Why had I been in such a hurry to grow up? As a kid, it seemed like adults had it made. They could do whatever they wanted, stay up late, and buy anything they desired. Meanwhile, now I feel frivolous if I want a new bag when I might need to spend that money on the humidifier we need or the fact there’s always something that needs to be fixed on the car. Frankly, I think the world would be better off seeing me carrying a cute new purse, but my husband seems to think that working brakes are more important. I think pretty accessories would bring smiles to millions, but he feels the world would prefer us not plowing into them at stop lights.
Today I felt the sting of adulthood when I had to make a return of a gift I received at Macy’s. Now Macy’s is a fun store for anyone, but when you lived on a Macy-less European island for three years (thank you, Air Force), preceded by an American city where they had no Macy’s for almost two years, let’s just say you drool when you hear the name much less walk through the doors.
So I went to the counter, after dodging a kid who I swear sounded like the whooping cough commercial (pray for me), with my nightgown and receipt. It was my turn at the counter when lo and behold who should show up, but my husband. Not a big deal normally, but when the salesperson asked me, “Would you prefer cash or a gift card?” it became a big freakin’ deal. Most people would jump at the chance to get cash for a gift. Usually it’s not even an option, but for me, on this day, cash meant, “Now you can buy groceries,” whereas a gift card mean, “Knock yourself out shopping, kiddo.”
I sighed as I realized the adult thing to do was to take the cash and buy groceries. I did it, but I died a little inside as I walked out and saw a fifty percent off DKNY rack calling to me. Would I have been so adult and responsible had my husband not been there? Probably seeing as guilt overtakes me easily these days. Everywhere you go there are people condemning you for spending money on yourself and patting themselves on the back for saving money and extreme couponing. When I bought a Coach bag (albeit a clearance one from the outlet), I had someone sneer and say, “Well, I buy my purses at H &M,” as if I was Marie Antoinette throwing her money around oblivious while everyone else was scraping by. It seems in certain areas (where the economy is worse) this bag was a slap in the face. However, in other areas, it seemed like having a bag that didn’t come from Target was a necessary token to get in with the group.
I get that there are bills to pay and responsibilities to take care of first. I have an unsold house hanging over my head that reminds me that I cannot be frivolous, but damnation, I want to shop! I deserve to shop after being stuck on an island with only little boutiques where everything is a size negative four (and if I can’t fit into it, Barbie can’t fit in it) and marked up since you’re 900 miles from the mainland. So I did the “right” thing at Macy’s and didn’t use the money to shop, but it hurt. When did I become responsible? When did I start thinking about things like, “Wow, this house is gorgeous, but maybe I shouldn’t live here because there’s a giant radon detector in the basement for a reason?” Or, “do I really need another pair of shoes?” Each time I walk away from the magazine rack because I hear my mother’s voice saying, “Don’t waste your money. It’s all ads anyway,” I feel less like my old self. I used to read all the latest fashion magazines, but now why bother? They’re just going to depress me if I can’t shop for the very items they’re showing.
I swear if I could go back in time I’d tell my teen self to enjoy guilt-free shopping while I could. It’s the last time you can shop without someone clearing their throat and mentioning you owe Lowe’s seven hundred dollars unless you want to pay the interest rate that will spike up next month. It’s also the last time you’ll go to the mailbox excited to see what’s addressed to you instead of dreading the power bill. And back then, having Visa send you something was exciting and made you feel grownup instead of feeling the pains and regrets of how much you charged and now owe.
These days I’m aware it’s more important to have good credit, eat my veggies, and drink more water than soda. But sometimes I long for the days when I could shop freely, pepperoni pizza was my fuel, and a cherry cola got me through the day without the caffeine dehydrating me and worries about the sugar causing candida to ravage my body. Stupid adulthood.