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Retail Therapy


If it is true that there are different strokes for different folks, then we recover in various ways or forms of "therapies."

Scientific: psychologist, pills, exercise. Ordinary: talking with friends in between hating yourself and someone else. Extraordinary: extreme situations call for extreme measures. For those who can afford: shopping--"that most terrifying of ills."

Situation. A young bright businesswoman, successful as anyone can be at her age, finds that there is one thing she cannot manage: the pain of a failed relationship. The only relationship she has had in eight years, the only one she thought she will have in her lifetime. Boyfriend's crisis (broken relationships in the family, ordinary job for a passionate man, alcohol, girls all around him, etc.): "It's not you, it's me." How to cope? Trips to Hong Kong and Bangkok, a Louis Vuitton bag, parties till morning, buying gifts for friends she has not seen in a long while, a new phone, a new watch (to replace what he gave), a brand-new life (to replace what he stole). Money can't buy you love but it sure can buy you everything else.

We do what we can. To pass the time, to forget, to heal, but mostly to pass the time. The idea itself is not merely to acquire but to "treat yourself." Food is rather easy; and women do not like to get fat. Drinking is easier; but there's the hangover tomorrow. But shopping, Oh!--one can never have too many pairs of shoes or too many shirts.

Essence. "I'm hurt. What's wrong with me? Do I look ugly? Have I forgotten how to take care of myself in that foolish attempt to take care of my lover? Did I exhaust my resources (material and emotional) on him, leaving me with nothing, not even pride--the most expensive (because infinite) resource of all? Well then, I have to look better (e.g., new wardrobe--no more flip flops; makeover, breast implants, etc.) Implied essence. So that when he sees me he'll know what he gave up.

Shopping is modern capitalism's Valium. It takes the pain away quickly and you become addicted to it. Emphasis on the first phrase. After all, I'd rather be addicted to medicine than to pain.

What is the relationship between the material (gain) and the spiritual (loss)? Material: can be seen and can be touched, therefore real--as real as my new SUV. Spiritual: something ideal, that is, something in my mind--memory?--as I am always reminded of him because the world is always too small for lovers that separate, e.g., the diner in which we always had breakfast, our favorite bookstore, our acquaintances, etc. Difference: the material is real and the spiritual is ideal. So again, what's the link between the two? In other words, how then can something real heal what is a (broken) ideal--isn't love merely ideal? We can say a lot of reasons, e.g., "out of sight, out of mind," forgetting, substitution, dis-association, etc. But that still does not answer the question but only makes it more profound. Heck, Descartes also did not answer it. I have no clear and distinct idea of it.

Possible theories:
  • To distract my mind. Denial.
  • Escape into the glittering world of the flesh out from the darkness of the soul.
  • Pleasure, pleasure, pleasure to hide the pain, pain, pain.
  • Jealousy and revenge: since you are able to care for your self and your sake, watch me do better.
  • Richness to compensate poverty.
  • Cathexis. Transference of passion and attention to another visible object, i.e, my self.
  • Purgation and renewal: burn all memories and start (buying) new ones.
  • Search for identity which begins with accumulation of external qualifiers that would distinguish me from all the rest.
  • Because the worst thing I can do is to show people how miserable I am since he left me. "Pinabayaan ang sarili," or "She lost it. It was just too much." Look, I have a new haircut! Isn't it beautiful?
  • Self-mutilation: since I do not have the courage to kill myself, might as well kill myself in other ways (bankruptcy, binge-eating, recklessness, etc.)
  • It is not about finding an outlet but finding an inlet for my impoverished and famished heart.
  • Creation of new memories.
  • So I can kid myself that I have moved on.
  • Insecurity.
  • Self-hate.
Curiously, when I went through that same kind of hell, I never bought a thing nor could I enter a bookstore or a mall. Depression is a good time to save.

But when I am happy, I spend all I have on my loved ones. In times of happiness I suffer an economic depression.

When I am somewhere in between, that invisible median point, I spend every penny on myself. As if I was stockpiling riches for both happier and desolate times to come.



  1. yeah, "depession is a good time to save." (= sometimes, it's even the best time to save; that is, if you put all your energy to your job (;

  2. true. because the world and its glittering products and its inviting menus do not strike anyone going through the mood of depression. I made a lot of money on this. Maybe we can make it a business or something, huh?

  3. haha! i'll be a filthy rich woman then... depression is, i guess, a part of my melancholic temperament... that's why i resort to religion once in a while to keep my sanity intact. hehe (; on second thought, Christianity has become more than a mere religion for me; for religion may sow fear in its adherents. Christianity has become more of a way of life, and i'm so proud to be a modern Christian (=


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