December 16, 2017

"At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night."

"I couldn’t settle down to read or write, and in my anxiety I found myself mindlessly scrolling through two particular shopping websites, numbing my fears with pictures of shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry. I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is 'What do I need?' What I needed was less."

From "My Year of No Shopping" by Ann Patchett, who gave up shopping for a year and lived to tell the tale (in the NYT). She didn't give up food shopping — or anything-in-the-grocery-store shopping — or shopping for anything she had but ran out of — like shampoo, batteries, and toner cartridges. And she didn't give up buying books, because... books!

I once did something like this, but it wasn't out of some politically motivated desire for psychological renewal. It was the challenge of sending 2 sons through college. My incantation was: Don't buy anything. I found that surprisingly easy to follow. When you reach a certain age, you probably don't need anything (putting aside the things you regularly consume, like food, toiletries, and cleaning supplies). Most of what you're buying is just things you're taking the trouble to think about wanting. You go into a clothing store and look around to find something to want or to feel that you need.

I like that Patchett's last paragraph calls attention to something particularly stupid about what's on the racks in the stores this year: Clothes with the shoulders cut out. It really is best not to go to the insane mental place where you feel you want that. Just project yourself forward into next year when, it's easy to see, you'll think you were crazy to have believed that was even wearable.

70 comments:

Roger Sweeny said...

The last two paragraphs were so good I read them aloud to my wife--who has no desire to buy no shoulder clothes.

Dave Begley said...

If one is buying things, be sure to use the Althouse Amazon portal.

Michael K said...

I think this is a female thing.

I have clothes and shoes that I have owned for 25 years. Maybe 35.

Fortunately, my wife returns about half of what she buys. I would go nuts if I was in the business of women's clothing.

tim in vermont said...

I just don't see Trump as "unfeeling." These are the same people who mocked him for going to Pennsylvania for a rally instead of the Correspondents' Dinner. Talk about fixating on the mote in another's eye while ignoring the beam in your own.

tim in vermont said...

Trump doesn't need those dinners to feel like somebody. These people can't award or withhold validation from him, and it fucking drives them crazy. I love it, myself. But I am not a member of the elite.

Leland said...

I'll try not shopping. I'll start with not purchasing products advertised in the NYT. Thanks for the tip, NYT!

tcrosse said...

My wife always asks what that crotchless shoulder thing is about. She's asking the wrong guy.

Paco Wové said...

"I think this is a female thing."

My spouse tells me that, compared to reasonably-priced mens' clothes, reasonably-priced womens' clothes are crap; shoddy material, bad design, poor workmanship. The items fall apart or discolor after a few washes. Therefore the need for replacement. Conversely, I've got shirts that are 20+ years old and still in good repair.

Fashions in womens' clothes seem to vary quite rapidly, relative to mens' clothes*. Maybe producers of same figure it's not worth making something durable when it will be out of fashion in a year.

--
*Or maybe I've been out of fashion for 20+ years and never noticed.

Ann Althouse said...

"If one is buying things, be sure to use the Althouse Amazon portal."

Yes, like your cleaning supplies, toiletries, and food. There's plenty of that there. That's where I buy those things. I think it's incredibly boring to shop for things like toothpaste and toilet paper. It's much faster to use Amazon, and I have Amazon Prime, so I don't pay for shipping. I almost never go to a place like Target or Walgreens to get supplies like that.

The recreational shopping is for clothes, gadgets, kitchenware, furniture, and things to read or watch. If you're in a "Don't buy anything" period, you can still do that sort of browsing, if that's how you like to while away time and get a little exercise and change of scenery. Just say to yourself, on entering the place and at any point of urgency: Don't buy anything.

Amexpat said...

It'll be much easier in the future. Because in the future everyone will be wearing the same uniform. Just watch any TV or film that's set in the far away future.

Amadeus 48 said...

After Romney lost, I distracted myself for three months listening to classical music. Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 with Dawn Upshaw conducted by David Zinman, is fantastic and suited my mood.

Quayle said...

james james said...

There is a woman at the bar who has an impressive wardrobe. She is the one who was touched on the shoulder, the arm, the thigh, if you are attempting to keep all of this straight. She is also the one with the ample cleavage; maybe that is the part you remember.

But wardrobe: a nice array of stylish clothing, well-fitted, shoes from serious to fun to flirty. The flirty shoes get the attention of the guy with the foot fetish. They are nice feet, as far as I can tell; I usually only take much notice of women's feet if there is something distracting about them. For instance, the exposed foot in the heels of a transsexual certainly looks different than what I would reasonably expect. As an example. I am sure the guy with the foot fetish notices this right away.

The woman with the nice wardrobe: she cares about her appearance. Sometimes this fact alone makes her stand out in the bar. Her clothing is not ostentatious -- it is not about money: she shops for bargains from the better stores on occasion, but it is a wardrobe that many could afford.

Of course, many who could afford such clothing are more likely to spend the money on other items. Sometimes those other items include drugs. As is true of most everything: priorities.

- james james

buwaya said...

Retail sales are doing quite well.
It will be a good Christmas for retail.

And especially for Jeff Bezos.

This lady is not quite living in the trend.

Globally things are looking quite good.
The biggest global economic risk is US political instability.

William Chadwick said...

I have already added cut-out shoulders to my mental list of Stupid Clothing Fads, joining backwards baseball caps, shorts in Winter, wool caps in summer, and those jeans with the pre-fab ragged knee holes

David Begley said...

Did she stop buying the failing New York Times?

Michael K said...

US political instability is manufactured just as those clothes are.

Pat Buchanan has noticed the difference between Nixon and Trump.

Nixon was hated by the communists and their sympathizers, including many who were just fellow travelers.

Trump is hated by the same people plus the Deep Staters who have appropriated government sinecures for themselves.

Nixon let himself be forced from office by a cabal led by the FBI.

There are other reasons to believe Trump may survive the deep state-media conspiracy to break his presidency, overturn his mandate, and reinstate a discredited establishment.

Trump has Fox News and fighting congressmen behind him and the mainstream media is deeply distrusted and widely detested. And there is no Democratic House to impeach him or Democratic Senate to convict him.

Moreover, Trump is not Nixon, who, like Charles I, accepted his fate and let the executioner's sword fall with dignity.

If Trump goes, one imagines, he will not go quietly.

In the words of the great Jerry Lee Lewis, there's gonna be a "whole lotta shakin' goin' on."


Burn the whole place down.

Mac McConnell said...

William Chadwick
You forgot shinny jeans and yoga pants above size six.

tcrosse said...

The chic cut-out shoulder allows Madame to reveal her gang tattoos.

Angel-Dyne said...

Paco: Fashions in womens' clothes seem to vary quite rapidly, relative to mens' clothes*. Maybe producers of same figure it's not worth making something durable when it will be out of fashion in a year.

That's true, but it was true 20,30, 40+ years ago, too, and women's clothing was of markedly better quality back then. I'm embarrassed for my sex when I look at the garbage women are willing to spend money on.

I rarely buy new clothes, and wear clothes that are decades old, but that's not because I wouldn't like new things or can't afford them. And it's not the stupid styles (there are always stupid styles), it's the sheer depressing junkiness of the fabric and the workmanship. Clothing quality is like the class system - the middle- and high-middle has been hollowed out. And I'm not even sure there's an "upper" in women's ready-to-wear anymore.

With clothes, I'm in the position of "and though we had plenty of money, there was nothing that money could buy". I guess I'm either going to have to improve my dress-making skills, or be willing to drop a wad on bespoke clothing (which would also include the expense of travel), if I ever want to buy anything nice again.

320Busdriver said...

I too have 2 in college at this time, one more to go after that.

My wife got mad when I told her that my MIL should get me some Bustelo instant coffee sticks for Christmas because thats all I want. Or some nice socks or underwear. Other than that I would rather spend on taking the kids skiing or doing something fun with them.

Ann Althouse said...

"My wife always asks what that crotchless shoulder thing is about. She's asking the wrong guy."

I think it's a combination of:

1. Fashion must cycle from one thing to another.

2. Baring something that hasn't been bared recently is a move that's always available.

3. The tops of shoulders are in better shape on more women than the upper arms, which have been bared a lot recently. So women who've wanted to get in on bare arms are eager to jump at this new way to bare arms.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Is Bustelo the Puerto Rican coffee or is it El Pico? I'd heard PR coffee is really good but they didn't export it. If they do now, full of win.

dreams said...

"I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is 'What do I need?' What I needed was less.""

A history of Smoking Winstons and drinking gin late at night in a bar and she thinks she's better than Trump. The dumb-ass liberal!

buwaya said...

Having looked into the matter (because I hadn't previously noticed) of shoulderless womens clothes -

It seems perfectly innocuous actually. Its much less ridiculous than all sorts of other fashions. Its much less silly than the opposite, the enormous shoulder pads of the 1980s.

buwaya said...

What the poor woman needs is a husband, kids, in-laws, sisters and their kids, cousins and extended family. A community. Lonely people get weird.

donald said...

I’m wearing a 1994 Jason and the Scorchers t shirt and an older pair of sweats right now.

Freeman Hunt said...

I discovered the no shoulders trend when trying to replace a normal crewneck sweater. It's shopping-level infuriating when you can't find a standard clothing item because the stores have decided to only sell it in weird forms with weirdness up to and including having the shoulders cut out!

I found regular crewnecks a few weeks later. They came last week. Oh, sheer. Yes, thanks, when shopping for a wool crewneck sweater, obviously the customer would want it to be sheer. Geeze. Now have to bother with a return.

chuck said...

" ... an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night."

If she gave up the NY Times she might suffer fewer debilitating delusions.

tcrosse said...

" ... an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night."

My Materialism is, like, so much more enlightened than Trump's icky Materialism.

Anonymous said...

AKA The Cold Shoulder look

Paco Wové said...

What is a 'sheer sweater'? It sounds like an oxymoron.

A decrease in mens' sweater quality has been marked enough to be noticed even by me. Not so much the quality of workmanship; it's that they just keep getting thinner and thinner. It's a goddam sweater, people. I shouldn't have to mail off to some forlorn croft in the Outer Hebrides for some decent thick wool.

Carol said...

well, what about all the wide boat-neck tops - how can you wear those without exposing bra straps? or do people just not care anymore? obviously the millennials don't care.

Anthony said...

The bare shoulders thing was also around in the early 1990s, at least out west. I kind of like it. Doesn't seem too weird to me.

Yancey Ward said...

Tim from Vermont wrote:

"These people can't award or withhold validation from him, and it fucking drives them crazy."

Well put.

reader said...

Wow, there is a lot of disdain for the cold shoulder. When I look at that style it doesn't give me the impression of showing more skin, but of covering more up. Where we live a large number of girls and women walk around wearing very little. That style of top has both sleeves and a covered midriff. There are a lot of tummies I don't want to see.

Also, I prefer this style to halter tops which have been around a long time. No side boob.

A few years ago we completed a house wide closet purge. Seeing all of the junk that we donated and threw out was eye opening. We are more careful now about unnecessary purchases.

Michael K said...

I shouldn't have to mail off to some forlorn croft in the Outer Hebrides for some decent thick wool.

I used to have heavy sailing sweaters that had enough lanolin in the wool that they were almost waterproof.

I haven't seen on in years,

dreams said...

"She ended her relationship with the magazine after getting into a dispute with an editor and exclaiming, "I’ll never darken your door again!"" Wikipedia

Isn't she something.

Roger Sweeny said...

I deliberately go to brick and mortar stores for "cleaning supplies, toiletries, and food." But I make myself walk. I find walking for a purpose easy (and purpose includes hiking something interesting). I find walking because "you should get some exercise" hard. If I did all my shopping from amazon, I'd be an out of shape blimp.

cubanbob said...

Bad Lieutenant said...
Is Bustelo the Puerto Rican coffee or is it El Pico? I'd heard PR coffee is really good but they didn't export it. If they do now, full of win."

Bustello is Cuban and so is El Pico. Puerto Rico has its coffees and they are all available:

http://www.puertoricocoffeeshop.com/

Trust me, its all good.

cubanbob said...

""At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night.""

This bullshit is so toxic I'm surprised she didn't poison herself. As loyal, dedicated readers and commentators of this blog we should form a collective to commission and fund a Medal Of Valor for Meadhouse as reward for exposing themselves to such hazards. And as a token of my appreciation for the heroic efforts of Meadhouse I'll buy something I don't actually need through the Althouse Amazon portal.

dreams said...

The last few years I've had trouble finding slacks that fit me well because I'm high waisted. When I did find some that fit me the way I like, I eventually bought about fifty or maybe a little more than that. It's like having money in the bank, I'm set for life.

Michael K said...

Speaking of "unfeeling billionaires" a Canadian billionaire and his wife were found hanging by their indoor pool.

dreams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dreams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TwilightofLiberty.com said...

I wish more internet writers would find some distressing horror that would prevent them from writing.

Also, Bill Gates gives tons of cash to charity. Is he an unfeeling billionaire? I grow of weary of this whole 'rich ppl are morally evil' business, as if there is some inherent value in being poor.

There will always be both. And it will never be fair. But neither condition automatically makes the person evil or virtuous.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I won a bet with myself here: "I could buy plane tickets and eat out in restaurants."

Sebastian said...

"It really is best not to go to the insane mental place where you feel you want that."

It is really best for women not to go to the insane mental place where you feel you want that.

FIFY.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Cubanbob, we've had both of those here for decades. How did they beat the embargo? Though I would suppose Cuban coffee would be good also. Then again, have heard Cuban cigars have been on the decline, presumably because of communism.

Thx for PR coffee site tip, will try. Can you name any desirable varieties to look for.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Its much less ridiculous than all sorts of other fashions. Its much less silly than the opposite, the enormous shoulder pads of the 1980s

That part about the shoulder pads really made me laugh.

I just recently purged my closet and some storage bins of old clothes. Since I am not working in a professional office setting anymore, and over the last year have lost some significant (YAY) weight, I either don't need, won't fit into or do not want to wear outdated clothing.

Much of what I had was more recent, but occasionally I would come across a dress, business suit, jacket or blouse with those GIANT shoulder pads from the 80's. I would try on some things first and LMAO at the linebacker look. How did we EVER think that was attractive.

Some items I could successfully cut the shoulder pads out of, and alter the look to fit. On the very expensive, hardly worn, jackets and silk blouse especially. Also threw out the dozens of work shoes...heels and pumps that went with the suits and dresses.

Everything else went to Goodwill or the trash. My closet is now manageable, with clothes that I will wear. And just a few pairs of sensible shoes, boots, flats and a couple of dressy outfits with heels....in case I have to go to a funeral or wedding :-)

It was LIBERATING!!!!

Cheryl said...

She's a lovely author. Why is she so small that she only undertakes a discipline out of horror over politics? It seems so small.

I'm invoking a clothing fast starting on 1/1--the buying, not the wearing. But the reasons are all related to me personally--I want to rethink my wardrobe and improve my sewing skills. Plus, cold shoulder tops. UGH. I'm excited about what I'm going to learn, and I'm interested to see how my attitude shifts about buying clothes. But I really could care less what effect it has on the world. She should try it. It's very freeing.

reader said...

If only low rise skinny fit jeans would go the way of the shoulder pads.

Bruce Hayden said...

“I think this is a female thing.

I have clothes and shoes that I have owned for 25 years. Maybe 35.

Fortunately, my wife returns about half of what she buys. I would go nuts if I was in the business of women's clothing.”

For the first time last year, my partner and I have essentially combined our clothes (etc) in one house (> 3,000 sq feet w/7 closets - plus another 2,000 in MT). We have way too many clothes. I dumped a lot of stuff that was > 30 years old (she really hasn’t). Labels in some were of stores that had been merged out maybe 35 years ago. Essentially indistinguishable to what I am wearing today: button down shirts and Levi’s. My favorite (leather) jacket is 20 years old, and she thinks that it is looking a bit scruffy. Had to replace the zipper maybe a decade ago, but this one is heavy enough that it will outlive the jacket. Oldest stuff in my closet is a white dinner jacket from orchestra in HS and a pair of rock climbing boots from my freshman year in college - the former > 50 years old, and the latter coming up on that fast. I probably have enough regular clothing and outer wear to last the rest of my natural lifetime, though I expect that I will continue to buy underwear, sneakers, and jeans. I still shop though, and occasionally run into such good deals that I can’t resist.

We have her collection of 300 pair of dressy shoes in large boxes in the garage. I have assembled the shoe carrousels that she had, but we haven’t come close to taking the time to sort them into pairs and organize them, though I now have room set aside for such in the garage. She has overfilled the master closets at our two houses with her clothes, most of which date to when she was previously married - between 20 and 30 years ago. Surprisingly, a lot of it is still very wearable. Wore a couple to my 45th reunion this fall, and still looked good in them. She is somewhat like my mother in buying classically, which means that it really doesn’t go out of style that much. Still, most of what she wears any more are somewhere between jogging and lounging outfits. Bought two today for her (on sale, of course) at Sam’s Club for maybe $40 per outfit, and she will wear them until they start falling apart on her, d3spite having all those expensive outfits in her closets.

“I used to have heavy sailing sweaters that had enough lanolin in the wool that they were almost waterproof.”

I know I have one around somewhere, or pretty close. Bought it from LL Bean a bit over 30 years ago. Was looking for it last spring, when I was unpacking and organizing, and didn’t see it. Do remember seeing it over the last decade though. Probably back in CO somewhere, either at the condo or at my parents’ house. Probably the condo. Still have a bunch of sweaters, some again going back most of 40 years, but I just don’t wear them that much anymore. Stored mostly under beds now. Hopefully will vacuum pack them this winter. In college, I wore them a lot, but mostly since then I wore sports coats to work for warmth, and otherwise have mostly moved to pile and down for such.

Jim at said...

She didn't give up food shopping.

Too bad.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Amadeus 48, I hope you didn't listen only to Gorecki 3 for three months. That's suicide territory.

Diversify! I have a pile of CDs I need to reshelve. Reading top to bottom: Capel Bond concerti grossi; Steffani chamber duets; the late Beethoven quartets with the Quatuor Mosaiques; John Jenkins consort music; Christian Westerhoff viola concertos (and a flute concerto); a disc of viola d'amore music mostly given over to Henri Casadesus' 24 Preludes; three discs of Anton Reicha chamber music; seven discs of Charles Koechlin chamber music; and a disc of Astor Piazzolla. Easily a few days' entertainment, and there are literal thousands of discs where those came from. OK, so I'm profligate, but I've spent the best part of 40 years building this collection.

And I don't have Gorecki 3, still, though I have got his string quartets.

cubanbob said...

Bad Lieutenant said...
Cubanbob, we've had both of those here for decades. How did they beat the embargo? Though I would suppose Cuban coffee would be good also. Then again, have heard Cuban cigars have been on the decline, presumably because of communism.

Thx for PR coffee site tip, will try. Can you name any desirable varieties to look for."

Regarding Cuban coffee, non of it sold here is from Cuba. Its roasted here to Cuban taste. Actually I was in Havana in June and the coffee there is terrible unless you get Cubita which is the best one and is for export and for foreigners in the better hotels and private restaurants (paladares). The standard stuff is cut with some stuff, like wartime coffee mix. The cheaper PR coffee brands I heard are similarly cut. I like my espresso strong so my preference is Bustello Supreme (brown package) but the cheaper yellow package is just fine.
Basically it comes down to wanting the coffee a little smoother or slightly more bitter.

As for the Cuban cigars, I gave up smoking but the only ones to buy are the one's sold by the Habanos SA which is the official state outlet. As for the quality, the best are still great but there are comparably good and possibly better ones from Central America and the Dominican Republic (thanks to Cuban's who smuggled the seeds out of the country). And yes, Communism will ruing everything it touches.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

“Lonely people get weird”

Yes they do. As I’ve seen many, many times. A great piece of life advice from your kindly Uncle Cracker. If you’re over fifty, everything should be bought on a one-in-one-out basis. Be aggressive about discarding the unuseful, the unbeautiful, or any item that won’t bring at least $20 at a yard sale. Apart from photographs, video and letters, the historically interesting, Dad’s guns and Mom’s jewelry, the idea of sentimental value is your sworn enemy. Goodwill beckons. I’ve now seen more people trapped and isolated in filth by their accumulations of crap (to say nothing of their cats) than I can remember. A strictly disciplined material moderation is inseparable from a dignified and manageable old age.

Michael said...

cubanbob

I use the Bustello Supreme in a Bialetti. Maybe one out of five batches turns out perfectly. I have yet to get the Bialetti down. Infuriating

I prefer Dominican cigars to Nicaraguan and either of them to Cubans. I find the Cubans too harsh for my taste. Jose Padron, who died this week in Miami, continued with Cuban seed grown in Nicaragua and produced an array of very good, expensive, box pressed cigars. I have taken up smoking cigars as a hobby and am trying many varieties.

Known Unknown said...

Our media now showcases delusions as human interest stories.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I am Cafe Bustelo's biggest fan. I really am. At the present time in my kitchen you could find the regular everyday yellow can, a box of instant sticks for travel, a box of instant cafe de leche sticks (is really sweet but scratches the dessert itch if that's what I'm craving after dinner), a can of Bustelo Supreme for when I'm feeling frisky, and a jar of Supreme instant granules for when I'm feeling frisky and don't want to make a whole pot. I also have a t-shirt and a cheery yellow mug both of which proclaim Yo <3 Cafe Bustelo.

Women's clothes are horrible to buy. Horrible. They are expensive and shitty. I have to layer everything because everything is so thin and I live on the surface of the sun so I resent the hell out of having to put a tank top under every damn t-shirt plus who needs more bulk. This is why 90% of the time I wear v-neck tees from the Gap that I replace when they start getting ratty after a few months and the same cut of Levi's I've been sporting for 10 years.

The worst has been trying to buy comfortable maternity jeans this pregnancy. What insanazoid monster thinks that skinny maternity jeans are a good idea?!

BillyTalley said...

Mmmmmmmmmm. Gin and Winston’s. Nice night.

donald said...

I’m at a Mexican resturaunt in Sandy Springs right this second. The bartender is gorgeous, my age, flirty and has the no shoulders thing going on which I didn’t know was a thing till I read this. It works on her, just sayin.

walter said...

Oh my..embracing the right to bare arms.
Watch out, 'pants.
Bob has said Bustelo is manly.
You being preggers and all..dunno.

wildswan said...

Stuff is insidious. I got rid of tons of stuff by moving several times. But then I decided to learn a lot of Chinese and Mexican recipes so that gluten-free could have a positive meaning. And these recipes require new kitchen gadgets, new spices, new groceries like cans of coconut milk, Chinese vinegar, limes, basmati rice, a way to steam and on and on - I can make a killer Kung Pao chicken but stuff is creeping back in.

ALP said...

The cheap construction and monotonous, idiotic styles of women's clothing are why I never stopped shopping at Goodwill or estate sales. It is the only place I can find old school, well made clothing. You should see my collection of fabulous linen - all quality and all on the cheap from Goodwill.

WA-mom said...

This is totally a meme. 2017 -- the year of the cold shoulders.

n.n said...

Twenty trillion and counting. Monopolies galore. That's a lot of redistributive change, and progressive devaluation of capital and labor. Not to mention the progressive rite of abortion, including selective-child and recycled-child. Gold leaf culture, indeed. One, too many "good" Americans.

walter said...

I bet she has secretly purchased some Play-Doh...if there's any left on the market.

bgates said...

At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night.

Ugh, it's so awful. Enough to drive a person to spend a month on Richard Branson's private island.

FIDO said...

Dow just hit a record high

I don't think she is having much effect.