An open let­ter …

On Christ­mas shop­ping

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - MEGAN NICOL REED - Do write. megan­ni­col­

This is a story about Christ­mas and shop­ping. And prob­a­bly it ought to be a moral­ity tale. Cer­tainly, when pre­vi­ously writ­ing on the sub­ject of my love of shop­ping, I’ve al­ways ended on a cau­tion­ary note. Di­luted any un­pleas­ant af­ter­taste the ad­mis­sion of my fer­vour for re­tail might leave in your mouth by draw­ing at­ten­tion to the ill-treat­ment of gar­ment work­ers, to the ul­ti­mate un­sus­tain­abil­ity of con­sumerism. See, I’m say­ing: I know it’s wrong. Pinky prom­ise, I’ll mend my ways. And in some ar­eas I have. I buy fewer clothes now and when I do, they’re qual­ity. I spurn pack­ag­ing, all that tis­sue and all those bags. Yet at heart I’m still a shop­per. My breath still hus­tles at the hint of a sale.

I’d heard of Black Fri­day, but as with trick or treat­ing, Dori­tos, and other pre­pos­ter­ous Amer­i­can tra­di­tions, it took me a while to fall for its charms. How­ever, un­like our Boxing Day sales (the idea of hit­ting the shops straight af­ter Christ­mas has al­ways struck me as both mad and re­pug­nant), Black Fri­day ac­tu­ally makes sense. Held on the day fol­low­ing Thanks­giv­ing (the fourth Thurs­day in Novem­ber), it kicks off the Christ­mas shop­ping sea­son with some se­ri­ous bar­gains. A friend, al­ready wise to its joys, gave me the heads-up the week be­fore. And so, when the day fell, I was pre­pared, head­ing to the lo­cal West­field with my chil­dren’s wish lists in hand. En route to Farm­ers, though, I was lured into Ben­don by a large sign in the win­dow: 40% OFF STOREWIDE. In truth I did need a new skin-coloured bra but I prob­a­bly didn’t need a white lace bralette with match­ing Brazil­ian knick­ers. And I prob­a­bly didn’t need to spend an hour and a half there. It’s just that it was so much fun in that fit­ting room, knee-deep in un­der­wear, the sweet sales as­sis­tant bring­ing me more and more to try on. Thank you, I said, pay­ing for my pur­chases. My plea­sure, she said. We smiled at each other and it was in­ti­mate and it was warm be­cause min­utes ear­lier she had been pok­ing my dou­ble-boob back into the cup that should have con­tained it as we laughed to­gether.

Ex­cuse me, I said to the woman kneel­ing to re­stock the shelves at Kmart, are there any Black Fri­day deals? She stared at me as if I’d lost my mind. It’s al­ready so cheap, she said. Look­ing around at the piles of T-shirts for $4, the boxes of choco­lates for $3, I had to con­cur. The line for the check-out looped around it­self, sin­u­at­ing like an in­choate conga. And I couldn’t de­cide whether this was a ter­ri­ble sight, mod­ern so­ci­ety at its most woe­ful, or if there wasn’t a ter­ri­ble kind of beauty in it. Shop­ping used to be the pre­serve of the mon­eyed, and while the low-cost of items in big-box de­part­ment stores adds to our ten­dency to treat ev­ery­thing now as dis­pos­able, it’s hard to deny that they’ve evened up the field. That, even if you’re broke, you can prob­a­bly man­age to treat your­self to some small thing.

They say it doesn’t make you happy. Watch­ing my hus­band dance with our chil­dren, walk­ing our dog along Taka­puna beach, eat­ing ice­cream straight from the tub: these things fill me with joy. But, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it, shop­ping does too.


When I think of the cam­era-shy, it’s nor­mally other women who spring to mind. Ev­i­dently, though, I was pleased to dis­cover, there is no gen­der-bias in­her­ent in loathing hav­ing one’s photo taken. Most of those who re­sponded to last week’s col­umn on the sub­ject were men. Said Kevin: “Like you, I try to avoid be­ing caught on cam­era … Dare I sug­gest for a some­what mor­bid rea­son you should try to be caught on cam­era more. As well as that, get hold of those snaps for when you pop your clogs. Fu­ner­als now in­clude the oblig­a­tory slide show of those spe­cial and not-sospe­cial mo­ments of your life. You owe it to your­self to have a cache of your life’s spe­cial mo­ments for your mourn­ers to have a mem­ory-jog and some nice thoughts about you when farewelling you.”

Ex­cuse me, I said to the woman kneel­ing to re­stock the shelves at Kmart, are there any Black Fri­day deals? She stared at me as if I’d lost my mind. It’s al­ready so cheap, she said.

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