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Do you love like you shop?

July 23, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – One night in the city, with bottle of cold beer in hand, the theory hits me harder than 10 shots of tequila. People shop like they love.

Both my shopping and romantic history flashed before my eyes. I am test subject #1.

I shop with wild abandon. When I really like something, I will buy it in all colors—which is probably how I ended up with over a hundred pairs of Havaianas.

There’s no such thing as too crazy. Glued to my computer and spending hours on eBay, making three train changes in a strange city, getting angry shopping bag marks on my arm and blisters on my feet, translating e-mails into Japanese so I could convince an online seller in Tokyo to bring my purchase to my hotel, waiting for a box from Hungary and keeping my fingers crossed that greedy customs officials wouldn’t tax my fashion finds unreasonably—those are just among the things I’ve done for shopping.

How far have I gone for love? Even further.

When I like something, I like it to the point of obsession. I can’t say I haven’t been the same way with people, too. I’ve made impulse purchases I ended up regretting, and I’ve jumped into relationships I ended up regretting, too. I have shopped recklessly—and, yes, I have loved recklessly.

I’m just thankful that when it comes to love, the no return-no exchange policy does not apply. Not all purchases are final.

Careful shopper

Hershey is test subject #2.

She is a careful shopper. She will walk into a store, find something she likes, really likes, pick it up and even try it on, but she will always hesitate to buy it. Most of the time, she walks away without buying anything.

She just doesn’t commit easily—whether in shopping or love.

She goes out on a date (which, essentially, is “trying people on”) but she usually balks at making a commitment.

But when she finally decides on something, whether it’s the kick-ass new Nikes or a brand new relationship, she’s there 100-percent, ready for the long haul.

Preston is test subject #3.

He used his most recent object of desire as example—the MacBook Pro—and a chef he likes. “I remember, when I was about to buy my MacBook, I kept logging on to the Apple site. I couldn’t even work. I just kept reading stuff about it. It was the same thing with the chef, I kept looking him up online, trying to get to know him more. I’d do that even in the office.”

In shopping and love, he can be persistent.

“When I like something, I will keep going back to the store until I have enough money to buy it. I’ve been the same way with the chef. I keep going back to him because I keep thinking that I’ll find it hard to find someone like him again.”

Sadly, while he was able to get his hands on the MacBook Pro, his attempts to snag the chef have been futile.

Expensive taste

Reese doesn’t know it but she’s test subject #4.

She has expensive taste—clothes, bags, shoes and men. Brands and labels are a big thing for her, and similarly, the men she dates need to look good on paper.

Never mind that she’s made a fool of herself teetering on expensive but painful high heels, never mind that she’s made a fool of herself chasing men.

Lucy, test subject #5, is the perennial window shopper. She looks and looks but never buys anything. She is the same with men—she doesn’t go beyond checking them out.

A lot of guys have a simple formula for shopping—they go inside the store, then out in a blink. Unfortunately for girls, a lot of guys have the same formula for relationships—they’re in, then they’re out.

I recently picked up the book “I Want That!: How We All Became Shoppers” by Thomas Hine. It traces the history and psychology of shopping and people.

I tried substituting the word “love” for the word “shop” while reading his book and was fascinated to see that the paragraphs still made perfect sense. “Love, I have found, is a subject that makes people nervous... Love is at once an exploration of desires and a fulfillment of responsibility... It can be burdensome or joyous. Loving tells us things about ourselves that we might prefer not to know.”

Not to say that shopping is a substitute for love and vice versa, no. Both are essential human experiences.

Sometimes, a trip to the mall isn’t just a trip to the mall. It’s a journey into your own psyche.

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