Saturday, July 30, 2005

Compulsive shopping

I should feel more sympathy for the compulsive shoppers, but I have to admit that my first reaction is to think they are pretty idiotic. Much of my spiel here is about how the industrial system molds individuals into compulsive shoppers to some degree or another, and perhaps its defensiveness over my own shopping compulsions that makes me recoil and scorn the truly obvious cases -- they're ruining it for everyone by making it so plain. So I should really celebrate their existance, beaue they illustrate at the far end of the continuum what is true of us all. Money magazine, that bane of my mailbox, arrived recently, and besides naming my girlfirend's hometown the "best place to live in America" on the cover (she had quite a laugh over that), it included a little featurelet about compulsive shopping. It was as insightful as any feature in Money (that is, not really insightful at all) but I was fascinated nonetheless by the extremely bizarre nature of the shopping addiction of the woman profiled. She was addicted to buying clothes from Gymboree, a children's clothes store. That the addiction had taken such a bizarre form seems to demand some consideration of psychological factors dealing with family dynamics, as opposed to the socieconomic points I'd be inclined to hammer on ordinarily. What a bizarre way to get overinvolved in your kids' lives, by buying them coordinated outfits obsessively from a cutesy mall store. It probably has less to do with trying to buy the kids' love than to return to childhood yourself but with an adult's buying power or, rather, an adult's credit limits. A collector's mania probably factors in as well. Compulsive shopping probably needs several alibis to take root to the point where you can be a feature story subject in Money. The collector alibi, the gift-giving alibi, the nostalgia alibi -- then the ad/sales propaganda kicks in a few: sales, limited editions and so forth. The motives vecome complex, impossible to unravel, so that when you talk yourself out of one reason, there's another around the corner to convince you. I suppose that's how the psychology of addiction works in general. Anyway, it's especially important to discipline compulsive shoppers and humiliate them in various ways lest the rest of us, who are compulsive shoppers in a slightly different sense, begin questioning our own buying patterns or expecting something else to do in life but amass things.

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