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76750437I’m not a girly girl. I rejected shopping as a teenager, opting for sandpapered jeans and hiking boots. I had long stringy hair and embraced my hippy stylin’ ways. My mom so didn’t get it. For Mom, shopping was her most joyous parenting time. It was her pleasure to spend hours scouring Boston’s Newbury Street stores buying for her four girls.

We would arrive home from school to department store boxes piled high on our beds from Lord &Taylor, Ann Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. I’d open them reluctantly and think – “I feel so misunderstood – this isn’t me. I don’t like girly clothes.”

I would plead with her not to shop for me anymore – I didn’t want all that stuff. I had my favorite jeans and favorite sweaters and that was enough. I thought I looked pretty cool.

Rejecting retail was my rebellion. It was my way of rejecting my mom.

And then it was my turn to be the mom. It was a good thing I had boys. When I wasn’t exercising or working I was hanging with my boys – not shopping. I tolerated shopping sprees with girlfriends but preferred long walks, gallery visits and of course girls’ night out.

I had friends in my 30’s who could spend days together shopping and returning and I would often ask them to “pick me up a sweater or t-shirt” on one of their outings. Shopping made me feel claustrophobic – I would overheat and my heart rate would accelerate as my cellulite and large butt glared back at me in the mirror under the florescent light of the dressing room. Piles of rejected clothes lay in heaps on the floor. And the drudgery of cleaning up my horrible little dressing room space was a cruel finish to a bad start. It seemed burdensome to hang all the stuff I didn’t want back up. I usually would return home depleted and empty handed or with something that I didn’t like and would never return– what a waste of time.

Well the times they are a-changing. I’m not sure when it happened, perhaps in my mid-40’s, but I actually started to enjoy shopping. Maybe it was because I really needed to spend quality time with friends as the kids were busy with their own stuff and this seemed like an easy upbeat activity with no required entry fee (play now, pay later). What I had once considered a waste of time became an activity that felt delightfully indulgent and bonding.

Time in the dressing room with a girlfriend became playtime.

Retail Therapy 2So, this last week when I was feeling particularly low after losing my dear friend – my sister agreed to meet me to shop before we went to the Shiva.

It sounded like the perfect medicine for my blues and the plan brightened up an otherwise dreary cold January day.

And so, off we went — my sister Julie and I scoured the aisles of EMS for ski pants, parkas and layers for our upcoming adventures. With arms full we hauled half the store’s merchandise off the racks into “our” shared dressing room. As we played dress up, admired, oooed ahhed and rejected unflattering waistlines and butt grabbers we weeded out some real gems from the January sale items.

Happily, our 90-minute dressing room marathon did not wear us down. As we checked out, thrilled with our savings, we headed on to our next destination.

Lord & Taylor was having a shoe sale and it just so happened to be on our way home. As the 4 pm dark winter chill was settling in, we saw the Lord &Taylor’s beacon of bright lights welcoming us in. An inviting display of 30 Percent off treasures awaited.

After perusing every boot possibility, our fabulously handsome salesman brought us boxes and boxes piled so high we could barely see his face. What a brilliant tradition. A dashing salesman bearing gifts of new shiny boots in lovely boxes waiting to be opened and unwrapped from their delicate tissue paper. And there we sat, side by side, in our comfy chairs, joyfully slipping on pair after pair. In store shopping is a decadence of old that I’m thrilled on-line shopping has not yet destroyed.

Once again Julie and I shared in our excitement at the great deals – rejected many for looks and convinced ourselves one particular pair of gorgeous boots actually fit. (It didn’t). We left with 2 pairs each. And just like Carrie and Miranda – it’s not always about the shoes.

As we walked out of the store – I felt complete and I’m not ashamed to say it. I had spent 4 hours of much needed time with my sister. We were in our own retail bubble. We had time to talk about our “life stuff” but mostly we were immersed in our “playtime.” And it was real therapy – not just an indulgence.

So, as we said goodbye to each other at the Shiva a little later that evening – I actually felt lifted by our time together. Magically our shopping spree seemed to infuse us both with the feeling of hope and connection amidst the sadness of loss. And, I knew my friend would have totally approved, as she was a believer in retail as therapy.

Like all good experiences – they should be cherished and not overdone. So, it was no surprise that when I returned the “too tight” boots a few days later, I didn’t even look around the store for one second. There was no more magic left in the merchandise. The store looked very ho hum and full of too much stuff – not glittery, not a playground and certainly not a place I wanted to spend a precious hour.

And that makes me smile just to think of it. My sister’s visit for hours on end was the sweetest gift in the midst of an otherwise sad bleak wintery day. That kind of therapy has no price tag and doesn’t need a January sale to lure me in for more.

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