The terrifying truth was staring me in the face… the time had come to face it…I WAS A SHOPAHOLIC!!!
But before we go into all that…let me first explain to you the circumstances that made me a shopaholic. Life isn’t easy for us women and particularly for army wives. We need many different kinds of clothes. Let’s see..let me begin with sarees…there are the dressy, understated ones worn for formal army parties, the chiffons worn to Ladies Meets, the smart cottons worn for Welfare Meets...and I’m only talking sarees here. Then there are the suits. ...the kurta with churidar/palazzo/salwar type suits.These are further divided into categories- the smart casual summer ones, the winter silks and the blingy festive ones. We also have the casual suits worn for your teaching job, or while watching an inter regimental match or for informal parties. Also the formal trousers and shirts to be worn if you are working in the corporate world and the T-shirts, jeans and capris for everyday wear. There is also a miscellaneous category of clothes which are required when there is a party with a theme…like a Hawaiian theme or Retro theme. There is also one more category-‘the hep but not to be worn in an army environment category.’
What makes life even more difficult is that with the social media having taken over our lives we simply cannot repeat clothes. You don’t want to wear an outfit and have FB throwing up a memory of you in the same outfit four years ago! Oh, the pressure of being a well dressed woman!
Had I been living in one place like Delhi all my life I probably would have had a cupboard with neatly arranged, countable clothes, secure in the knowledge that should I require any particular outfit in an emergency, I could always run down to the mall and pick it up. But when you are posted to places where you have no idea what will be available, you have to go armed with whatever you might possibly need. You never know when you will be visiting the big city again.
Another very important reason for my having become a shopaholic is that I believe that everywhere you go, you should imbibe the local flavor of the place. I mean, I can’t stay in Kota for two years and not have a Kota saree, or Ahmednagar and not have a Maharashtrian saree, or Nagaland and not have a Naga shawl, or Wellington and not have Toda jewellery. It just doesn’t seem right.
Besides, Army wives have a knack of finding out exactly what a place offers and the best shop to buy it. They often know more than the locals. This knowledge is then diligently passed on to others while leaving a station…a kind of PCK(previous course knowledge) of shopping.
When I was newly married I was not an impulsive buyer. If I liked something at a store, I would mull over it for a long time, then if I decided wanted it, I would go and buy it. If it was sold out I would simply tell myself it wasn’t meant for me. I’m not sure when I transformed in to this cant-sleep-at-night-till-I-buy-it type of a monster. So to avoid losing out on my precious sleep I simply buy the item and mull over it later. If I don’t like it I either exchange it for something else or gift it to someone. Of course, I do suffer from Shopper’s Remorse quite often. The good part is that it usually doesn’t last more than twenty-four hours.
Life was so simple earlier. I would ask my husband before a party, ‘What should I wear?’ and he would say something like, ‘Why don’t you wear that pink suit that you wore to such and such place? That looks good on you.’
Now the conversation goes like this, ‘What should I wear?’
Husband: ‘How would I know? You have so many clothes I can’t keep a track of what you have and don't have.’
Well, considering I don’t know myself I guess I can’t really hold it against him!
Sometimes while we are on our way out of the front door he tactfully says, ‘You may want to remove the price tag before we step out.'
Oh, let me just pause here to ask a very relevant question. Is it just me or are there other people too who keep the tags on of the clothes they buy till they use them? My logic is that I may want to gift something to someone. You know those emergency situations when someone invites you for a birthday and you just don't have time to go to the mall and pick up a gift? I can’t possibly gift something without a tag, can I? So I think it’s pretty reasonable to keep the tags on. My husband once happened to look into my cupboard and see all the clothes with tags. After seeing his horrified expression I make it a point to take my keys with me everywhere. Men just don't get it.
There was a time when I could go into the history of every item of clothing in my cupboard-right from when I had first seen it to how much it cost, when I decided to buy it and how many times I had worn it. Now I have all these strange clothes looking back at me from the cupboard while I wonder when, where…and sometimes…why I bought them.
To get back to my story...I had flicked on the telly for my 9 o’clock date with Romedy NOW. This was my usual practice as hubby was posted to a place where I could not join him. So my everyday routine was to hit the gym at 6 30, dinner by seven thirty, a bit of the news till nine (to appear intelligent in social circles) and then to finally settle down with my cuppa green tea and a box of tissues to watch a mushy romantic movie. The green tea with the eternal hope of losing that extra weight and the box of tissues for a good cry. After all, what good is a movie if you can’t unabashedly bawl your eyes out.
The movie being featured that day was, ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’. I was probably not more than ten minutes into the movie when I had this earth shaking realisation that the movie was about me! Someone had made a movie on me! That girl in the movie was me! I was watching my life on a television screen!
I dazedly watched as she opened her cupboards, crammed to the top with clothes. I saw clothes that still had their price tags. I saw drawers full of shoes, many still waiting to make their debut in the world of parties and nightlife. I saw her guiltily stuff clothes into vacuum bags and store them into lofts just to feel a little less guilty. After all, out of sight is out of mind, right?
I watched in horror as the protagonist looked at an item of clothing in puzzlement and said, ‘I wonder when I bought this?’ It was like a replay of when I looked in my cupboard for a white shirt and found at least ten white shirts with no recollection of when I had bought any of them!
I have just given away bags and bags of clothes that I have not worn but had kept in the hope that I would one day lose enough weight to fit into them or there would be an occasion when I might require some of those clothes- you know - like a cruise or a beach holiday. It's so difficult to get the right clothes at the last moment. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, my cupboard still seems to be full! And yet, I never seem to have a thing to wear!
Somehow despite having given away pairs and pairs of shoes, my shoe drawer is crammed. It is very hard for me to give away shoes. One of the nicknames that I have been given by my husband is 'Shoepriya’. No matter where I go...I end up with at least two pairs of shoes. My husband and I had gone to Europe and I bought six delicious looking pairs of boots. But since our luggage was already overweight, we decided to get rid of the unimportant stuff...mostly hubby’s clothes...his night suit, T-shirts etc. I am happy to say that I managed to get all the boots back with me.
With ever increasing horror I heard the protagonist describe how she felt when she shopped. Those were my exact words! How do I even begin to describe that mood of anticipation that fills me when I walk into a mall. The aroma of coffee wafting from the bustling coffee shops, the perfume smells, the glittering array of shoes, the mannequins in their beautiful clothes beaming down from the show windows, that feeling when you see something and know that it was meant for you and is just waiting for you to claim it. My steps take on a new purpose. I feel like I am about to enter a battle arena. I take a deep breath and plunge in, headfirst, only to emerge, hours later, exhausted but triumphant, armed with my trophies….err… shopping bags.
After the movie was over I sat myself down,wagged a finger and sternly said that this had to stop. The movie was a sign from above. I had to mend my ways. This could not go on. I had to come up with a plan of action.
I decided that my first step would be to give away anything I had not worn for a year (later modified to two years). My second step was to stop shopping except for essentials (this was the hard part…do linen shirts come in the category of essentials?) and to wear what was already in my cupboard. The third step of my strategy was not to carry my debit card with me. (Didn’t work too well when I stopped to buy groceries and realised I couldn’t pay). My fourth step was to simply avoid going to malls and marketplaces. What I can’t see can’t tempt me, right?
Sometimes I have no choice but to walk past a store that has beautiful outfits swaying and curtseying to me and begging me to give them a good home. I take a deep breath, steel myself and walk past. However, I haven’t had the courage to enter a mall yet.
So I am happy to say that I have been successful so far and the rehabilitation is going well. I am a happier…healthier recovering shopaholic. At any rate my bank account is fuller! It has been all of nine days and ten hours and I haven’t bought a thing…err…well almost nothing. I have to confess that I did buy a couple of nail paints, but those count as essentials, right?