And you’re probably right. I think that pop culture overplays the girlfriend shopping thing. It’s one of those things you’re told is really a lot of fun but isn’t in practice, like taking a sexy shower with your special friend. Nope. Overrated.
But I still feel that twinge of irritation when popular culture makes social shopping a norm. And my shopping friends! I still love helping you out. I swear! But for getting 'er done, I’m on my own.