I am hardly what you’d call a conspicuous consumer. It’s not surprising given that I have little tolerance for shopping. I walk into a department store and immediately feel overwhelmed. I’m instantly reminded of all the things I’ve been meaning to replace; elderly, shapeless sweaters, my worn-out purse, the leather jacket with the tear in the shoulder. And then there are the things I think I’d enjoy; some kind of makeup that would make me feel, if not look, younger, gloves that are warm and stylish, a party dress (and a party to wear it to). If, however, I stop to look at something other than what I came in for, I use up some of my limited supply of shopping energy, which I need in order to execute the intended purpose of the trip.
Despite the fact that I lack a ‘shopping-for-pleasure’ gene, I don’t deprive myself. I splurge on all sorts of things. Why just yesterday, I threw out the bar of soap in my shower because it had gotten too small. Someone else might have been able to wring a dozen or more showers out of it, but that didn’t deter me. I like a bar of soap with some heft to it.
I splurged at the supermarket today. I bought a bag of baby carrots. After turning up my nose at carrots for most of my life, I discovered that it’s not carrots I dislike, it’s carrot preparation. Per pound, I’d undoubtedly pay less for a bunch of unpeeled carrots, but then I’d never eat them. So now I buy baby carrots. You know the ones, they’re pre-peeled and can be eaten without guilt by the fistful. Nor do I any longer wash and tear lettuce. Whoever invented pre-washed bags of mixed greens should be awarded some sort of prize. Life is too short to spend any of it managing lettuce consumption.
Much of my splurging is done on food. Since I’m typically in charge of feeding my little family, I’m responsible for many of our takeout meals. Andrew lives for Friday night when he can eat pizza, but Hannah’s not a big pizza fan, so I try to give her equal time with Chinese or Thai food. Then there are the days when I’ve spent too long doing, I’m not sure exactly what, and run out of time for food preparation. And if I haven’t gotten to the supermarket, and there’s nothing in the refrigerator to eat, can you really call takeout splurging, or is it a necessity?
Sometimes I buy things online. (If you’re not doing it where someone can see, does that make you an inconspicuous consumer?) For instance, I always buy the book my bookclub is reading (next up is Little Bee, by Chris Cleave). I like the tangible evidence of how long we’ve been together as a group, almost twenty years now. I’d prefer to buy those books locally, but every time I turn around another local bookstore has disappeared. If I promise to splurge on books more than soap, or carrots, or lettuce, do you suppose I can lure a bookstore back to the neighborhood?
Here’s an idea, someone should open a bookstore that also sells soap, vegetables and clothes. But then there’d be too much variety, and when I walked in I’d just get tired and have to walk right out again. I have to stop now; I’m exhausted.