Emily and I went to the mall this past Memorial Day weekend. The usual hordes of shoppers occupied the walkways and shops. I decided to bring a book with me to pass time while Emily shopped. I sat on a bench and in between reading chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand I looked out at the crowd and felt a bit somber. Society has turned us into mindless hoarders and consumers, I thought.
Who can blame us, though? The Internet enables us to see ads of the newest gadgets and the latest fashion 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Holidays have turned into sales opportunities: what better way to remember our fallen soldiers than with a 40% discount at Nordstrom? Facebook and Twitter feeds have been overtaken with businesses pitching their products. Even individuals themselves are becoming advertisements, hence the birth of the fashion blogger. We have become the all-consuming, all-accumulating culture of retail.
I couldn’t help but wonder if any of this mattered. A man down the hall dropped $10,000 on a Rolex even though he could simply check the time with his phone. A woman across the way spent $1,000 on a Louis Vuitton wallet- yes, we spend money to be able to hold our money. I can’t judge- it’s their money- but still, am I alone in finding this level of vanity to be excessive?
Eventually, I was inside the aforementioned Nordstrom, walking around with an 800-page book in my hand. People were sifting through the racks of clothes, others stood in line for the fitting rooms, and employees were busy ringing customers up. An older man stood by the TV and watched sports highlights, waiting for his wife to finish looking at shoes. Emily was on the other side of the floor looking at makeup, and I contemplated the futility of everything.
Then I spotted a nice shirt, waited for a fitting room, liked what I saw, and promptly dropped $60 for it. Let the self-loathing begin.