Girl Talk: Confessions Of A (Maybe) Shopaholic

A year ago, my then-boyfriend and I argued about something. I can’t remember anymore what it was about. But I know it made me upset the night we argued and lasted until the next morning, all the way from my commute from New Jersey into New York City. Pent-up with frustration, I needed to do something to make myself feel better. So instead of walking straight to my office, I ducked into an H&M, grabbed skirts, dresses and blouses off the racks without even trying them on, and spent something like $200 or $300 on clothes in less than half an hour.

I knew the good feelings I’d have about my new purchases would fade away eventually, but whatever cased my sadness, frustration or anxiety in the first place would remain.

I regretted almost all of my purchases immediately — not necessarily because I didn’t need the items, but because I didn’t need all of them and I didn’t need to buy them so hastily. In my mental “To Do” list, I’d been meaning to buy some skirts and dresses that fit; I gained weight while with my ex because our eating habits devolved and we drove everywhere in a car, hardly walking anywhere. I’m sure I justified my shopping binge by telling myself, “I need new skirts that fit anyway” — because I did. But there’s truly no sensible reason why I should grab a size 10 skirt, a size 12 skirt and a size 14 skirt off the rack and buy them all, all at once.

That wasn’t my only shopping binge. A year earlier I’d had a massive falling-out with a guy I’d really cared for. And what did I do? I headed to J.Crew and spent $400 on a pair of high heels and a purse.

Last weekend, that same guy and I went on a date together — our third or forth since reconnecting. I invited him to my home, cooked him lamb meatballs and stuffed eggplant and we spent all night talking on the couch. I could tell he had blockers up; maybe it was because of our history, maybe it was something else. In any case, I could tell he wasn’t ready to date yet, at least not with me. And I felt genuinely sad. I’d been holding a candle for him for three years now.

The next day, I blitzed through Bloomingdales and bought myself a new dress, mascara, and a makeup set. I only needed the mascara — well, does anyone need mascara? — but trying on the makeup and the dress made me feel good. I stood in front of the dressing room mirror in the new dress, imagining all the nights of drinking and dancing outdoors that I could do in it. I imagined it’d be my dress of the summer. I imagined a new guy I’d fall in love with while wearing this dress.

Like I always do, I regretted buying the dress and the makeup almost immediately. Not because they didn’t look good on me — they really, really do — but because I knew what I’d done had been unhealthy. I knew I’d spent money on objects to try to make myself happy. And

I knew the good feelings I’d have about my new purchases would fade away eventually, but whatever cased my sadness, frustration or anxiety in the first place would remain.

I know, intellectually, that a new dress or a new pair of shoes or new skirts, are only a palliative.

A year or so ago, I read Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict, by Avis Cardella, and although I don’t think I have a actual shopping addiction — the author was tens of thousands of dollars in debt spending money on luxury clothes — I did see too much of my emotional self in the book for comfort. I want to stop. Not only is it arguably a waste of money that could better be spent elsewhere, but I’m tired of doing it over and over again when the good feelings are fleeting.

I genuinely enjoy shopping — and style and beauty and all that girly stuff — but it doesn’t make me feel good to shop this way. When I shop, I want to shop because I planned to do so in advance and because it genuinely makes me feel good and happy.

Has anyone else experienced this? How did you stop doing it?

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