The ‘rush’ of holiday shopping. Do we consume to fill the holes in our souls?

November 29, 2010


Buying makes me feel good!

I had a lot of alone time this Thanksgiving, as my girls went to Kansas City to see their cousins. I stayed back to spend the holiday with my dad’s side of the family. My grandfather is 97 and the Postaer men thought it proper to spend Thanksgiving with him. Come Friday, however, my father and brothers went to their respective homes on opposite coasts. That left me by myself, which was both nice and weird.

Being an introvert I’m already prone to introspection. Even in crowds, I hang out in my head. Needless to say, I was there a lot this long holiday weekend. Here’s the weird part: I kept on being nagged by this desire to buy stuff. Maybe it was all the holiday advertising beseeching me to get going on my Christmas shopping. But I actually think it runs deeper than that. I’d like to think I’m inured to the siren songs of the season, no matter how bright, brassy and loud they may be. After all, I am in the advertising business.

But I also have an addictive personality. It’s like there’s a hole in my person that demands being filled. Under it’s sway, I easily become restless, irritable and discontent. Back in the day I looked to fill the void in unhealthy ways. No more. These days I channel my obsessions with healthier activities like writing, reading and working out. But somewhere in between good for you and not good for you is the craving to buy things.

We like to joke about this craving for material possessions, calling hopeless cases “shopoholics.” Madonna sang about being a Material Girl. We laugh along with the powerless protagonist in Confessions of a Shopoholic. However, in the extreme this obsession can be just as troubling as any addiction.

Like a lot of men, I hate shopping. Still, I get urges. That new Macbook Air whispers to me. Normally, impervious to the lure of gadgets, my defenses weaken in the shiny, silver glare of Apple. Once the fever hits, I can also find myself dog-earing GQ magazine at this pair of boots or that sweater. I love watches, too. Cartier. Every year I covet their new watches, as if a gold and steel Chronograph will make me happy. Like I said, I hate shopping. But the Internet makes it so damn easy.

Understandably, advertisers would love nothing more than for all of us to succumb to these urges, to fill the holes in our souls with stuff and more stuff. Especially during the Holidays. Go nuts in December. Pay for it in January.

The last couple years the recession has tempered our consumerism. Retailers hope and pray not this year. They pray to pagan gods. Gluttony is not a sin when you’re doing it for others, right? Still, I wonder: Is there’s more to the name “Black Friday” than ledger sheets?

3 Responses to “The ‘rush’ of holiday shopping. Do we consume to fill the holes in our souls?”

  1. Madison said

    like with sex (or any other activity for the matter), shopping has to have a built-in pleasure benefit in order to convince us to engage in a behavior that on some level is probably considered essential for survival.

    Those who hoarded some shiny stuff in the prehistoric caves were probably more likely to be popular with the opposite sex.

    Those who lavished their offspring with gifts could hope for some reciprocal or support late in life (but without extra guilt inducing nagging esp. on the part of aging mothers)

  2. Tom Fath said

    Retailers make it hard for you not to buy. The day beforeThanksgiving I got a $75 gift card from a men’s clothing company and if I used it before Saturday there would be no shipping charge. I got a nice sweatshirt which I can wear on the weekends for a total price of $50. I can’t wait to get it and put it in the closet

  3. Madison said

    Tom,
    Knowing that you have not let a good bargain pass conforms to your self-image as a smart person… and that’s a warm feeling rivaling any sweater…

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