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Submitted by Nancy Thompson on Wed, 4/4/2012, 4:00pm
So the question is: What do I want? Is it something clothes can give me?
I love Anthropologie. It's more than a store to me. I see the front half as sort of a museum full of pretty things I can only look at. The colors, the patterns, the feel of the fabric, the shapes. It's art and architecture that you can actually play with. These pants with that top. That dress with this sweater. Tight. Loose. Patterns. Solids. It's like sending a geeky kid into a Lego store.
I don't buy from the front of the store. I admire. But then there's the back room, where items are generally 50 percent off. There, I buy.
Now, I do not legitimately need any more clothes. I have made my girlfriends promise that if I die unexpectedly, they will come over and each take a few black skirts so that no one person will know how many I own. They are all different, I swear (the black skirts and the girlfriends) in subtle ways.
Does the knowledge that I could outfit a class of funky Catholic schoolgirls stop me from looking at black skirts. No. Clearly the issue is not that I need a black skirt for any occasion. The issue is that I want.
And that, I'm afraid, is at the heart of most of my shopping. Pretty colors. Pretty fabric. Appropriate for some occasion I wish I were at.
What I want is not exactly the clothes. What I want is what I think the clothes do. After a hard day at work, when there is more work than I can do and people are sharp and I feel inadequate, I want clothes to tell me I have value. On other days, when I feel unattractive, I want clothes that are pretty, that cover that over. Or clothes that will get attention -- or respect or love or admiration or whatever I want that I feel I am not getting or am unworthy of.
That's a lot to ask from a pair of ballet flats. And they never bring it for long. In fact, clothes that are asked to be more than they are inevitably bring bad feelings and admonishing internal talk. The committee speaks up: You don't need that, you can't afford that, what is wrong with you? (Note: Any time your thoughts address you as "you," they probably aren't speaking for your inner wisdom.)
So the question is: What do I want? Is it something clothes can give me? Is it something my inner wisdom can give me if I sit with this instead of driving to the strip mall, excuse me, lifestyle center, aka fake town center where Anthropologie is located?
Responsible consumption means buying things because you need the things, not because you think they can magically provide other things.
It also means knowing who you're buying from. Anthropologie is owned by the same company as Urban Outfitters, which has had some reprehensible products. Wikipedia lists several controversies, but it's missing ones this year over St. Patrick's Day T-shirts that some Irish-Americans found offensive and a card at Urban Outfitters UK that offended transsexuals and their friends. Anthropologie, however, offends only in the occasional incredibly ugly items I see mainly online.
On the plus side, a lot of the good are made in the US.
So Anthropologie, it's adieu for a month. My pledge for Responsible Consumption Month is not to buy new clothes. When I feel compelled to come visit, I will instead settle somewhere and look at my mind and what I really want. It may be in my car in the parking lot. And it may be that a dress is just ... a dress. And in that case, maybe I'll come in.
It's fine to take pleasure, to enjoy good food, and to listen to beautiful music. Becoming curious about how we suffer doesn't mean we can no longer enjoy eating ice cream. But once we begin to understand the bewilderment of our untrained mind, we won't look to the ice cream and say, 'that's happiness.' We'll realize the mind can be happy devoid of ice cream. We'll realize the mind is happy and content by nature. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
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