Y'all, I just really want to go to Target. I want to stroll the aisles, looking for nothing in particular as I drink my Starbucks and forget the one thing I actually went to the store to buy. That was my happy place, and if this pandemic has taught anybody anything, it's that retail therapy is real. And I miss shopping more than I ever thought possible.
Shopping, browsing, and the ability to revel in the newness of things is comforting to many of us. TNS Global on behalf of Ebates.com conducted a study that found that more than half of Americans have admitted that they have tried “retail therapy” to boost their mood at some point in time, reported The Association of Psychological Science. And even if we're not buying anything, just checking things out as a way to pass the time has become a huge part of our everyday lives.
Katherine Pannel, DO, an osteopathic psychiatrist, tells Romper, "Retail therapy is, in fact, real. It provides a temporary distraction and a temporary comfort. It takes us away from the things that are bothering us in life. It is a great distraction to focus on things that are pretty and make us happy."
Tell me about it. I never in a million years dreamed I'd miss Marshall's so much. Who knew that such a large part of my calm was found in the horribly messy, often overcrowded candle section of the Brooklyn Marshall's? That probably says something about me, but as I try desperately to pick up even a whiff of fragrance off the crappy candle I purchased from Amazon to fill the void, I don't rightly care one bit.
Granted, it has its bad sides. "While it makes us feel better in the moment, it is in fact temporary," Pannel says. "It will fade when we get home and often leads to guilt." But I honestly feel like I'm even missing that at this point. I want to question why I bought those jelly beans that were at the register of a discount shop. I mean, why do they even sell jelly beans? I want to regret the purchase and eat them anyway.
I miss all of it. I miss interacting with the tiny Russian woman who sold me my shuba at the Eastern European grocery store a few blocks from my house. I miss her correcting my Russian every time I ordered, and laughing when I slipped into Slovak instead. I gained so much joy from laboring over the right vegetables, grains, and cuts of meat to make my family's suppers, and now I don't even want to cook anymore.
Psychologist Dr. Nancy Sherman, a professor at Bradley University in the Online Masters of Counseling Program, tells Romper that this is a an example of the psychological reward we feel when shopping. And that cutting that out so abruptly is going to be difficult. "I think we miss the in-store experience because it is a time for socializing with friends, expressing creativity, and the atmosphere that many stores promote enhancing the shopping experience," she says. "We miss the rush of finding a great bargain or the perfect accessory for an outfit or the home." Or in my case, unnecessary candles and a crap ton of produce.
So what if I routinely threw away bags and bags of spinach before this all started? (Don't pretend you haven't done the same thing multiple times.) The point is that I cared enough to make the purchase, and it made me feel good in the moment. My retail "therapy" (if you can call it that) now pales in comparison. It's mostly me, stalking Instacart times and refreshing the Amazon Fresh order page, hoping for a delivery spot. It has none of the charm of a Marshall's candle section, I'll tell you that much. And it smells like Amazon candle. Lame.
Fighting over the last multipack of Lysol at Costco that you will use to kill a virus so that you and your family don't die or get sick just doesn't rise to the same level of entertainment as shopping did before. It doesn't have the same joie de vivre as trying on seven different pairs of jeans in seven different sizes just to see which one your butt looks the best in.
That small rush that I got from shopping was real, but now even that moderate joy has been altered. When I think about shopping for other things that used to bring me so much joy, like summer dresses and sneakers, I think, "What's the point?" When will I wear them, and who will see them?
What I do regret is that I can no longer wait on line at the grocery store and smile and make faces at a crying baby in the cart ahead of mine because my face is now covered in a mask and the baby is at home, far away from virus-y carts and jolly strangers. I regret that I can't walk into my local bookstore and browse the aisles for hours, perusing and discarding books while avoiding the swipes of their terribly mean store cat. (I still do buy online from them though.) I miss the Marshall's candle aisle. These are simple, sweet joys that I don't know when or if I will ever experience in the same way ever again.
I don't know what to replace it with. How do you replace something that you didn't think was a real thing, and one that you didn't know that you relied upon so heavily? Going out and crowding stores is selfish and dangerous. Online shopping isn't the same. How do you shift that energy when you never knew you were using it to begin with? And when can we go back to Target for real?