The Confession of an Online Shopaholic

When asked if I like shopping, I always feel as if I’m being asked point blank if I’m vain. Of course I am. Who isn’t? I really mean that. Who isn’t?

(Even the most fashionably challenged or demure or supposedly indifferent have something to say with what they wear. Everyone, everyone, cares about how others perceive them, even if that perception happens to be eschewing fashion. Casual and “easy going”, sometimes to the point of invisibility/blending-into-the-pavement, stylish, flamboyant, grungy, trendy, delusional, misguided, colorblind—whatever your style, you have one by necessity of you not being naked.)

I used to say no. No, I hate shopping, even. In fact, I hate malls. Truly. They drive me crazy, I say, knowing that the best lies are the ones framed by truth. There’s something, I continue, in the air filtration system in malls across the universe that fumigates the life energy out of my blood cells and suffocates my brain. Now, this may be so, but what is not true is the hating of shopping.

I love shopping. On the internet.

If weed is the gateway drug to meth-addicted prostitution, eBay is the gateway to internet shopping induced bankruptcy.

I juggle numerous subscriptions to discount shopping sites. These sites sell shoes, clothes, jewelry, handbags, scarves, hats, coats, jackets, cosmetics, and more shoes. Deals on travel destinations, kitchenware, houseware, men’s ware, barware, children’s toys—even these entice to me though I know in my heart that I have no intention of buying anything under those categories.

It started with an eBay purchase. I don’t recall what it was. But I remember being incredibly skeptical. I changed my mind a hundred times, arguing with myself that charging my credit card for something on the World Wide Web was reckless, unwise at best.

If weed is the gateway drug to meth-addicted prostitution, eBay is the gateway to internet shopping induced bankruptcy.

Successful delivery after successful delivery later, I was hooked. And Amazon! Is there anything more wonderful than Amazon dot com? You save enormous amounts of money on books and suggested books and you don’t have to comb through the used books section at the local used book store to find what you want. The prices, too, are nearly the same as a brand new copy from Amazon. Shipping is free if you spend more than $25, which is not at all burdensome for me, and your order often arrives sooner than you’re lead to expect. “Under promise, over deliver” seems to be Amazon’s ethos. I respect that.

The ubiquitous Amazon box

Then to make matters far, far worse, I found The deals were incredible. Everyday was a Black Friday. It would be the middle of July and deals found only after eating my weight in stuffing and pie with no hope of fitting into the pants I got at an amazing sale at the mall (gag me) would be gleaming on my screen in the comfort of home. What was this wonderfulness? I didn’t care. I just wanted to go to there.

They sold dresses. I started cultivating a taste for dresses. Why had I been ignorant of the convenience and instantly feminizing effect of dresses? You get a top and a matching bottom in one garment.

There was also a whole world of fashion labels I’d never heard of before: Kenneth Jay Lane, Paris Vertigo, MM Couture, BB Dakota, Hype, Gracia, W118 by Walter Baker, Pour La Victoire, N.Y.L.A., Tahari Aurthur S. Levine, to name as few. Did you know that Lindsey Lohan has a line of clothing called 6126? It’s actually kind of fabulous…online.

It will come as probably disapproving surprise to my family and friends that I’ve purchased hundreds of dollars worth of shoes in this manner. They will go from disapproving to horrified when they learn that I moved on from dresses to satisfying every jewelry and coats and handbag whim catered to by the discovery of HauteLook dot com, BeyondTheRack dot come, IvoryTrunk dot com, and WorldofWatches. Dot ca-ching!

Simultaneously, there was the unveiling and meteoric rise in popularity of the online coupon site, Groupon. It spawned the ever growing and enormous cluster of offspring sites at the speed of a bacterial infection, which I appreciated like the probiotics in my yogurt. They grew and thrived in cyberspace to keep my account balance consistently in the single to double digits. I’ve used numerous online coupons at Indian restaurants, brunches at Irish pubs, clothing stores (surprise, surprise) like GAP and American Apparel. I bought so many that some have expired–money capture and lost to the Web.

The UPS tracking number is like the numbers on my mother’s lottery ticket for the big jackpot. Except unlike the string of six magical numbers upon which she pins her lotto hopes and dreams, my tracking numbers guarantee delivery. All my hopes and dreams actually come true.

What is the pleasure I reap from shopping online that I can’t seem to cultivate in malls or even quaint street side boutiques flanking cobblestone sidewalks with those low-level gas lit street lamps? Or even flagship stores for high fashion designers where the customer service agents ask if you’d like a flute of champagne or an espresso while you browse?

(Okay, I’ve never actually had that happen to me. The nearest I ever got to feeling like a VIP customer was walking into a Louis Vuitton in Milan clad in a tank top and cotton shorts with camera around my neck and being mistaken for a member of the Japanese tourist contingent, who all carry wads of hundred dollar bills in their starched khaki trousers from GAP, an all American company, which proves how time heals all wounds even of the H-bomb variety. That or GAP produces some compelling television commercials that can bridge cultural and historical boundaries.)

There is matter of convenience. I don’t have to try on anything. I hate trying on things. Especially when something is just a little too big or a little too small and I have to put all my clothes back on and go back out onto the showroom floor to find the right size and go back to the changing room and end up waiting in line again only to discover that the cut or the stitching or the color isn’t quite right even with the correct size in hand.

There’s also the waiting for the package especially once they send you the shipping confirmation email. The UPS tracking number is like the numbers on my mother’s lottery ticket for the big jackpot. Except unlike the string of six magical numbers upon which she pins her lotto hopes and dreams, my tracking numbers guarantee delivery. All my hopes and dreams actually come true. The day of the arrival, I refresh the tracking website every 30 minutes, even sign up for the SMS notice when it arrives on my doorstep. The anticipation is almost worth its weight in a new pair of Steve Madden Suede wedge boots. They’re gorgeous, by the way. I got a compliment within fifteen minutes of stepping out the house with them.

Delivery package from all over cyberspace

Then once the package arrives….Well, is there anything as fun and exciting as opening a package? It’s the delight of Christmases and birthdays and anniversaries. When it’s not Christmas and not my birthday or an anniversary. It’s the thrill of undressing a new lover or Russell’s scrubs off of Russell. (Russell’s my boyfriend. He’s got a sexy hairy chest and a wonderful personality.) Opening the front door after a fresh snowfall. Opening a fresh copy of my book that has yet to be finished. (I do have dreams beyond internet shopping.)

The next day, I have a brand new outfit. I look fabulous and it makes me feel wonderful. I become the woman of the pretty blouse or the successful dress, the stylish heels and the alluring earrings that makes men and women alike whisper compliments into my ear.

But there are the downsides besides the knock to my bank account, which is too obvious and tedious to go into here.

My closet, which used to be just the right size, is now entirely too small. I’ve resorted to tossing clothes on my sofa because I put off having to struggle with parting the red sea that is my closet in order to usher in the chosen garments for the great exodus from my couch. Just a couple of days ago I bought a standing hanger from Target for $10. I wanted to buy it the way I wanted to buy fat clothes when I was overweight. It’s rickety and only manages to hold about a dozen pieces of clothes (thanks a lot) and my room still looks a mess. A jewelry armoire became necessary because a simple box wouldn’t do the job. Did I mention the hangers I had to buy for the standing hanger? I have clothes, dry clean only, waiting for pick up at the cleaners and they’ll continue to wait because I have no room for them at home.

What it comes down to is this: the more stuff I have the more stuff I need to put the stuff away. I have so much stuff that I can’t even enjoy them because they’re buried under stuff or left in the care of strangers. This is probably where I’m supposed to wise up and wax on about the soul defeating materialism of the age, meditating on society’s eschewing human interaction in preference of mouse potato-ing, the spiritual bankruptcy of my life filled with clothes and shoes and bags, theorize on how it’s come to this (Mother’s inexorable loyalty to Ralph Lauren? My Presbyterian upbringing? Reading Oscar Wilde’s complete works?), consider the emotional emptiness and dwindling self-esteem I’m trying to bolster by stuffing it with stuff, only to end up with a hanger from Target.

But I won’t go into any of that. I don’t buy a word of it.

The real lesson here is this: I need a bigger closet.

I’m a thirty-four year old woman with a decent job and a fabulous boyfriend whose head I still delight in making turn with a sexy pair of stilettos and a leopard print dress. I’m young enough to wear plunging necklines and scandalous mini-skirts, but old enough to know that youth and beauty fades faster than can be imagined and so I know to enjoy it while it lasts. Vanity is my duty.

So, fine, I love shopping. And I need a bigger closet.

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