Friday, March 27, 2009


There was a point about a year ago when I went into a Kohl's store to get things for my daughter. She needed some kind of outfit for a school concert. I remember watching people piling clothes into carts and pushing them up to the register while I looked around for black pants.

I don't buy clothes new. I haven't bought a new shirt, a pair of pants or even a new pair of shoes in over a year and a half. Actually, my mother bought me my last pair of tennis shoes, which ended up in the trash after the cat vomited on them a few months ago. They were on their last legs anyway. The gaping hole on the outside of the shoe was getting hard to ignore.

Partly, my staying away from major retail outlets is a natural inclination. I get more interesting stuff at Goodwill. I like the thrill of the hunt. It's fun to come out of a second hand store with an Armani tie you paid three bucks for. I'm always on the look out for another ivy league school t-shirt. Mostly, however, it's economy. When you're clothing budget is twenty bucks for a season (or two), you look to where that twenty will go the farthest.

Anyway, walking inside that full-on retail store I felt alien and unwanted among the shoppers. In our culture, having the ability to purchase is considered power. You are driven to judge yourself on what you can afford. Sure, you can deflect part of that. You can say to yourself it doesn't mean anything. Things don't matter. They are just things, but they aren't. The constant bombardment of messages reminds you you're inferior, you can't provide as well for yourself or your family as others because whatever you do is always making do.

That day I was powerless and couldn't wait to get out the door.

I don't go into stores any more. I haven't been to Target since before Christmas (where I did most of my Christmas shopping), haven't seen the inside of a Wal-mart since last summer and that trip to Kohl's was the last time I went into a clothing store of my own freewill. These are places where I'm not welcome any more.

Last night was the first time I remember feeling that way at a grocery store. At least, it was the first time in a good, long while.

I'm just an average guy. My wife and I both have okay jobs and health insurance. On paper, we're part of either the upper lower class or the lower middle class -at least for the area. I have no idea how people one rung down are making it.

I'm starting to think we're all fucked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of your better posts!