Gotta Have It!

It came as shock to me, some years ago, to discover that some women do not like to shop. When I heard someone confess–in rather defensive tones– that she didn’t like to shop, I was tempted to march right up to her and demand she surrender her “WOMAN” card on the spot. I mean– what could cause such an aberration? Lack of estrogen? Not enough cuddling as a young child? Some particularly nasty piggybank trauma?

I mean, women have been shopping and acquiring important and necessary “stuff” since. . . well, since humanity started using “stuff.” Somewhere along the line, a female cave-person must have looked down at the pitted stone she was using to grind grain and thought: “Sheesh, I need a new rock.” She probably looked up at her neighboring cave-mama and grunted “Thelma, wanna go look for a new rock?” And the ubiquitous “shopping trip” was born. Picking up one rock after another, tossing them aside when they weren’t smooth enough or hard enough. . . it gave the gals a chance to get out of the cave for a while and to find something to make their work easier. It also gave them a chance to learn from others’ experience (Don’t pick that rock, it’ll leave grit in the flour), bond and socialize (The women in our clan all use FLAT rocks), improve themselves (Maybe we could trade our special flat rocks to the neighboring clan for some skins), develop language, laws, and finally etiquette. (Always start with the first rock on the left. . .)

It is my personal theory that the shopping trip is actually the foundation of civilization. It certainly is the foundation of politics and government. (Napoleon, let’s go see what’s on sale in Italy and Spain. . . we could pick up a few city-states on the cheap.  And maybe some wine country, too– you know how I LOVE Chianti.)

Okay, this blog has really run off the rails.  Where was I? Oh, yeah.  Shopping. I have another theory. . . how you acquire is every bit as important as what you acquire. Consider the items, objects, clothes, cars– things– that you love and are happiest with. I bet if you think about it you’ll realize that you have an “acquisition story” about it: the place you got it was beautiful, something funny happened, it was a romantic time, or you were with someone who meant a lot to you. That’s basically why shopping for a wedding dress has become such a storied enterprise; young women take mothers and grandmas, aunts and grandpas with them– even whole posses of girlfriends– to share in the experience. That’s my excuse for acquiring a kitchen full of mugs: some artful, some practical, and some downright what-was-I-thinking gaudy. I bought them to commemorate trips and to this day, I can tell you what the trip was and who was with me.

I was born into a shopping family. My mom was at her best when she was shopping, and my sister and I loved going shopping with her.  Some of my favorite memories of her were those Saturday shopping trips and having lunch at the department store restaurant. . . where I felt all grown up.  We made a day of it. We bought. We bonded. We laughed. And I learned. The thread count of good linens. The vocabulary of fabric: damask, duck, twill, poplin, jersey, knit, denim. The way to tell the quality of a pair of shoes or a piece of housewares. And, yes, the way to save money while getting what you wanted. The sale rack. (The sale rack AGAIN?) My mother was oddly both thrifty and generous, and I learned a lot, without realizing I was being taught.

Through most of my life I have been careful with money and my shopping was mostly on an “as needed” basis. Then my income rose and I caught a particularly virulent strain of “Affluenza.” I shopped for things I never thought I’d have. I finally managed to furnish my home the way I wanted and to travel and I even bought a special car– a fancy car. Because. . . because. . . I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT.

That’s another theory of mine. Sometimes, you just have to have it.  Whatever “it” is.  It might be a silk dress, or a pair of Jimmy Choos or a king size bed or a special set of dishes    . . . or a hot sports car. . . something that makes your heart race and your knees weaken and makes you feel giddy with pleasure. It’s my firm opinion that everybody should have a couple of those purchases in their life. Something that expresses who they are and what they love to do. . . and maybe something of who they’d like to be.

Interestingly, the Affluenza has passed and I’m content with smaller, though no less meaningful purchases these days. I’m a fiend for exotic teas and squealed with delight when I discovered the “flowering teas” that bloom into a beautiful little arrangement in your teapot. I have a thing for socks– and lately the new yarns and ways of knitting produce some of the coziest and cushiest socks known to humankind. Napoleon would have invaded North Carolina to get these socks!  I’m a sucker for textures, and every once in a while, as I walk by a merchandise display, I’ll drag my fingers across some fabric that stops me in my tracks and I just. . . Gotta Have It!

What about you? What is it you can’t resist when you go shopping? What’s your weakness– or your strength in shopping? What was your biggest, best “deal”?  Who taught you to shop or to look for bargains?

Come on, Riders. . . talk to me!

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30 Responses to Gotta Have It!

  1. DebraDixon says:

    Arrgh!! I don’t hate shopping for me, but I don’t have the time to shop. Lately, catalogues have become my friends. The stores just aren’t open at 2 a.m. when I have time to try on clothes. (g)

    I hate shopping for other people. I’m woefully inept at it.

    • Betina says:

      Whew, Deb, you scared me there for a minute. I was getting ready to mount an intervention! Kidding. I understand how time-consuming shopping can be. Christmas stresses me out– there’s never enough time to do the kind of shopping I love to do– too much to buy in too little time and too much pressure (mostly self-inflicted) to make every present a real pleaser.

      I’m a big fan of catalogs. That’s how I do a lot of my shopping these days. No parking woes and I get to do it from a comfy armchair.

  2. Marcia in OK says:

    When I was a kid, my granny would come to our town every Saturday and we would shop. Lunch was at the restaurant in our JCPenney’s store. It was fabulous. The mall was a lovely outdoor walking mall with a fountain and landscaping.

    Now, I’m a single mom with a daughter in middle school and another in elementary. Not much “I want it” now, but I dream of the day. They are quite schooled at only shopping on the clearance or sale racks. My Little one will say “Mama, what can I look at today?” before venturing too far. They’ve also learned the value of a coupon!

    Now that I think on it, the one thing I do allow myself right now is concert tickets. I never went as a teenager or young adult. I’ve discovered in middle age that I LOVE music, and I like concerts. My daughters are growing up thinking concerts are normal and I am proud that as mom, I’ve introduced fun times as a family. I still choose the shows, but their day is coming. I hope it is past that Bieber kid stage!

    • Betina says:

      What a great comment! And what a wonderful mom you must be, teaching the girls to shop carefully and sharing your love of music with them.

      And isn’t it cool how we bond with family or friends while shopping? Thanks for sharing your grandma story!

  3. michele says:

    I have never liked shopping. Maybe because I grew up being dragged around by my mother from store to store, for hours on end, as she shopped like a maniac. JCPenneys was her favorite. I still have a perfect floor map of that store in the little town of Thief River Falls imprinted in my brain. Ugg!
    But recently, I have to admit, I’m sort of starting to like it. My clothes fits better now, and I can fit in smaller sizes, so it’s such a thrill to grab a pair of jeans in a size and they fit, that how can you not like to shop? So maybe I’m coming into the shopping gene late. I promise to make up for lost time. 😉

    • Betina says:

      Michele,I have a feeling you’ll be a natural. But I think I already know one purchase that played across the strings of your heart– your Mini. What a cutie! I had one– briefly– and really, really enjoyed driving it. They’re wonderful cars!

  4. lois greiman says:

    Great blog, Kylie. 🙂
    I like to shop, but surprisingly shopping’s no fun unless there are bargains…huge bargains…involved. There’s nothing I like better than telling someone I got my boots for a quarter.

    Horses…on the other hand…I rarely get for a quarter. Went to a horse sale last night with a friend. Didn’t come home with a single animal. Go me!

    • Betina says:

      Um. . . not Kylie, but I’m glad you escaped the horse sale without taking a second mortgage on the house! And yes, part of the thrill is getting something spectacular for a ridiculously low price.

      My story: I needed a fancy dress for my first RWA conference. I had lost a bunch of weight and was proud of it and I went shopping. I saw a dress that stopped my breath and I told myself “No, it’ll be too expensive.” I looked around more and kept coming back to that dress. Finally, I took it into the dressing room and tried it on without looking at the price tag. It fit like a glove and made me look waaaay better than I had even hoped. With some regret, I looked at the price tag and got the shock of my life. Not 200.00. Not 100.00. Not even 50.00. It was marked down to $12.98. I felt like it was a little miracle– the purpose of which was to teach me not to be so negative. What if I had just assumed it was too expensive and not bothered to try it on?

  5. christieridgway says:

    Betina: Like you, my mom taught me to shop. Loved going out for the day and then going to lunch. (Still do with my mom, though we live 10 hours apart. When we get together, it’s shop-and-lunch, shop-and-lunch.)

    I laughed at your last bit. I was watching some cable news show about how to save money and they advised to =not touch the merchandise=! Apparently touching it tells your brain that you must have it. 🙂 When I shop, I absolutely touch what I’m looking at. I was also taught to look for “quality” fabrics by doing so.

    • Betina says:

      Christie, yea for mother–daughter time spent shopping! Sometimes when you’re focused on looking you get to talk more freely about things you wouldn’t otherwise bring up.

      And that business about touching– I’ve heard sales reps say that applies to books as well. If you can get somebody to pick it up, they’re 75% ready to buy. Touch is such an important part of us! Have you ever seen a book cover you just had to touch?

  6. kylie brant says:

    OMG, Betina, this is exactly what my topic was going to be for tomorrow!!! I HATE shopping. As in despise…rather be beaten with a club, hate. And the older I get the more I hate it. I don’t mind shopping for others at much, but when it comes to shopping for myself two stores is my limit. Ach. Just thinking about it gives me the willies. Online shopping has been my savior. Which reminds me…must shop online for new jeans…!

    • Betina says:

      Yikes, Kylie! I had no clue! You always look so decked out and put together, I’d have taken you for a mega-shopper! Online and catalogs. . . definitely the way to go if you hate store-hopping!

  7. MaryC says:

    I spent a lot of time shopping with my mother at the original Filene’s Basement in ‘s Boston. One of her best buys was the Nieman Marcus dress she wore for my brother’s wedding which was originally priced at $225 for $35.

    So sad when the store closed.

    • Betina says:

      Yeah, Mary C, that’s the kind of bargain that you talk about for YEARS! And how cool that it was a dress for a wedding.

      And I know how you feel about the store closing. I feel the same way about all the Marshall Fields stores becoming just another Macy’s.

  8. catslady says:

    The only thing I really like to shop for are books lol. My mom worked in a department store and would just bring clothes home – no choice and no returning. Luckily her taste was very good and she got everything on sale and with discount. I never really learned to buy my own clothese lol. And I can’t make a decision that doesn’t take forever. And money is always an issue too (sigh).

    • Betina says:

      Catslady– somebody has to take us in hand and teach us to shop wisely- and make it fun! The good thing is, it doesn’t have to be family/mom. You can find a friend to shop with and have a ball– whatever stage of life you’re in.

  9. Hellion says:

    I’m not a big shopper either–mainly because I associate it with clothes shopping which I always think of as painful. SHOE SHOPPING is another matter. I love shopping for shoes. Hell, I love just trying on shoes. And books–there was a Scholastic book sale in our lobby for the last two days and I went both days and bought stuff. Seriously. And I rarely spring for full price books. Where I do my best shopping is JoAnn’s fabric. I have more projects in my head than I’ve ever completed. I’m always buying a new quilting magazine or fabric that’s on sale for a great price. I shop the flyers and watch for deals; it drives the boyfriend nuts. “You never complete anything!” Totally not the point; and it’s not completely true either.

    • Betina says:

      Ah, Hellion. . . shoes. . . one of my favorite things to try on. And there’s a direct link between my feet and my imagination. If I want to write sexy, I just go put on a pair of spiky heels and –viola– the scene is halfway there!

  10. Thanks for giving me multiple much needed smiles today, Betina. I’ve been coughing my head off for days, just finished the “Z-pack” and feeling woebegone. Affluenza (love that–is it an original BK term?) would be such a step up! I had it once, too, and now I look around and see the stuff I bought–see my comment on toys yesterday–and I’m sure a shrink would have a field day with me.

    Oddly, I think my greatest shopping thrills come from getting a deal, and I know that’s a holdover from shopping with Mama. We moved to MA back in the olden days when textile mills still flourished. And shoe factories–oh, Betina, you would’ve gone nuts–and milliners and just all sorts of womanstuff. And an outlet was really an outlet then–it was attached to the factory. You could buy overruns and stuff you had to check for flaws (but they’d mark the flaw, and you didn’t have to pay for that). It was a true hunting expedition, I tell you. Mama made lots of our clothes then, and the knit mill was great hunting grounds. And you could get your white satin shoes for a pittance and have them dyed to match your prom dress! The hats–oh, the hats! Did you wear hats to church? Wasn’t that glamorous? The millinery in Holyoke, Mass was like pheasant heaven–good mill hunting!

    • Betina says:

      Kathy, I wish I could claim “affluenza,” but I got it from some sociologists who’ve studied how and why people spend money the way they do. (Yeah, I’d like a job pontificating on that too!) A favorite word of mine.

      I did visit a few “mills” in Pennsylvania back in the day and it was soooo exciting. You’re so right– like a treasure hunt! and what pleasure there was in getting a “deal.” A far cry from the Outlet Malls of today, where they sometimes mark up the clothes before giving shoppers a “discount.” sigh.

  11. Stephenia says:

    my mother taught me to look for bargains – she learned to be very frugal on a one income family with four kids. I most love shopping for BOOKS! I love touching them, reading the back, browsing the covers, looking at the pictures in the coffee table books and sipping a cup of coffee while I do so. I also like shopping for yarn – it is hard to appreciate the texture of yarn from a catalog, much better to touch/feel it yourself.

    • Betina says:

      Stephenia, you’re a toucher, too! Yes, I love running my hands over books and their covers, too. Textiles of all kinds are a close second.

  12. Helen Brenna says:

    Chiming in late here to officially surrender my “woman” card! LOL Sorry, Betina, but you can put me in the does not like to shop category. I’ve learned to deal with it because my daughter likes to shop, but, alas, I may be rubbing off on her. Last time we went out she wasn’t having much fun.

    HOWEVER, there’s nothing I like better than a good deal!

    • Betina says:

      Well, Helen, I have heard you after you’ve gotten a great bargain or found the perfect earrings or belt to go with a fabulous RWA dress. . . so I can’t buy that you hate shopping altogether. Maybe you just have higher standards for what constitutes shopping fun!

  13. Betina says:

    You gals have been wonderful today! Thanks for taking the time to drop a comment!

    Thelma and me and the other cave-women wish you GOOD SHOPPING in the season ahead. Bwaaahaaaaaa. It’s almost BATHING SUIT season!

  14. pibarrington says:

    Okay, I’m not saying I love to shop, but the prospect of possibly buying something (anything) makes me so excited I have to pee the second I cross the threshold of a store. Never fails. Order of shopping importance:
    3: Flowers/Gardening
    2: Purses & wallets (& jewelry and accessories)
    1: SHOES

    • Betina says:

      Another SHOE fan! And, yeah, what is it about needing to “go” the minute you get into a department store? Happens to me quite a lot, too. You think it’s the excitement?

      And flower shopping? Whether a garden store–love to browse– or a florist shop– closest thing I’ve seen to HEAVEN– I’m with you on this, Pibarrington. I love gardening stuff!

      • pibarrington says:

        It IS the excitement Betina! It’s like when you have a puppy, leave it for a while, and then come home: the puppy gets so excited to see you it pees…same general concept I think…

  15. pibarrington says:

    The one thing I DO hate to shop for is groceries. I hate it.

    • Betina says:

      You know, I liked to shop for groceries when I had Minnesota’s “Byerly’s” in my neighborhood. Carpet on the floors, fabulous fruit and produce and a deli to die for. AND a restaurant in the store! It was like the old days shopping with my mom and “lunching” in the process.

      But here in the southland, I’ve had trouble finding the equivalent. “Fresh Market” is close in the produce and deli departments, but has no place to sit for lunch or to have a cuppa and enjoy a few treats. I’m still hoping Byerly’s will decide to move south!

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