Avoiding Capitalism 101

Every now and then, I sit around the house like a sloth and read mail-order catalogs. It’s really great. At this point, I have mostly bowed out of popular culture and its sexy second-cousin, advertising. I live far from billboards, have no TV, only listen to public or community radio, get bored with magazines, and long ago put an ad-blocker on my computer. This is not out of high-mindedness, particularly, just a sincere distaste at being told what to do. I also need a lot of empty space in my head so poems can germinate there.

But every now and then, as a person might need to binge on horrible junk food like Twinkies or Velveeta, my mind craves a break from the real world. Sometimes it’s Swedish mysteries, which I can pretend are part of my writing research, and sometimes it’s catalogs, which I can’t. They are where you find out — even for size 3x — that saffron is everywhere in women’s clothing this fall and owls are still trending in home décor. Saffron sweaters, saffron skinny jeans, saffron lingerie. There are owl vases, owl lamps, owls looking up at you from plates, platters, and bowls…there are even owl towels, God save us from the rhyme.

Owls and foxes arrived together on the retail horizon, but I think foxes have not had the same shelf-life. I could be wrong — boy, could I be wrong — but this is my deduction after perusing Viva Terra and Uncommon Goods, West Elm, Anthropologie, plus Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Ulla Popken, Pottery Barn, Gudrun Sjøden, Vermont Country Store, The Company Store, and J. Jill.

I am not, as I say too often, a wealthy woman. But my upper-middle class background and an impulsive dad with champagne taste taught me awful habits. It’s taken me years to learn not to buy what I don’t need. But I still like to sit on the sofa every autumn, surrounded by glossy paper that promises endless happiness and acceptance by my peers. With a felt-tip pen I circle everything it would be fun to own or give to friends. I dog-ear pages. I throw out all my furniture, in my mind, repaint the walls, and start anew. I take a lot of time choosing colors and admire the snazzy backgrounds: rooms full of good lighting with no Kleenex boxes in sight.

I don’t keep this a secret, particularly, but I don’t think I’ve done it in front of other people, either. It seems more a seasonal pleasure, like eggnog, than a true addiction. It made me very happy, a few years back, before I broke up with him, to discover my favorite ex-boyfriend’s mother did exactly the same thing. We both filled out the order forms and added up the totals, too, plus tax and shipping. On our separate sofas, it turned out we were each spending thousands. It was pretty funny.

And, like-minded to the end, after a few hours we got up, mysteriously satisfied, and dumped the entire armload of imagining into the recycling bin.

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  • Mickey M. October 21, 2017 at 11:08 am

    So. No ebay browsing? No, I do not need another bracelet, pair of earrings, necklace, angel pin, and definitely no more rings. I have slowed down; just $7 for 5 pieces twice in the last 30 days. That’s pretty good for me. And what about the buy one get one free sales? My senses got overwhelmed at Sprouts last month and my grocery bill went over $200 for that trip! But I now have two bottles of expensive (to me) organic olive oil, one of which I have been attempting to gift to a friend. Sigh. What a world.

  • Julia October 21, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I have stopped most catalogs but there are a few we get–mostly I like clothes ones, JJill, Chico’s, Talbot’s, Coldwater Creek, and LLBean. And mostly I dog ear pages and then go back and figure out why I don’t need each thing. If something keeps popping up on my dog ears, maybe after a number of months I will order it, maybe not, partly depending on sales and free shipping.. If I wind up sending it back, at least I’ve gotten that fantasy resolved.