Girl News: Why Girls Like To Shop
“Girls love to shop” is one of the dirtier sexisms, because it’s just rammed with shitty history about girls being too boring for real hobbies like ping pong or metal guitar and too stupid to make money instead of spending it. We’re just going to put that aside and agree, like we did with saying “cunt” and making our boyfriends pay for dinner, that it is Girl World’s prerogative to pull some sexist jive into our corner, because shopping is great and we like it.
THE MOST FUN THINGS TO BUY ARE GIRL THINGS
Slick tech stuff, candy, gas station sunglasses and weird fruit are fun for everybody to shop for (do I have to explain why? Do you have friends?), but most of the truly fun stuff happens to be the dominion of chicks, notably clothes (I guess buying guy clothes is fun, if piling up differently hued versions of the same four things is fun? #nope). Even more notably: thrift store clothes, hair stuff and MAKE-UP. Shopping for make-up has little to do with make-up’s supposed results (it’s actually pretty gross and bad for your skin) and everything to do with choosing colours and textures and scents; touching Dior compacts and YSL glosses like they’re talismans (they are); rubbing powders and liquids on our hands and arms in little gold-dusted orgy clusters all over Sephora. You can get ten nail polishes for ten quid at the pounds store, or one nail polish for Anarchy Money at Bergdorf’s, but it doesn’t matter. A new thing of makeup is a bomb of meaning, a communion with a kind of girlness that’s far beyond our vajoogles. PLUS the really nice stuff lets other girls know you have more money than they do.
(SOME OF THE MOST FUN THINGS ACTUALLY SUCK TO SHOP FOR)
Two categories of things that are awesome to own and bad to shop for are shoes and lingerie. Shoe shopping is really tiring, expensive even if your taste is low-key, and makes you feel stupid, because if you take a few hours off your life to find shoes then you’re probably going to end up, like, shoving fraying corduroy cut-off pants up your thighs to see how a pair of vinyl Barbie shoes look on your feet (hot), which means feeling bad about yourself and the ways in which you are complicit in misogyny and capitalism (same thing). And, maybe bra shopping is all cute and fun for A-cups (jealz), but if you have real breasticles then the experience will be mostly about tugging material around your sensitive Celtic tit-skin (uh, if you’re me) and jumping up and down in a dressing room to test the bra’s structure (demoralising), and then paying a few hundred pounds for anything decent. This isn’t even me being a yuppie about it; I’ve watched girls who own one pair of torn sneakers just give up, trade a month’s worth of crumply grocery money for an OK bra, and then just weep about the vagaries of girl-bodies into their folded arms.
BECAUSE WE’RE GOOD AT IT
I’m 30, which means that I’ve been shopping for myself for over a decade, which means I’m pretty good at it. I have developed this illogical system of what amount I’m willing to spend on what things (Hoodies? Ten pounds. Hair cuts? Infinity) and where I like to go, i.e. Whole Foods for fruit (and to feel better about not being one of the ever-circulating, ever-cunty mums who hate their choices and the consequences of those choices so much that their skin is turning grey) and the drug store with the good rewards card and so on, and all of that sounds, I guess, like a rote experience. But actually? Shopping is the one game that I played as a little kid that is just as good in real life. Holding my keys and a bottle of vodka in line at the LCBO (that is Canadian for “the liquor store”) is where the fevered promises of adulthood, of authority and glamorous boredom, max themselves out. (We didn’t know about orally delivered orgasms back then, OBVIOUSLY.)
MAINTAINING THE DOMESTIC SPHERE
Probably if you are lesbian-proper (jealz), or in a consciously equitable live-in relationship, it’s not like this, but when I have twice lived with boyfriends, I shopped. This kind of maintenance-shopping can be a drag, but it’s also, the kind of responsibility that feels nice, like having plants. Most stuff about making a home, alone or with somebody, is balls. Let’s not front about that. But it’s all cute to carefully choose tomatoes and cheese at the store (and then let it sit on the counter while you order in sushi for dinner because you’re tired. This is a NO SPIN ZONE!).
Best case money scenario for a girl is to be rich and have nice parents. It’s not worth it if your trust fund depends on your behaviour, or if you don’t like your friends (remember Story Of My Life? Nightmare). Having a lot of your own money is clearly amazing and the goal but also can make guys afraid of you, but there’s a sweet spot of being young enough to have access to somebody else’s money without being guilty or a whore. (I occupied this spot briefly, before my dad looked inside the car he gave me “to drive to work” and saw that I’d filled up the backseat with used T-shirts, my golf clubs, and empty bags of peanuts.) Anyway, spending money is the most constant and effective way for girls to flex power, because you can never, ever hitchhike (well, you can, but have fun in Rapemurderville), you aren’t supposed to say anything in a regular voice and with regular words lest a man’s penis recede, your salary sucks, and having kids means handing over your Autonomy passport. Do you know why suburban ladies are so interested in their houses and outfits and cars looking fiiiine? That’s their power.
THE INTERNET MAKES US DO IT
What IS it about Etsy? No chance women would buy these products of white girl slave labour if they were laid out on a table instead of shipped from three states over. Ewww. Etsy is so annoying. I think I would rather go all Survivalist than wear a craft made by some other bored bitch.
Things girls really miss: being young enough to not know about the contempt and resentment and anger that will interrupt and sometimes define their experience of gender, even if you’re good at life and supported and happy, and (related) being young enough to be into My Little Pony/Hello Kitty/Disney princesses without it being a pathology, ironic or earnest in a way that is counter to the realpolitik of feminism in a post-Tina Fey world. Especially because nobody (except the psychos) wants the pink stuff all the time, just some of the time, like, a little unicorn necklace underneath the Pamela Love. Since the tenets of little girl-ness are best and least creepily expressed by such things, and because girls go shopping with their enabling friends, shopping very often means buying nostalgia supplies, like a My So-Called Life box-set or the glitter pens “for art” or anything at American Apparel.
MONEY IS SCARY
It’s not just that we want stuff (sooo much stuff), it’s that we don’t want to have to deal with actual money. Not our fault. Nobody teaches girls how to have and use money properly, and we get away with avoiding math and science and financial responsibility until we’re single mums or one of the three female captains of industry in the US, so instead of growing it we roll up hundreds into darts and shoot them at our magazines’ desires and hope there’s some left over for rent. If women really liked and wanted and respected money we would laugh at £500 shoes in the fucking face and know as much about investing as guys do. Girls pay tuition and buy houses and cars and take care of their families and have like three jobs and keep their gnarly roots in check, yeah, but every hedge fund asshole is a FUCKING DUDE. I hate all of that as reality, but love that as proof.
WE CONTAIN MULTITUDES
Oh yeah, also, girls of this/my/our generation have this amazing thing of getting to have these expansive, conflicting, multifarious identities, which guys don’t really have in the same way, yet. Shopping for our lives of everythingness (go in your Gchats and search “Biggie” and “Beach House” and “Emma Watson” and “coke drip” and “deadline,” it’s all there) is something to take seriously.
Follow Kate on Twitter @KateCarraway