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|To Buy or Not To Buy - Page 3|
At some level, of course, we've known this all along. Why else is the big shopper always portrayed as a lightweight, a cartoon caricature: the ditzy blonde struggling with armfuls of boutique bags, or the saber-toothed bargain hunter poised and ready to strike? Why else do we snicker at the bumper stickers like "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping" or the one I saw once on an Audi A8: "Veni, Vidi, Visa"? Why else do we have tongue-in-cheek disease names for our modern American habits of overconsumption: affluenza, aspendicitis, luxury fever?
Where Shopping Can Lead Us
The closer one examines the psychology of shopping, the more intricacy and nuance we discover in our decisions about what and why we buy. Whether we're shopping for a plant, a pair of pumps, or a political candidate, it's a way we search for ourselves and our place in the world. Though often conducted in the most public of spaces, it's essentially an intimate and personal experience—as we taste, touch, sift, consider, and talk our way through myriad possibilities. Shopping involves searching, not only externally, as in a store, but internally, through memory and desire. It's a vehicle for self-expression, self-definition, creativity, and even healing, an interactive process, in which we dialogue with people, places, things, and parts of ourselves.
Tom is someone who gets attached to his clothes, especially the familiar, well-loved, hole-y ones. His 15-year-old three-season jacket has been a particular bone of contention with his wife, who'd much prefer that Tom "take a little more pride" in his appearance. So for this birthday, his 60th, she's decided he must find a replacement.
She takes him to Ralph Lauren's, a store he's never set foot in, and steers him toward a dazzlingly stylish, suede bomber jacket she's picked out in advance. Immediately, an internal approach/avoidance dance begins. Holding the jacket, admiring the careful stitching, he's gripped by a feeling of disloyalty: "My old jacket and I go way back; we're tight, man. It'd be like selling my best friend down the river!" Then there's sticker-shock and a guilt trip: "Who do you think you are anyway, sporting a jacket that costs 10 times what your old one did?" Still, trying it on and looking in the mirror, he's swayed. It's so seductively soft, and he likes the feel of the suede as he zips it up. "It takes itself seriously, but it's not all business," he thinks as he notices the knitted ribbing on the collar and cuffs. "Replacing the old jacket," he tells a part of himself, "doesn't mean I've joined the Radical Right or single-handedly brought on the shopocalypse." He looks in the mirror again. "I like what I see when I look at myself in this," he admits; "it's me. And it isn't a crime to look like a mature professional, confident and ready to engage with—what's the new buzz-phrase—Ôthe Third Age'." With this admixture of reluctance, curiosity, and determination, Tom sheds a layer of old skin, tries on and chooses a new look—and perhaps a new self—to show the world.