Today, I indulged myself in my guiltiest of pleasures.  I planned for days to enjoy my hours of pure, unfettered enjoyment, with no fear of being caught, no laws being broken, my health intact — and, if I was very lucky, not too much money being lost.

Today I went shopping.

I know, you’re probably thinking this is no big deal — or maybe you’re thinking I’m a shallow, empty human being, if shopping makes me so happy.  But on both counts, you’d be mistaken.  Because for me, shopping is not just about buying stuff  — it’s a quick and easy way to escape reality by just driving 20 minutes down the freeway to South Coast Plaza, the Mecca of shopping for those of us that live in Orange County, California.

I have a well-traveled path at the mall,  though “mall” somehow seems demeaning for this place, which houses everything from Cartier to Saks to Ferragamo to Louis Vuitton and Chanel, just to name a few.  Not that I actually buy anything at the priciest of the stores, but still, it’s fun to walk by Bulgari and drool over the jewels.  I have a lovely woman at Nordstrom who knows me by name and helps me find just about anything I need if I ask her.  And of course, there’s something quite wonderful about the makeup counter where you get a quick shot of “you’re very special and I’m thrilled to be your salesgirl.”  I buy something every time.

I take my time, surveying the racks.  I roam a bit, picking up things here and there.  As I gather my selections, my pile growing larger and larger, eventually a saleswoman will take pity on me and ask if she can get me a dressing room.  Inevitably she will make this comment:

“Wow, you’ve got a lot of things to try on, don’t you?”

I just smile and thank her, because she’s absolutely right.   It’s the hunting and gathering that are exciting, the discount found, the perfect item at the ridiculous price, buried in a rack, missed by the other poor fools who moved on before discovering this gem…I swear it’s like a fever comes over me.   I do have a large selection of things to try on, because, well, that’s just how I do things.  I only go into the dressing room once, but if I’ve done my work properly, once is enough.  At this point in my life, I’m kind of an expert at this.

I am ruthless when I try things on and dismiss ten items for every one that I remotely like.  I grow disgusted with my reflection in the mirror until I find IT – the one item of clothing (or two, or three, or more) that looks good, doesn’t cost a lot, and I know I’ll wear.  I think of my extra 25% off coupon and smile — it’s a great day.

I used to shop a lot, but now I rarely shop anymore.  Partly its economics — who among us isn’t trying to watch what we spend — and partly it’s just that I don’t really need as much as I used to.  Now that I am an empty-nester, I’m not going to as many functions, meetings, activities, luncheons, auctions, Bar Mitzvahs, and on and on, and I spend a lot more time at home reading, writing, blogging, where what I’m wearing is rarely an issue.  Also, when I do shop, I tend to do a lot of it online — though I have to say, it’s not nearly as much fun as wandering around a store, and pawing through the sale racks. (For those who shop online I recommend It’s almost as good as a mall.)

So now you know what my guilty pleasure is.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  It may be brainless and mean nothing, and it may be as substantial as cotton candy, but I enjoy it immensely.  I’ll bet there are a few of you reading this who feel the same way.

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