This is How I Stay in Control
I know that it has been a long time since any of us have really posted, and I apologize for that. But now I’m finding that I have the time and emotional energy to write here again, so maybe it’s time for me at least to start putting my ideas back out into the world. I hope that soon some of the other Rock Pooling ladies are able to rejoin as well!!
Recently I made a move from Small-town, Middle-of-nowhere to Washington DC. Not for long– I’ll be going back to Small-town, Middle-of-nowhere soon so that I can maybe finish my Bachelor’s degree. But as you can imagine, Washington DC is a bit of a shock to my system. For example, I have never lived in a place where walking under the trees is cooler even at night. It still boggles my mind.
There’s one thing that seriously throws me off balance though, which is that many of my normal pursuits are… a bit less available here. Well, at least since I don’t own a car and just find that I don’t want to walk seven miles in order to go for a walk in the woods or play in a river. That’s a long way in this ridiculous humid heat. There are some lovely little walks right next to where I live, certainly, but I’m still not brave enough to walk them during the day when my body is still not all that great at handling the heat. Which means that I tend to go out walking at night. I guess you really could debate the wisdom in that as well, but I think I’m a bit more open to getting in
a fight or two than suffering heatstroke or heat exhaustion or something like that. The latter tends to make me cranky, to say the least. I don’t like being cranky. (Let’s not discuss my propensity for getting into fights and whether or not that improves my mood. I’m an odd creature; let’s leave it at that.)
But since some of my normal pursuits are somewhat less available (it’s so hard to find someplace with a piano that I can go and practice singing, for instance. Seriously irritating), I discovered yesterday when I was having a bit of a rough afternoon that there was something else that I could do besides ride horses or sing at the top of my lungs. Frankly, I didn’t think that it would work, and I’m still surprised that it did. And oddly enough, it did not involve chocolate. Be amazed.
Yes, I am now 21 years old and I have never engaged in retail therapy in order to stay happy. Probably like many of my fellow Rock Poolers, I can’t help but think that there are better things to do with my life than to fill my closet (which at this moment in my life is actually a suitcase, but that’s cool too). But I did need to get a few things anyhow, so I gritted my teeth and headed out to the nearest mall, which for the first time in my life is a few blocks away rather than a few hours away.
The first purchase that I made was for some skin care products which I’m afraid are much needed at this point in my life. And as I went up to the lady at the counter and asked for these products, she was very kind even though my appearance was probably verging on demonic. Hair floofing out everywhere, zits all across my face, cheap sunglasses perched in my sweaty nose, and dressed in a tee-shirt and comfy pants, which was a very far cry from all of the cute little dresses that I saw every other woman wearing yesterday. But this lady who I could tell had already had a very long day, that she was a working mom whose teenage son was wandering the store in complete and utter boredom, that she did just want to go home but was resigned to a few more hours of work, was very kind to me. And as soon as I swiped my card and took the bag, something utterly bizarre happened.
I felt some of my tense muscles instantly release.
I’m not a shopper by nature, even if I do happen to like pretty shiny stuff and have more of an inclination to like clothes and shoes than I used to. But I still generally find shopping to be a bit stressful, rather than the opposite. So that physical reaction was just utterly shocking to me.
But I felt a better, so I flashed this lovely woman a big, very genuine smile, thanked her profusely for her help, and walked away to a different store, one I certainly would never have walked into a few years ago, this time to see if I could find shorts and maybe some cooler shirts. (By the way, this is because I was not the most brilliant in my packing. I don’t actually own that many shorts, and only brought one pair, and then the vast majority of the tee-shirts that I brought are… well… this is weird, but I think they’re higher quality fabric or something, so they’re thicker and trap the heat. It’s kind of awful.)
It was the same thing. A girl came up to me, asked me if I needed help, and was in general very sweet to me. So when I walked out of that store, I had spent fifty dollars on a pair of modest shorts, two tank tops, and two other shirts. I would like to point out that everything but the shorts were on sale though, so clearly I managed to justify my buys.
Did I really need any of those clothes?
But I felt a lot better.
Since I’m not exactly a natural shopper, I came home and instantly began to question why it was that I felt so much better after blowing about a hundred dollars on skin care and clothes. It actually didn’t take too long for me to figure it out.
I felt in control again.
I had just had to deal with a guy who had made me feel completely worthless at every encounter with everything from lies to broken promises to propositions for one night stands. It was perfectly clear that he didn’t actually like me, especially when three or four weeks ago I made him a bit… peevish by calling him out on what I most certainly believe to be lies and otherwise nothing but hot air. He responded with some of the most offensive language in the English language (seriously, THE MOST OFFENSIVE. It was pretty awful.) and virtually screamed at me to delete his number from my phone and never speak to him again.
You might wonder, why was this guy actually deciding to talk to me again. The answer is: I have no idea.
Since I knew he was definitely inclined to be persistant about this by text number two, I decided to drive him off as politely as possible (which surprisingly enough did not involve any swearing. I’m still amazed at my own self-control). Actually, it was incredibly polite under the circumstances. And somehow effective, which is still surprising. Seems like those two don’t exactly go hand in hand a lot of the time.
You see where I was coming from? I felt like I was being constantly insulted, and I certainly felt like it was adding insult to injury that this guy would think that I would be just fine with him talking to me after how our last encounters worked out. I felt small, ugly, and completely without either respect or affection. I felt like even though I had done the very best that I could, that I had tried to handle things as well as possible, that I had tried so hard to demand the respect that I deserve, as a human being, a woman, and an individual, that this was still all my fault.
Of course shopping would be an effective quick-fix to this. Number one, it got me out of the house. But I ended up in two stores where there were women who smiled and talked to me, and I could care less that they were being paid for it, they were polite and friendly even though they didn’t know me, they had no clue how angry and hurt I was and how insulted I felt. And I felt like I was pretty again, even with my floofy hair and bad skin. I was trying on clothes that both fit me and flattered me. I had new skin care products that would probably help my skin clear up. Things were looking up. And very importantly, I was spending my own money, and no one was telling me what I could or could not buy, what I could or could not wear, and certainly no one could tell me that I didn’t look alright. It was up to me. I got to spend my own money, I got to try on the clothes that I chose, I got to decide what I looked good in, I got to decide that in spite of my acne and my sweaty camouflage tee-shirt, that I was still worthwhile and beautiful.
Do I think that Retail Therapy is the real and only answer for when I feel like I’m down?
Oh heavens, no. Absolutely and totally no. For me, I think the only long-term solution will involve the growth of my own self-esteem, my own stubborn faith and hope in God, and (the most difficult) to not allow my self-worth to be based on how these guys treat me.
I’m afraid that I’m inclined to be… frustrated with the fact that Retail Therapy is so hyped up. It’s like a fad that never ends. “If you buy pretty things it will make you happy.” Well, yes, that’s true for a little while. Certainly owning clothes that I look good in does help me feel more confident and happy. But that’s not going to work in the long run. Look at some of these ridiculous celebrities out in the world who have all the time and money in the world, and they spend every day of their lives shopping.
Maybe it’s just me, but they don’t really look all that happy.
I think it’s sad that society tells women that they will be happy if they go out and spend money on this pair of shoes or that shirt or how wearing that watch will bring them complete and total bliss. And I shouldn’t leave men out of this (even if I still feel like women have to deal more with social foolishness than men do, but that’s besides the point). Men are told that the way to a life of happiness is if they go to the gym and work out and have a great career to make all the money in the world, then everything will be okay. Heck, men get stuck
with some of the commercialism too. If you buy this kind of deoderant or cologne then women will go mad for you and you’ll never want for anything again. (Tell me I’m not wrong guys. You should all be VERY familiar with this guy and these commercials)
We’re not told to go read a good book or to go for a walk with a friend or to maybe go to lunch with someone we love. We’re told that’s boring, that books and friends and family are all just a burden and an irritation.
How painfully sad.
But I can understand a little now why women do choose to go for Retail Therapy now. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be a bit slower to condemn these women for it in the future. Maybe that’s something that I at least can work on.