Confessions of a Shoppaphobic

01/31/2009 By Shawn Burns

“You’re going to Target today, right? I wrote a list of some things I need.”

“Good. Yeah, I have some things I need to get too.”

I added my items to the list on the partly-crumpled page of notepad paper. Hers were Health & Beauty items and some cat litter; mine were “I don’t want to go to the grocery store today so I’ll stretch out our pantry for one more day with a little supplementation” items. I wanted milk, bread, and maybe something to drink.

I pocketed the list, dressed Erin, and took off with her while Emily went to work. On the way to an unfamiliar Target (I had some other errands in that area) I was distracted by racks of clothes outside a Sears to which I’d never been. I remembered that both of my pairs of jeans, more accurately both of the pairs that were comfortable and stamped with measurements that did not make me feel guilty about that resolution to cancel my gym membership, had holes in the right knee and in the crotch.

“A-ha!” says I, “I should finally explore this Sears and see if I can buy a pair of jeans for less than $40,” the exorbitant price of jeans being the main reason I wore two pairs into holey oblivion.

The only shopping I really like to do involves either ill-lit bookstores in the countryside, or grocery aisles under radioactive lights. I go to the mall at Christmas because I like Christmas-y things, but I don’t like the shopping aspect. I don’t like the mall at all, really. I don’t like shoe shopping, preferring to wear a pair down to muddy latticework before going to the store to find, hopefully, a pair that looks almost exactly like the pair I was sending to a haz-mat disposal site.

I especially don’t like clothes shopping.

And thanks to Abercrombie and Fitch I really hate jeans shopping.


(Begin Long Aside About Abercrombie and Fitch)

Once, on a trip to Portland, I spilled something on the one pair of jeans I brought with me. I decided to add to my wardrobe, so I went wandering around looking for clothing stores. I walked into that sensory date-rape, Abercrombie and Fitch, drawn along by the mannequins modeling denim in the window.

“A-ha!” says I, “here is where I will find jeans. And I will, apparently, have to wear them until I am dead because holy-mother-of-god-on-a-skateboard these are expensive.”

My optimism was matched in its vastness only by my waistline. I haven’t been a skinny rail since high school graduation, but by the time of this Portland trip I had been steadily accumulating girth, a process accelerated drastically when I stupidly quit smoking (for, what? Health? Bah. All of those years smoking takes off your life come at the end anyway). I was hefty. Solid. I think the clinical description was “obese”, although I don’t think it’s fair to just throw that label around if there are no cranes involved in getting oneself into and out of bed. But I wasn’t thin, although I didn’t view myself as particularly large.

Abercrombie held me down while Fitch punched me in the (over-hanging) gut over and over again. As I was looking for a pair of jeans that would encircle my waist in anything approaching comfort it struck me that there were no numbers in sight that I recognized.

“Who are these men with 32-inch waists?” I wondered. “Where are the real pants?”

“You. Are. Too. Fat. To. Shop. Here,” the labels taunted as I grew more frantic in my search for pants.

Fuck you, Abercrombie. Fuck you, Fitch.

After Erin was born I dropped about 40 lbs. For the hell of it. I felt like riding my bike all the time and I didn’t have any classes and Emily was on maternity leave, so I had all of this time to just exercise and think about food and cooking. Every few months I would go to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans. And my first stop would be Abercrombie, where I’d try on a pair, note the new reduction in my waistline, and then walk over to The Gap to buy my jeans there instead.

Fuck you, Abercrombie. Fuck you, Fitch. You weren’t there when I needed you.

(End Long Aside About Abercrombie and Fitch)


I was wearing a pair of those Gap jeans as I spotted the Sears. I needed jeans badly enough that I was willing to overcome my intense dislike of clothes shopping to actually enter the Sears, browse the aisles, and try on about six pairs, all with Erin in tow in a cart.

Erin was less and less excited about her predicament as each new pair made an appearance, so eventually I rushed the decision a bit (but not before noting that no matter what the labels say, two “identical” pairs of jeans can fit remarkably differently) and brought three pairs to the counter to buy. With sale prices in effect I spent, for those three pairs, what you might spend on one pair at (fuck you)Abercrombie and (fuck you)Fitch. They fit fine. Maybe a little more loosely after wear than I’d like, but they aren’t going to fall off of me.

Then I took Erin to our actual destination, Target, that magical land where $200 always seems to disappear out of my wallet, stolen by the Target elves.

Looking down at the list I read that Emily’s first entry was some kind of facial cleanser, explicitly named for ease of locating. But I couldn’t find the bottle she appeared to want. To use a car analogy, if she wanted a Toyota Camry XLE, then all I could find were Toyota Camry LE’s, or Toyota Highlander XLE’s. Not knowing which alternative she’d have preferred had she been there herself I bought both. (It is likely I would have been inclined to do the same thing with the cars.)

This took a while (since I was pretty damned thorough in this search for the mystery car, er, cleanser), and Erin, already unhappy about being in her second shopping cart in as many hours, was making her dissatisfaction known. A box of diapers on an end-cap display caught my eye and I thought “A-ha! I remember noting that we are out of diapers at home, but I didn’t write it down on the list. I will purchase these diapers now and be ahead of the game!” So I added them to the cart. The same thing happened with the toothpaste I saw while walking along. Not on the list, but added to the cart.

There didn’t seem to be a pet care area, nor a grocery section at this strange Target, but I was a little distracted by screeching coming from the mite in the cart. I rushed through checkout, and unloaded the cart into the trunk where the diapers I bought joined a completely full box of diapers that had been in my trunk the entire time.

After leaving Target with the exhausted, annoyed Erin I took the list out of my pocket and it occurred to me that the reason I hate shopping is that I’m just not good at it.

Do you know what it means to not be good at shopping?

It means being capable of going out in the morning, spending $150, and buying not one damned thing on a list you are carrying with you and ALSO buying things you already have.

“A-ha!” says I, “I am terrible at shopping.”