– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
I started today with approximately ten things to do. Not a thousand, not even a million, as my feelings have not reached the stage of over-dramatic articulation. I am at a state more complex- regret, frustration, loss and complete bafflement. Out of the ten things I needed to do, seven could be done another day. Two could be postponed till tomorrow. One was non-negotiable and yet I blew it. I have to cut open my near-empty tube of toothpaste to last tonight and tomorrow, because I was too busy shopping for other things(read: clothes) to remember it.
Of course, I prioritize dental hygiene way more than fashion, but hear me out. This is festive season here in India and I had to get a gigantic chore done before its too late. I had to shop. I had to buy at least 5-7 pieces of clothing before September ends or I’d be chastised by every other person during the festivities at the beginning of October. You see, I had no choice. But, I ended up having too many.
Every kind of high known to man is exactly what it says on the tin: a high. A complete feeling of abandonment of the material world, a lightness of being, a euphoric moment. And I get plenty of those, within legalities. All PG rated versions of high – music, literature, films, performance, sports, nature, food etc. I often get a little “high with a little help from my friends” too. Again, through simple conversations and other publicly demonstrable human exchanges. There is only one high that can make me miserable even while it’s happening. And that’s retail high.
I look at it this way. I’ve just always been fascinated by things around me. Some people don’t get it, but I see shops as equivalent to museums and galleries, and I’m more than happy to browse even when I don’t need to buy anything. I neither feel the urge to. I do not think of how much it costs or whether it will look good on me. I just enjoy clothes, and other retail-able things in general. I have hobbit feet(without the hair) so it’s just orthopaedic shoes by choice for me. But that does not mean that a stiletto will not get my attention and if it does, it will not see my regret. No, I will look at this stiletto as a wondrous achievement in invention and design. I won’t even bother correlating it with mine or someone else’s feet.
On the choice occasions that I do have to buy however, I try to go about it in a detached manner. I, first and foremost, form a budget. I also make note of all the items I need, followed by the ones I fancy. It is a foolproof plan. And then I actually land up at the store and all my plans go out of the window. This isn’t only because I am greeted with seductive smiles by every item that is at par with my natural taste(which is fixed and yet open to experimentation at a ratio of 1:1). It is also the mad rush, the animalistic tugging and pulling of hangers of clothing, the dizzyingly long cues at the trial rooms and then the mind-numbing mental calculation of whether everything meets the budget before billing. No wonder they call them trial rooms. It is as if the whole thing is just a court case and I am the confused lawyer who seems to agree with the opponent more than myself and yet has to see this through. Which is why, instead of sustaining the retail high that already cost a lot of sweat, tears, vocal cords, physical and mathematical strength, not to mention a relatively negligible thing called money, I get out of the shop and drown my sorrow in caffeine. Because that is a high you can count on.
I thought online shopping would have solved all my problems. And it did, when I bought all my clothes online last year. The sheer joy of not having to put it on in a room full of mirrors and finding fault with what is reflected. Buying online means I can wear it after I’ve paid for it and unless it is totally wrong for me, I have to make it work. Okay, maybe that sounds slightly masochistic, but I’ll take my chances.
If only my chances did not include the massive choices shopping online offers. Are you an aesthete, someone who gets high on beauteous things? Then you are inundated with options here, much more than you could know in your limited possibility in the physical world. You need to buy one or more of these beautiful objects? Good luck. Call me when you have made a choice. I spent the entire day going through never-ending lists of shirts and blouses and trousers and what not. Some psychologists will pin down indecision not to the proliferation of choices, but to lack of self-esteem. I’m sure there are other areas where my self-esteem can be questioned, but not here. I’ve come to believe it is what de Botton said in the above-mentioned quote. In my soon-to-be clothes, I see beauty, because they represent what I consider good in life. Which in turn determines happiness, and we all know how hard that is.
Do you like shopping? Do you prefer online shopping?