Monday, August 3, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic & Get Smart

"I love new clothes. If everyone could just wear new clothes everyday, I reckon depression wouldn’t exist anymore."
- Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic

A genre exists in the book world that causes universal division. It is both loved and hated, praised and put down, and that genre has been dubbed "Chick Lit." Now, I am usually not one for "Chick Lit" books (did you miss that post on Twilight?). I picked up White Oleander (which I have heard is the queen of chick lit books) and at first I thought "This writing is beautiful!" After what felt like billions of pages later, I felt like I needed to see a shrink and quickly. In the bookstore where I work, most people ask for chick lit books than anything else. "Do you have the new Phillipa Gregory book?" "Where is Twilight?" "Where are your Nicholas Sparks books?" Usually we roll our eyes in the inside, and smile on the outside.

One morning on one of my days off, I was youtube surfing and found that the whole movie Confessions of a Shopaholic had been uploaded (and it will probably be pulled right about... now). So I grabbed myself a cup of coffee, some snacks, and sat down to enjoy the free new release.

It was cute! I can get behind cute. I also think that Isla Fisher is a brilliant comedic actress. I liked the movie so much, in fact, that it made me roll on over to the bookstore and pick up a copy.

Guess what? The book is absolutely nothing like the movie - it's about a billion times better. I've read other reviews that have called the book shallow and its heroine vapid, but this only leads me to believe that they have never experienced (dun dun duuuun) Shopaholism.

What I was an itty bitty girl, my family started going through some very serious stuff. If we had a particularly rough day, my mother and I could usually find a solution - shopping. We'd head on over to the local mall, pick up an Auntie Anne's pretzel, and go to work. Jewelry, posters, shoes, clothes - the sky was the limit. It was absolute bliss. You truly felt like that shiny new shoe, that unrolled Hanson poster wrapped in plastic, that new pair of American Eagle boot cut jeans would make your whole world turn upside down, make all of your problems vanish, and create a new, shiny life for you.

Unfortunately, like alcoholism, the high only lasts for so long. You get your shiny new thing home, put it in the closet or on the wall, and then... boom. The shopping hangover. But what's the best cure for a hangover? "A hair from the dog that bit you." SO, the next day, it's off to the mall again.

This problem snowballed as I grew older. When I got to college, not only was it clothes and posters, it was food, coffee, and most of all - BOOKS. There was always some reason that I NEEDED to buy these things. I need coffee so that I can study. I need good food so that I will be alert. I need new clothes so that I will look put together and smart. I need this book so that my grades will improve. Every month when my credit card statement arrived was a battle. Me, looking at the huge total that seemed completely unreal, and then going into defense mode. "I HAD to buy this! I HAD to spend that money! I needed it! I had no choice!"

Fast forward a few years to now. After graduating from college, becoming financially independent, and marrying the love of my life who was also a college graduate planning to save up for grad school, I knew that some financial changes would be in my future. I also knew that the man I was about to marry was super practical and super thrifty (not to mention super dreamy). BUT, that didn't stop me.

"Honey, I NEEDED this! I had no choice! I need new clothes for work! I need to be able to eat lunch!" Blah Blah Blah!

Being a shopaholic doesn't just hurt your wallet. It can also hurt your relationships. My dreamy husband made sacrifice after sacrifice to support my addiction. Several tears and very long credit card statements later, after trying desperately to justify, defend, and most of all hide my habit, I realized that something needed to change. This happened... oh... say... last week?

This is what I loved the most about Confessions of a Shopaholic and why, unlike Twilight, I think there is some real value here. Becky Bloomwood is a human being. We are allowed to live inside her head and meld our minds with hers (for me it wasn't that hard). But, despite her shopping weakness, she is a funny, talented, smart, resourceful, independent, confident woman. And what does she inevitably do? She uses her strengths, her convictions, and her MIND to solve her problems. She has support from her friends and her family, but really it is Becky Bloomwood alone who picks herself up off the ground, realizes that she has to stop making excuses and confronts her problems. She doesn't need anyone else to do it for her.

And she does just that! She is able to pick herself up, dust herself off, and recover. She grows. She flourishes. She creates a new life, a new mind, for herself. She has weaknesses AND strengths, and we are able to see both in a completely honest, real way.

I love Becky Bloomwood. I can relate to her. And if she can do it, well dammit, so can I.

Hey! Look at these!

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