from the mall

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Forget angels and golden harps, heaven is a stack of new cashmere, good denim and buttery leather accented by dainty rose gold and bathed in a mist of something that smells like earth. It’s comfortable aesthetic perfection, tags freshly removed.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

So, I like to shop. It taps into my primal need to hunt and gather. The seeking, finding and consuming of the retail experience leaves me feeling satisfied. My frantic mind is momentarily depleted, and uncharacteristically quiet. Soon enough, the guilt rolls in and I scold myself for robbing from my future, but for the moment I am calm and accomplished.

I love the feeling of being surrounded by curated elegance, being invited to touch and try and experience and select that which connects with my essential nature, my wants and needs, all of which have been pre-decided for me by some erudite, data-driven people in a boardroom, predicting and broadcasting my desires for rebellion into the form of soft muscle tees and high waist leather leggings. I am putty in their hands. I am a grown-up Veruca Salt – still a bad egg but having learned some restraint – touching everything and holding in a manic tantrum.

Outwardly, I feign sophisticated, picky interest, as the possibilities play in my head. Perhaps, I consider, this fresh lamb’s wool sweater will transport me from my current life to that of the adventurous Canadian isle fisherwoman from the catalog. I buy the lie of consumerism and, often, I buy the sweater too. It makes me feel temporarily powerful, like the wife of a recently murdered king.

Obviously, living out my mall destiny is in direct opposition to ruling my actual destiny. In fact, indulging in these short-term earthly pleasures creates a state of crisis – a panic attack wrapped in merino and silk. Picture it. It’s Friday and I’ve been working hard. I woke up early and made it dutifully to my Pilates classes, I got along with my coworkers and turned in high quality deliverables. I need a release. Since I don’t drink, a trip to the department store plays the part of happy hour. The shopgirl greets me like a trusty bartender and we work together to do some damage not to my liver, but to my wallet.

Sometimes, to cope with cognitive dissonance, I pretend I am the personal assistant of an incredibly wealthy woman who tasks me with finding her the best pieces for an upcoming event. I never speak this delusion out loud, but in my head I play the dutiful squire of a gorgeous megalomaniac. Luckily, we’re the same size. When I am rightly cowed by an astronomical price tag I channel her and mutter a vague excuse – “Eh we already have something so similar to this.” and place a decadent suede pencil skirt back on the rack.

I would love to think that I am shopping for my future self, who is casually, fabulously wealthy. Except with each excursion and each jar of luxe moisturizer, the current me drains a little bit of life out of the future me. I am feasting on the blood of my future, in the name of looking chic on an airplane.

Yes. The continued indulgence in retail therapy flies in the face of long term goals like a down payment on a hobby farm, a few head of buffalo and a custom cabin with wool insulation, river stone hearth and giant writing desk with a view. Since I can’t feel that happening, I grasp for the trappings of it instead. Rather than stashing $50, I get the Carhartt pants I’ll wear to paint the barn and a beef tallow candle that smells like birch.

The dream feels too distant, so I work on looking cute while I embrace the illusion.

Photo by Justin Kauffman on Unsplash

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