The memories still haunt me: My well-intentioned mother and shopaholic younger sister dragging me through Toronto’s Eaton Centre pulling a colourful, floral dress off the rack, shouting: “You should try this on, it’s slimming!” for all to hear.
As a punked-out and rather portly –– and definitely pouty –– teenager, shopping for clothes with my beautiful, slender and fashion-forward mom and sister was not on my most wanted list.
God love them, they tried, but back then I was more prone to wear a black leather coat I found in a garbage can rather than pick up the latest fashion. (And yes, I wore that coat for over a decade, thank you very much.)
Ask anyone who knows me, and hopefully loves me: Carrie Bradshaw, I am not. I’m more of a candidate for What Not to Wear, with second-hand, rather distressed clothes making up most of my wardrobe.
My sister points that out to me every time she comes to visit: “Isn’t that the shirt I bought from Le Chateau in 1985? You’re still wearing that?!”
Well, yes, I am. It still fits and there are very few holes in it. So there.
It’s not that I don’t like pretty things and to dress up in newer, slightly fashionable clothes on occasion. I did, after all, buy a new dress not too long ago. OK, it was eight years ago and it was for my wedding. But what I really hate, abhor even, is shopping. There I’ve said it. I hear my fellow colleagues, and a few merchants out there, weeping at this confession.
This time of year brings all those old feelings on my aversion to shopping back to the surface.
It’s not just the weight of the catalogues brimming with all the must-haves of the season, it’s the fact you have to buy things for OTHER people. And now that I have kids, the gift of giving takes on a whole new meaning.
The blatant consumerism of the season is not the only thing that terrifies me, it’s that there is now an expectation that as a parent, you must deliver the goods –– and it better be a Zhu Zhu Pet Baby with a pink baby bottle.
Maybe it’s the testosterone in my genes, or maybe I was trampled trying to rush to a store to get the very last Furby or Tickle Me Elmo in a past life, but I usually leave all my Christmas shopping to the very last minute.
There’s nothing like beating down crowds with more than a few public nervous breakdowns. (Seeing a woman cry at the sight of thousands of Barbie dolls lined up on a shelf usually does make people stop and stare.)
However, this year I did try to stay ahead of the mostly male pack. Just the other day, I spent at least two hours in the mall, wandering from shop to shop. And I still came out empty handed! To make matters worse, I saw more than a few boyfriends, and dads, loaded up with shopping bags!
It’s not that there isn’t lots of appealing things to buy, from shiny covered books to the latest toy that not only walks and talks, but repeats back your name in 10 different languages, it’s just that there is TOO much stuff. It makes my head spin like one of those aforementioned toys.
Maybe, I just have to find a better way to shop. I’ve tried doing it online, but I’d much rather support a local merchant face to face, and cry to them over a cup of warm cocoa about my dilemma. (Warning. There’s a crazy lady coming to a shop near you!)
Then there’s the idea of donating all your gift giving budget to a cause. Yes, it’s a lovely thing to do, and kudos to those who are so selfless, but try to explain it to a four year old and six year old that all they will be getting for Christmas is their two front teeth.
Then again, there are many that do without this time of year, and not by choice, so I should quit my whining.
In the end, I will grit my teeth, and shop till I drop. And then I will go home, and thank my lucky stars for the blessings that I have. No credit card necessary.
– Kristin Froneman is the arts editor at The Morning Star. She writes a rotating At Random column for the newspaper.