When people ask me what I miss the most during lockdown, I always answer “shopping.”
The usual response is a laugh followed by an “oh, you’re serious?” I mean, it’s understandable. Out of all the important privileges we used to have, why should anyone miss shopping? It’s inherently materialistic, a whole industry driven by money and ego. Online shopping is more convenient, and there are thousands of stores available with the click of a button. Shopping at its core is shallow, a complete waste of one’s time, energy and money.
You see, this is a big problem.
Liking shopping is often perceived as a joke, and people who do enjoy it are labelled superficial. And I hate it. I hate how they tell us we’re ditzy and naive and that we’re victims of some big scheme of exploitation. How they’ve made up their mind about how intelligent we are before we can even explain ourselves. How could a clever girl like such silly things? What happened to the bright minds of the young generation, interested in economics and world affairs? Why are they so immature?
The experience and thrill of shopping surpasses the shallow commercialism of the experience, and if more people bothered to ask why, they would hear the personal and raw experiences of self-discovery and exploration. The crux of the whole issue is that less people need to judge, and more people need to listen.
I remember one particular day that shaped me intellectually and emotionally, and yes, it was in a department store:
“Another one?” my dad muttered as we rushed in to chase my mom. Dark clouds filled the grey sky: a warning for the heavy rain we would have to face to go home. We were in the fiftieth clothing store at this point, and my mom still hadn’t bought anything. We heard a faint “I promise I’ll find the dress here” as my mom disappeared amongst the mountains of racks and racks of clothes.
So there we were, shriveled in the corner of the busy store, waiting desperately for my mom to finish choosing. In front of me were islands of beautiful clothes, oceans of jeans which devoured the shelves, layers and layers of t-shirts that dangled from the racks, and a collection of jewelry glittering as the light passed through the crystals. So I did what any sane five year old would do. I left my dad high and dry to go on this adventure, not looking back as I dashed away.
I ran across the store darting swiftly. Splashes of red, purple, green whizzed past the corner of my eye. I maneuvered expertly, dodging the tall mannequins and clothing racks. I was unstoppable, a force to be reckoned with, going at such high speed that to bystanders it looked like I was no stranger to all the nooks and crannies of the store. Nothing was going to stop me, or at least that’s what I thought.
My journey was immediately interrupted by a tall figure. It was larger than anything I’d ever seen, its shadow covering my small body. I’ll save you the trouble: no it wasn’t the manager.
It was a circular clothing rack swallowed by piles and piles of clothes. The colorful rhinestone jackets were tightly packed, with stray tshirts camped out on the top. So five year old me was in love. So I did what any sane kid would do. I went in it. I sat down in the middle of the rack, and the noise around me seemed to die down. Above me, were kaleidoscopes of color and life, an enclosed world. I was in my own bubble. There were rays of light shining through the sleeves of those rhinestone jackets, providing me with a dim light to marvel at the world above. It was magical, and if only I’d know that my time in this bubble was brief, I’d fight to stay inside that world for just a little bit longer.
My mom, in a desperate attempt to salvage what little was left of her dignity after her crazy daughter plundered through the classy shop, yanked me out of my mesmerized state. Glaring at my dad she marched with me into the dressing room, holding my hand as tight as humanly possible. It was a way of containing me, to make sure I didn’t demolish the poor store.
In the dressing room, I grabbed and felt different textures of fabric, some smooth and silky and other rough and leathery. We were playing our own personal dress up, forgetting about our problems and enjoying the moment. Carrying me in her arms, we finally exited the store, my frowning dad trailing behind us as we faced the heavy rain. We all ran, getting back to the hotel in no time. Soaking wet, we trudged inside our hotel room, leaving a trail of rainwater with every step. As we huffed for air, my dad looked around as his eyes opened wide. “What happened to the dress you picked?”
My mom smiled sheepishly and held up her right hand, a beautiful gold bracelet adorning her wrist. After all the hours we spent shopping for a dress, we came home with a bracelet. We all laughed. Were we annoyed? Maybe a little. But, the very next day, we did it all over again.
What five year old me felt while shopping that day, is what thousands of regular shoppers miss as they scroll through a fashion website to try to find clothes they want. Contrary to popular belief, people who love shopping aren’t materialistic. When shops were forced to shut down during spring, we didn’t only lose a place where we buy clothes, but an entire experience, an adventure, an escape from the monotony of daily life.
In a way, maybe the reason most of us feel trapped in this lockdown because we’re missing that adventure we crave so desperately. The sense of freedom we get when we explore, the rush of adrenaline that keeps our blood pumping when we discover, whether it’s finally finding the one dress you’ve always wanted or taking in the fresh linen scent of a newly opened store.
So the next time someone tells you that they like shopping, don’t laugh. Don’t tease them, and definitely don’t make assumptions. Ask why. Create discussion. Maybe even go on a shopping trip to your local boutique.
You never know what you might find.
Joline is a shameless geek on a mission to create a world from which we can all escape reality from. When she’s not daydreaming, she’s usually sparking debates about different perspectives and challenging them.