A year ago, my then-boyfriend and I argued about something. I can’t remember anymore what it was about. But I know it made me upset the night we argued and lasted until the next morning, all the way from my commute from New Jersey into New York City. Pent-up with frustration, I needed to do something to make myself feel better. So instead of walking straight to my office, I ducked into an H&M, grabbed skirts, dresses and blouses off the racks without even trying them on, and spent something like $200 or $300 on clothes in less than half an hour.
I regretted almost all of my purchases immediately — not necessarily because I didn’t need the items, but because I didn’t need all of them and I didn’t need to buy them so hastily. In my mental “To Do” list, I’d been meaning to buy some skirts and dresses that fit; I gained weight while with my ex because our eating habits devolved and we drove everywhere in a car, hardly walking anywhere. I’m sure I justified my shopping binge by telling myself, “I need new skirts that fit anyway” — because I did. But there’s truly no sensible reason why I should grab a size 10 skirt, a size 12 skirt and a size 14 skirt off the rack and buy them all, all at once.
That wasn’t my only shopping binge. A year earlier I’d had a massive falling-out with a guy I’d really cared for. And what did I do? I headed to J.Crew and spent $400 on a pair of high heels and a purse.
Last weekend, that same guy and I went on a date together — our third or forth since reconnecting. I invited him to my home, cooked him lamb meatballs and stuffed eggplant and we spent all night talking on the couch. I could tell he had blockers up; maybe it was because of our history, maybe it was something else. In any case, I could tell he wasn’t ready to date yet, at least not with me. And I felt genuinely sad. I’d been holding a candle for him for three years now.
The next day, I blitzed through Bloomingdales and bought myself a new dress, mascara, and a makeup set. I only needed the mascara — well, does anyone need mascara? — but trying on the makeup and the dress made me feel good. I stood in front of the dressing room mirror in the new dress, imagining all the nights of drinking and dancing outdoors that I could do in it. I imagined it’d be my dress of the summer. I imagined a new guy I’d fall in love with while wearing this dress.
Like I always do, I regretted buying the dress and the makeup almost immediately. Not because they didn’t look good on me — they really, really do — but because I knew what I’d done had been unhealthy. I knew I’d spent money on objects to try to make myself happy.
I know, intellectually, that a new dress or a new pair of shoes or new skirts, are only a palliative.
A year or so ago, I read Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict, by Avis Cardella, and although I don’t think I have a actual shopping addiction — the author was tens of thousands of dollars in debt spending money on luxury clothes — I did see too much of my emotional self in the book for comfort. I want to stop. Not only is it arguably a waste of money that could better be spent elsewhere, but I’m tired of doing it over and over again when the good feelings are fleeting.
I genuinely enjoy shopping — and style and beauty and all that girly stuff — but it doesn’t make me feel good to shop this way. When I shop, I want to shop because I planned to do so in advance and because it genuinely makes me feel good and happy.
Has anyone else experienced this? How did you stop doing it?
Original by Jessica Wakeman