A good piece on the shopping experience, and all the tricks that retailers use to loosen our wallets. Hard to be immune. My worst shopping experience was getting stuff for our then teen-age kids at Abercrombie with the mind-numbing loud music that made me want to run out the door as soon as possible (fortunately, their taste in clothes has evolved ….). I try to do as much on-line as possible to reduce such aggravation. Quote:
We might, and probably should, rail against such techniques. We could choose to shop online, as millions do. But we might also turn our attention within, to ask why it is we’re so bothered by the lights and the crowds, so disturbed by anxiety that we’ll shop in order to make it go away. An alternative might be to cultivate what Buddhists call “nonattachment” — and if the earliest Buddhists tended to practice this in beautiful natural settings, perhaps that’s only because they lacked shopping malls. Stand on a busy downtown street at dusk on a pre-Christmas Saturday with this in mind, and decline to be swayed by the exhortations to spend, and it suddenly becomes a purely exhilarating spectacle, as breathtaking, in its own way, as any waterfall or mountain panorama.
A final truth about holiday shopping and happiness: even those of us who don’t enjoy the experience might be forced to admit that we enjoy disliking it. After all, nobody is forced to wait till December to buy gifts, yet every year we do so in droves, plunging with abandon into the precisely choreographed awfulness the retailers work so hard to perfect. I’m not quite ready to go as far as the poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht, who writes that holiday shopping fulfills “an ancient need to gather and tithe, and serves as a modern-day ritual of renewal.” I won’t claim that “The Little Drummer Boy” actually improves my holiday season. But things would feel very strange without him.