One of the malls near where I live opened up a whole new wing of stores last week. Naturally, I had to check it out (because, well...I might write something about it someday...so it's part of my job! You know, research. Right...) This new wing includes a Mac store, which made me happy, along with a whole host of super-upscale stores not formerly found outside the city: There's a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Ferragamo, Kate Spade, and a bunch of others. (Now, by way of full disclosure, I was at the mall to exchange a blouse at Ann Taylor, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate having a higher level of window shopping to peruse than the usual Aldo and Claire's Boutique options). The new parking garage was open, well-lit, and filled with soothing music. There was a guy playing piano. You get the picture. All elegant, all lovely.
The only problem was the people. Without exception, every single person I passed in that section of the mall looked miserable. (I haven't seen that many pinched faces gathered in one place was since I was a lawyer.) It was bizarre. I saw three generations of this unhappiness in Nordstroms, as two parents and a grandmother hovered anxiously around a bored teenage girl trying to decide between two gorgeous designer handbags. What's up with her? I wondered. Why isn't she squealing with glee? I met three women on the elevator, probably in their mid 40s, talking about the outfits they'd just purchased. Again, none of them seemed excited or happy. It was like one more day at the office.
That's when it dawned on me: shopping is really only fun if what you buy fills a real gap in your life. If your sneakers are worn out or covered in paint, you'll enjoy having a new pair. If you don't have a suitable outfit for a party your friend is throwing, it's fun to find just the right thing (and some cute earrings to match). Your new stuff may cost $20 at Target, or $2,000 at Gucci, but if you get the chance to use it, that's what brings the squealing-with-glee part to complete the shopping experience.
I guess I'm just making the connection that owning things isn't fun. Using the things we own is what makes them fun. Maybe this is why I've always balked at mugs and bumper stickers encouraging me that I should be grateful just to be alive. Not that I undervalue life, but living, in and of itself, can be rather a mixed bag. It's using the life we have that makes it fun. Otherwise, it's just one more afternoon on the couch.
(I should probably have mentioned at the beginning of this post that I've been thinking about this whole rich misery thing ever since I saw The Nanny Diaries a few weeks back. Steve and I talked all the way home about what AWFUL PEOPLE those Upper East Side mothers were, and then realized, "Wait a minute...if those characters hadn't been wealthy, we'd have said that they were hurting people, struggling to figure out their lives. But because they have money they don't get compassion?" Jesus said that it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get to heaven. Those seem like pretty long odds. Nothing in the Bible indicates that wealth is bad, but there does seem to be a way in which it can distort our attitude, and if we're not really careful it will suck the enjoyment out of both buying the stuff we need and using it. It has me thinking that perhaps I should be praying for the family I saw in Nordstroms, rather than judging them???)
And if this is all to serious for you on this lovely sunny day, let me just add that THAT DOG pooped squarely on her leash this morning. It won't come clean. So I anticipate that the new leash I buy at Target will bring me great squeals of glee...