Offbeat 05 September 2014
The term ‘retail therapy’ is probably just a euphemism for self-gratification by spending money. But ultimately it is nor relaxing. The final truth, the ugly reality can be found stressing in the cashier’s queue. Queues never move fast enough, and there is always the possibility that there will be an encounter with someone chewing gum with an open mouth ahead.
I have been to Nirvana. It costs major amounts of money, and the woman behind the counter chews gum and shakes her booty in time to ersatz hits, canned by mediocre artists, and piped through tinny speakers in an attempt to pacify me, and make me happy enough to spend money without giving it a second thought.
The woman behind the counter, the one who chews gum with her mouth open, looks at me with challenge in her eyes. She dares me to challenge the counter-cultural cool, the juvenile rebellion that prompts her to chew the minty flavoured cud.
I remember the humiliation that teachers inflicted on me the few times I experimented with gum. “Take it out of your mouth. Put it in my hand.”
There was something awful about that, having to put a spitty piece of yuck into the hands of another. As I look at the woman, my eyes water and I have to suppress a sneer. A curling lip might be construed as racism, not the personal contempt that I feel. Siesa, spoeg uit? I can’t bring myself to accept the juvenile cashier’s saliva saturated leavings, to order her to put it in my hand then chuck it in the rubbish. I wish I had a tissue though.
I buy my own daughter gum because kids have to do what kids have to do, but I tell her not to do it in public, and never with her mouth open. I hope she gets over it soon. I don’t want her to be absorbed into the uncouth Nirvana.
Nirvana is a place where the individualism of chewing artificially flavoured resin is accepted with some kind of misguided benevolence. Nirvana is a bit of a nightmare. I wonder what it is like in Singapore, where the sale and distribution of gum is prohibited. What is the name for the place which is one step better than Nirvana?
I hate shopping. And the idea of retail therapy was probably devised by some real life counterpart of Hannibal Lecter.
Shopping has become something competitive. The ability to buy more, buy for less, and buy better, over and above your fellow man, or woman, has become a prized ability. And it’s not just status goods either. Things like food bargains bring a wicked gleam to the eye of a competitive shopper. The ability to tell where a bargain is being offered, is not just an act of kindliness: it becomes gleeful one-upmanship.
The status of the store counts as well. Choice of a shop with good décor seems to be worth a mention, a way to establish class by association. A higher price, on an item which could be obtained cheaper, elsewhere, also seems to be a mark of distinction as well. And in this flighty world of trends and fashions, newness seems to be important: quality doesn’t seem to count for much.
Is it really therapy? Not really. The term ‘retail therapy’ is probably just a euphemism for self-gratification by spending money. But ultimately it is nor relaxing. The final truth, the ugly reality can be found stressing in the cashier’s queue. Queues never move fast enough, and there is always the possibility that there will be an encounter with someone chewing gum with an open mouth ahead.
And the longer the queue takes the more chance there is of stressing about the existential angst and the wince that lie ahead when the gum-munching horror tells you the total and asks you for your card.
What’s the point of therapy, or self gratification, which creates stress
I need to re-evaluate myself. I have fallen prey to this kind of thinking as well. I have justified my purchases to others, sometimes, a sign that I am buying to impress, not buying entirely on the basis of needing some kind of sustenance, be it physical or aesthetic or mental.
By being absorbed into this aspect of Nirvana, I become a cog in the machine that also benevolently and unblinkingly accepts the nauseating ‘cool’ of cashiers who chew gum with open mouths, and find more interest in shaking their booties than getting the transaction completed.
I can’t entirely expect to escape component status in the Nirvana machine, but I would be happier if the queues moved faster and didn’t end with chewing gum.