Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Opiate for the (financially comfortable and pretty) masses

I went to the mall today.

I’m not a mallrat by any means. Today’s trip was the first visited there in a few months—and today’s mission took place mostly before the stores even opened. It was time to walk indoors on a snowy day, to work harder to fit into my “fat” clothes—fat clothes being the more forgiving portion of every woman’s wardrobe… When the fat clothes no longer fit, then the walking must commence. Hence my mall visit.

I’m always amazed when I’m in a mall; it’s like a whole new world has opened to me. A pretty, bright, fragrant world, with many gadgets and lights and beautiful people. Can this possibly be the same world I inhabit daily? Where are the unattractive people? Where are the foul odors? The noise? The poor? The unhealthy? No sign of them within this well-attended splendour.

It’s especially hard to believe we’re in a recession as I stride through the halls of success. Not even Thanksgiving yet, but every store beckons wallet-bearing passersby with shop-appropriate Christmas carols and décor. The athletic wear store blares rap Christmas from its entry, while classic jazz Christmas wafts out of the mature women’s clothing lines. Like children staring through a candy store window, eager shoppers line up before the gated entrances, gazing hungrily through the metal bars, mentally organizing their purchases before they even set foot inside.

And the shoppers themselves: Did I ever wear high heels to go shopping? I cannot recall a single occasion. I realize some of the people might have been stopping off en route to another final destination, perhaps work? But the number of women, and not just vain young women, who shop in tiny stilettos always amazes me. It’s 9:30 am and they’re tripping around on just a few square inches, by choice. I’m speechless.

It’s difficult for me not to feel like an alien when trooping through a well-to-do suburban shopping mecca like today’s walking locale. The typical shopper is, quite simply, of a different caliber than I. Well-tailored, well-heeled, mostly older women roam with confidence in this materialistic haven. It is their world, and they know it. They don’t even bother to glance at little old me in her worn sneakers and stretch pants. “Not one of us.” They’re right—I’d never argue.

And everywhere, the message is the same: Spend. Signs outside of kids’ and teens’ shops are especially disturbing: One of them said, “All I want is everything.” What the--?! What kind of message is that? Sometimes I feel genuinely sad for today’s upper-middle-class youth. What a setup we’ve created for them, how we’ve trained them to be consumers but not earners, to recognize brand names instead of character. What a disservice we’ve done them, and are doing to them.

So, I’ll probably be headed back to the mall next week, but only if the snow continues to fly. I don’t really care to see the Tiffany’s that’s nearly ready to open its doors. I don’t want to be forced to consider how many people will still be making purchases with credit cards to keep up the appearance they’ve created. Maybe some of those fashionable, attractive shoppers have the cash to back it up. I hope so. I hate to think that the whole darned thing might just be a competitive illusion. It’s so soothing for me to go somewhere and be assured of my place in the world.

Seriously? My hope is that you’ll never fall prey to commercialism and consumerism, that you’ll spend only what you have in cash, and that you’ll enjoy a good and grateful Thanksgiving holiday. We truly have so, so much to be thankful for. : )


Facie said...

I am a frequent Kohl's shopper (hate the mall and try not to go more than a couple times a year), and I too have been amazed at the number of people who have been there in the past few months.

Every year around this time, I hope my and Brian's family will all agree to skip presents or else do very few, and then we can all give what we would have spent to charity. I can never get anyone on board with that. But I do make it a point to give this time of year and especially this year.

I am quite sure that more people than not are paying for things via credit and not paying it off. You have to hope that someday those people will learn, but I bet most won't. I am just glad that you, I and a few others I know are not like yet (but sorry, Dave, I still put everything on my credit card to get the rebate, and, no, in five years, I have never carried a balance).

Mel said...

yeah, the skipping presents idea... I think you just have to kind of start doing it and then people might go along. or might not. that gets pretty awkward. but I like your thinking. and I agree--I am afraid most people who were crediting out the wazoo are still doing just that. oh well, Dave can recommend all he wants, but the important thing is that you find a system you can stick with that works for you. you did that. (for those who wonder "Who is Dave?" we are talking debt-free Dave Ramsey. go to daveramsey.com or daveramsey.org? to learn more.)