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The Pandemic Panic Purchases We Regret The Most

2020 was the year we tried to save ourselves with online shopping. We have some regrets.

2020 was many things: It was a heartbreaking disaster and a triumph of the human spirit and of science. It was the year we all Cloroxed our Cheez-Its, got to see our kid's gym teacher's living-room, and called our therapists from our cars. It was also the year we decided to save ourselves via Amazon, and buy tons of useless junk online.

This was the biggest year ever for online shopping. Trapped in our homes, we were all afraid of getting too close to any other human being... save for the UPS man. No, that man in brown (or blue, in the case of the USPS) was apparently welcome to come by any old time. I got excited every time a delivery truck pulled up — which was constantly.

"Please! This is all stuff we need!" I scoffed, as I ripped open a box containing a bag of glow-in-the-dark rubber eyeballs.

The boxes usually contained various items purchased by me at 10 p.m. after two glasses of wine, when I was desperately trying to block out whatever nightmare I had just watched on CNN. To give you a sense of my desperation, I bought a swim cap that was meant to keep my hair dry. (It didn't. Also, I do not own a pool.) I bought a tent, even though I reside in Brooklyn, New York. I bought a hammock. (Again, I live in an apartment building along the Gowanus Canal.)

I bought a box of teeny magnets that an Instagram ad promised I'd find mentally soothing to fidget with. In one day, I bought a floral kimono duster, a too small sweatshirt dress, and a pair of rainbow striped tennis shoes that make me look like I'm the host of a children's television program.

At one point, my mother, with whom we were staying for a while, watched her haggard mail carrier drive away once more and mumbled something about how I perhaps had a "shopping addiction."

"Please! This is all stuff we need!" I scoffed, as I ripped open a box containing a bag of glow-in-the-dark rubber eyeballs and a long-sleeved youth-size tee bearing the Arby's logo.

While I feel a vague sense of embarrassment for this year's heedless "adding to cart," I know I am not alone. And so now I and a few other brave souls, shall confess to you, dear reader, our dumbest, most pointless purchases of 2020.

I don't know what 2021 has in store for us (no pun intended) but I do pledge to stop trying to soothe my nerves and solve my problems with the buy button.

1. I'll go first.

"As I have already admitted, I bought a lot of truly dumb stuff. But without a doubt the most useless purchase I made this year was 'The World's Biggest Slip 'N' Slide.' I was desperate for ways to coax my kid outside and away from YouTube, but my mom's garden hose was not cutting it, and the coveted inflatable pools were long sold out. The ads I watched for this slip 'n' slide showed children and adults alike delightedly skidding their way across lawns like greased seals. So I ordered one. And it arrived, and looked much the same as the tarp my mom uses to remove fall leaves. But whatever, OK, I staked it to the ground, positioned the sprinkler, and attempted to demonstrate to my kid how it worked. I threw my body onto it, and proceeded to blow out my stomach muscles in a way that felt similar to when I gave birth. Also? There was no sliding. Or slipping. That thing was about as slippery as a strip of astroturf. Even after I positioned it on the steepest hill I could find, and dumped a full container of baby oil, a bottle of my mom's Jergen's, and some Pantene onto it, my son never slid more than a few inches. I dare say it would have needed to be positioned off a cliff to get any sort of actual momentum. My kid ended up sitting at the bottom, rolling around in the sudsy oil slick created by my many attempts at lubrication." — Alice Emory, mother of 1 and lifestyle writer for Romper

2. Emma just knew the ball on a string would bring salvation.

"When we were staying at my sister's in March and April, we decided to buy a tennis-ball-on-a-string contraption so that the kids could keep playing tennis even though we were in total lockdown. It took forever to come because that was when Amazon was having delivery issues and so the joke was always 'is that package the tennis thing?!' It never was. And when it finally came, it didn't work — even the adults couldn't get it to bounce back. And then the kids picked it up and did a quick tug-of-war and it immediately snapped in half." — Emma Rosenblum, editor-in-chief of Bustle Digital Group and mother of 2

3. Elizabeth bought just enough flour to make a single, solitary cookie.


"I tried to Target drive-up order the supplies for my Christmas cookie baking day and didn’t check the size or weight of the flour. I ended up with the tiniest bag of all time, the size of my hand. Who knew they made flour in such small packages? And why! What recipe calls for a small amount of flour?" — Elizabeth Holmes, journalist and author of HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style and mother of 3

4. Meanwhile, Ann bought enough yeast to bake the world's largest dinner roll.


"My biggest shame-purchase was very (very) expensive face cream because I was staring at my own face so much more than normal and thought I looked old. But my pure dumbest purchase was 2 pounds of active dry yeast to bake bread. Two. Pounds. I ended up shipping it to Indiana, where my mom received it with a WTF and split it into small portions to give to my aunts and cousins." — Ann Williams, mother of 1 and office manager in Brooklyn, New York

5. This other Elizabeth was going to solve the pandemic with a dry erase board.


"When it finally sunk in that the kids would be going back to school remotely in the fall, I bought a white board and an absurd number of dry-erase pens. I was going to keep everyone on track with a schedule that we updated weekly. It was going to solve all our problems — the mid afternoon whining about screens, the constant asking "what's for dinner?," and the refusal to go outside even though it was a beautiful day and I have decreed that we must go outside. Guess how many times I updated it and how many problems were solved? Now it's my white board of shame and my children fight over who gets to scribble on it." — Elizabeth Angell, Romper's editorial director and mother of 2

6. Kaitlin was going to laze away quarantine, if only the stupid trees would cooperate.

courtesy of Kaitlin Kimont

"I bought an easy-to-pack, easy-to-set-up-anywhere hammock at the beginning of quarantine with full intentions of using it all the time. Bring it on hikes, read outside, get a tan! That did not happen. Turns out finding two evenly spaced out trees is harder than you think.” — Kaitlin Kimont, news & entertainment editor at Romper

April fantasized about living in a Merchant Ivory film.


"One of my very first delusional pandemic purchases was a croquet set on Amazon Prime. I had vague images of springtime festivities in the back yard with my husband and our teenage daughter. We have yet to open it. But I still think it was a good idea, darn it!" — April Daniels Hussar, Romper's managing editor and parent to a high school senior

7. Dave prepped to go live in Antarctica, if necessary.


"I don't usually make frivolous purchases. I try to only buy practical items. But one day I saw this GoFundMe where this guy was making these waterproof suits that can keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures. So I bought one. Even though it was July, and like 90 degrees outside. When I tried it on, my wife said I looked like a depressed ninja." — Dave, who is embarrassed and would prefer to remain anonymous

8. Adrienne turned her living room into a BounceU.


"We have a giant trampoline in the middle of our living room that I’m not thrilled about. I agreed to it because it was supposed to be a temporary fixture, but here we are!" — Adrienne Wright, director, experiential at Bustle Digital Group and mother of 2

9. Lucy tried to pretend her third grader was a toddler.

"We went to stay with my sister in the suburbs for most of March, and my son was fascinated by her lawnmower. So I bought him this ride-on tractor toy, even though he's almost 9, and is already incredibly tall for his age. He sat down on it, and his knees were almost up to his chin. He did one loop on it around the yard, looking like one of those huge circus bears on a teeny bicycle. We ended up selling it to my sister's neighbor." — Lucy Carney, full-time mom to 1

10. Amina bought it all.

Dejan Marjanovic/Moment/Getty Images

"We bought two bouncy castles, an Xbox, a pizza stone and peel, boogie boards (we live 15 minutes from the beach), a climbing dome, a soccer goal, a hammock, new iPads and laptops, a play tent, an outdoor projector and screen, blankets for outside, four outdoor heaters and a firepit, water guns, inflatable barriers for water gun fights, three bikes, a Yamaha keyboard (one kid is now taking piano lessons), two guitars, a half dozen gingerbread house kits, and sooooo many holiday decorations. None of these things solved boredom for my children long-term, but each of them has provided a certain amount of amusement/entertainment during nine months of being in the same house with little ability to socialize or go anywhere. I'm thankful we were able to get and use any and all of it. The gingerbread house kits were the closest thing to a bust — they make it so easy to put the houses together that the kids were done with them in 20 minutes, tops. So, we ended up making gingerbread house replicas of our actual house from scratch to pass the time." — Amina Runyan Shefa Canter, a San-Francisco-based mother of 2 and Apple executive