Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Few Consumerist Thoughts

1. I'm not sorry that Filene's Basement is being liquidated because the magic died when the downtown Basement closed. And the real thrills ($13 Ferragamo shoes, $50 Ferragamo scarves, $129 Prada suits!) had disappeared years before that. No other discounter has filled the downtown store's shoes, however, so I hope a local entrepreneur gets wise, buys the name, and opens just one great Boston store — with automatic markdowns. I still think the vacant South End Biolab building would be an ideal location for it.

2. Our new, lifesize, silver-plated lobster has tremendous presence. It's mildly creepy, too, so it can still stop me in my tracks when I spot it. Maybe we'll hang it on the bathroom wall when we get over admiring it on the dinner table. If you're going to spend money in this economy, spend it on lobster.

3. For more than a year, I've been removing our names from the mailing lists of catalogs we don't want. It's cut down our junk mail dramatically. But recently I've started getting some of the same catalogs again, and I've discovered that magazines sell their subscriber lists to catalogs. Deeply annoying. But as Newman on Seinfeld said, "The mail doesn't stop! It doesn't stop!" If I ever appeared to be winning the mail game, I might get dangerous ideas that I can control the universe, too.

4. If I were to snag a job interview — an impossibility I shouldn't even fantasize about after all these months — I have nothing "professional" to wear now that the weather is warmer. The idea of wearing a suit at any time of year depresses the hell out of me, but when the temperature climbs above 70, black lightweight wool seems positively insane. At my advanced age and level of consumer development, I really ought to have a few grown-up options for each season in my closet. It's stupid not to, even if I do spend 99% of my time in casual clothing. However...

5. Shopping gives me the creeps these days. Unless I have a gift card or a store credit (e.g., the lobster), the idea of spending money on anything except food and essentials gives me vague stomach pains. Which is not to say I won't buy birthday presents (the lobster, again) and so forth as necessary. But I can't even bear to browse online or open the few catalogs we still receive. I'm not even affected by amazing markdowns and sales in stores I like. This is a surprising development for a former retail maven, but probably a healthy one. However...

6. I worry. Worrying about needing interview clothing is at the bottom of my list because I'm convinced I will never, ever, get an interview. Nevertheless, I lie awake at night worrying.  I spend a significant amount of my unemployed spare time worrying. There are so many new anxiety-provoking topics this year compared to previous years. Like, "Where is my 401(k)?" "Will we have to live in a van by the river if I never get a job?" I'm a gifted worrier. I suppose I could replace these scary worries with worrying about what would happen if I never recovered from my shopping phobia. What would I do with all that spare time? Write screenplays?

7. I don't know which is worse: tall leather boots worn with bare legs and shorts or flip-flops worn with a down coat. What's amusing is seeing both at the same time, walking on Newbury Street.

8. I find the looks in the Madewell window on Newbury Street kind of comforting. Apparently all I need to do is wear very faded, very wrinkled jeans and tops to look hip. But fading and wrinkling clothing takes effort, thanks for my Bosch high-efficiency washer and dryer. With a few easy tricks, I only need to iron about four times a year. Thanks to Madewell, I can cut that back further. Too bad I'll probably never set foot in the store. Too bad I can't spend all my spare time ironing.

9. I'd say I've receive at least five Elle magazines in a row that don't contain a single article of clothing that I'd consider buying or even wish to own. It's gone the sad, weird way of Bazaar and Vogue in being so detached from reality that readers can't even find common ground for daydreaming. Their editorial content has also deteriorated into sensational accounts of mental illness, man troubles, and addiction; there's far less about politics, current events, or women's issues these days. I used enjoy reviewing books for Elle, but I guess it's time to unsubscribe. I still get a kick out of E. Jean, but she's not enough to justify all that glossy, wasted paper.

10. Despite my new allergy to shopping, I couldn't resist the semi-annual Boden offer of 15% off plus free shipping and returns. The arrival of ridiculous numbers of plastic Boden shipping bags is a spring tradition around here: what could I do? I ordered five things (= three bags), after careful consideration and reading all the online customer reviews. And everything fits and seems well-made. But it's all so darn frumpy. I don't ordinarily look much like Susan Boyle or Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall — until I put on my new Boden stuff. (Maybe that's the problem over there? Which is not to say that those aren't two handsome women, in their own special ways... but a hugely popular British line of unflattering clothing could decimate the entire nation's cool quotient.) So it's all going back. Which will cost me nothing but a short walk in the sunshine to UPS. I can afford that.

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