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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Consumerism And The Dreams Of Christmas

Here's a piece that I wrote a few years ago about one of the things that I don't like about Christmas.

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The mere mention of Christmas brings out the worst of the rabid consumer in us. Sales, price markdowns, clearance, early-bird specials, late-night hours, stocking- stuffers, no payments until the first of the year, blah blah blah blah fuck it.

Having worked three Christmas seasons at the mall in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I maintain a constant fear and loathing for the holiday shopper. Not so much fear, but more of an elevated sense of danger whenever they are within my field of vision. You don't have to work at a specific shop to know a hardcore Christmas-sale maniac when you see one. At first, you may have an odd sense of wonderment and awe seeing them in action. Coupons at the ready, tattered sales circular in their sweaty palms, bits of crackers and assorted Christmas treat crumbs clinging to whatever Cosby sweater that they have had since last year. These folks are much more than meets the untrained eye.

At first, they seem congenial and perhaps a little too enamoured with the whole 'spirit' of the holidays. Occasionally seen prancing around with smiling faces while sifting through the latest line of sweat-shop assembled fleece pull-overs at Old Navy, these people are not to be trifled with at all.

I've seen grandmothers and church deacons enflamed to near blasphemous rages when they aren't able to find the newest Britney Spears CD or tacky dress from Hot Topic that says 'doesn't play well with others'. I've seen women literally push disabled people through the doors of Best Buy just so they can be number 12 in line at the check-out counter simply because they need to get to Cracker Barrel before 11am and have fresh spiced apples and fried okra to keep their stamina going. And you'll see a lot more than that.

However, the advent of online shopping has reduced a great deal of the 'need' to shop at malls. But, for some reason, these people are insane enough to do it year after year. Knowing that children and grandchildren will be a crying, snotty-nosed mess even before they get to Bed Bath and Beyond. My question is, why do they still do it?

The answer, though hard to process, is quite simple. It's a sport to them. The suburbanite Olympics. This inherent need, this desire to compete against the neighbors on the other end of the cul-de-sac. It's bragging rights for the next 12 months when you were there, on the front lines, credit card at the ready, and you managed to score the very last boxed set of Sex In The City. Even more so when you can tell your aunt that you actually ripped that very copy from the clutches of a slightly over-weight woman with a bad perm and a sweat-shirt that said 'shop till you drop' on the front; her sagging breasts tugging at the O's in 'shop' and 'drop' making them protrude in a way that makes your husband stare in horror.

These people train all year, in silence, for this one day of coffee fueled consumer excess that is commonly known as Black Friday.

Christmas club accounts are drained in late October in preparation. Family pets begin to whimper when mom watches TV and sees an advertisement for Macy's and she leaps to her feet, screaming in delight. Baby's cry. Husbands, daughters, and sons fear sitting at the same table during dinner. It's that one time of the year when, in an adrenaline fueled orgy of spending, a woman would gladly tear another person's arms off and drink the blood that flows from the tattered stumps if she heard the words 'sold out'.

Not to sound sexist, but it is, in fact, a woman's competition. Just walk around any mall, in any city, on any day between the Friday after Thanksgiving until two days before Christmas, and you'll see more men carrying purses than you would at a drag-show. It's as if there was an alternate universe inside shopping centers that triggered a reversal of sexual and cultural norms. Men who prided themselves on their masculinity are brow-beaten by their spouses. It's truly a sight to behold. There is only one place of solice for these men in a situation such as this:

The restrooms.

It's not an uncommon sight to see the most obnoxious of the male species looking into the mirror in one of these public restrooms, convincing himself to just hold out for two more hours. Then maybe, just maybe, he can go home. And, if that doesn't work, they'll bide their time and wait until their respective spouses track them down. They will gladly take a verbal lashing rather than have to tolerate their wife's bickering while being shoved and pulled through the crowd at Ambercrombie and Fitch.

It's not all bad though, depending on your particular point-of-view.

For me, shopping online is the way to go. The only reason I go to the mall this time of year is to see these people in action. Mass consumption can take its toll on people and create monsters of many. I've never understood it, but always been fascinated with it. My only hope is, that as I grow older, I won't feel the desire to compete with them. And, I don't see that happening.

Shopping at home in your pajamas while sipping on a rum-and-coke is definitely preferable to swimming through a mass of sweaty bodies that continuously hover around the food-court while trying to buy that one last item.

And hearing N'Sync's version of Holy Jolly Christmas blaring 6 times an hours isn't exactly soothing either

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Xmas is an absolutely tremendous time for the worshippers of mammon to hold their jubilees.

This is not about the mythical son of god, this is pure and simple worship of all that he supposedly condemned.

There are a few christians, but there are a lot more followers of satan as they celebrate.

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