Boring consumerism

I took the tigling and some of her friends for a cinema and pizza outing yesterday to celebrate the tigling’s birthday.

That was fine, lots of fun, actually.

But because of the weather we had to stay inside the mall instead of going across the road to play party games in the park as originally planned. I was depressed with how keen the girls were to run around shopping, and how thrilled they were to buy cheap baubles that will probably break within a month. OK, I remember how impressed I was at age 12 with SHINY! stuff, so I understand that. But this wasn’t just walking past a shop window and going “oh, look at that”. This was a whole mindset of “wheeee! shopping!” as if that were the most fun they could imagine. How infinitely depressing that they’ve been sucked so wholeheartedly into consumerism, and particularly the femininity construct of recreational shopping for trinkets.

Admittedly, the original plan had been to go across the road to the Saturday Markets after the movie, but because of the weather that was cancelled. Still, at least that would have been some fresh air and some handcrafted pieces to look at instead of the usual mass-produced crap, and there would have been a wide variety of stalls to wander past and examine. A bohemian innercity market is still obviously dominated by the purchasing impulse, but there’s a different quality to it than wandering through the mall. In a market you can actually appreciate some of the stalls’ offering purely on an aesthetic level, and discuss the aesthetics of what you see, because that’s part of what it’s all about. The mall is just ooh, shiny!, whereas the market is oh, how interesting, and encourages reflection, not just acquisition.

I’m happy that the tigling, once she’d got one particular sweet lolly thing she wanted and a necklace she’d been yearning for since the last outing with her friends, would really have rather gone and looked around the bookstore or the petstore, just to look not buy. She was a bit bored with the continued shopping for the sake of shopping that most of the other girls were doing. Of course, she had just received a whole heap of presents to satiate the I need new stuff imprint of consumerism, so maybe I ought not be too smug.

Categories: culture wars, relationships

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9 replies

  1. It depends partly on who’s doing the shopping, but it can also lead to outbreaks of competitiveness, envy and other rifty-type things to which age is no barrier; certainly consumerism is an effective force in keeping women divided and conquered. I’ve had a couple of much-beloved but well-heeled friends be very puzzled by my reluctance to stand around being bored out of my skull while they (or in one case their daughters) try on clothes that I couldn’t even get close to either fitting into or paying for. ‘Oh, but come and look at me/her try things on, it’s fun!’
    It makes me wonder, very uneasily, whether I have my own equivalent blind spots.

  2. Happy birthday, Tigling!

  3. Pav, you don’t mean some of my friends mightn’t like being dragged around bookshops, do you?

  4. Actually, to engage your point a bit more, I do see that even a bookshop can still form part of a competitive shopping exercise. what sort of books do I buy? Do I roll my eyes if a friend wanders over to the New Age section? How many books do I pick up without noticing that my friend can only afford to pick up one?

    Divisive consumerism even tainting book browsing. Bummer.

  5. Helen, your birthday wishes got caught in the sp*minator and I only just fished them out (I think it was because you had “nosp*m” in the email addy you provided).
    Thanks for that. She did have a lovely time, and her friends had a good idea for the sort of gifts she’d like, mostly. Happy girl.

  6. ooh yes, the competitive edge. we got to see that late last year taking my neice and her friend shopping. they live in the country and were on hols in Sydney. my niece doesn’t get a lot of pocket money; her friend was given several hundred dollars. they’re 15.
    it was excruciating.
    even though my niece is actually quite modest in her spending and her taste, you could see whe was having a hard time resisting the urge to keep up with her friend, who was trying on tight leopard print shiny things from Supre and buying trash by the bucketload for the sake of it. poor darling. she didn’t though.
    I remember shopping with my friends was half fun, half horrid. if it was just my best friend it was fine, we had slightly different tastes and didn’t get too competitive, and it worked. but neither of us had as much money as our wider circle of friends.
    I have no idea if some of my sewing experiments were born out of wanting to look (just a bit) different, feeling (just a bit) different, or just wanting to escape the competition. but it worked. and I still had my friends. I think it was the first taste I had of not wanting to play games.
    oooh, that’s a bit profound.

  7. The mother of a girl in my son’s class told me the other day that most of the other girls in the class go shopping for clothes and shoes every second weekend with their mothers. Her own daughter (they’re poor) does not but sometimes asks to do so.
    I was shocked although not altogether surprised.
    This is so different from our (boy) situation, where we shop for school shoes once a year and otherwise he wears either hand me downs or gifts or clothes I’ve bought for him online. In other words, he never goes shopping. It just doesn’t feature in his consciousness.
    I can empathise with you being depressed about it.

  8. And I hate shopping for clothes with other people. There’s nothing worse. I very rarely shop for clothes nowadays anyway, though confess that in my 20s and 30s I was a regular Saturday shopper (but I was in London then – more to shop for!)

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