Last week I met a girlfriend for lunch at a lovely restaurant in a local mall. It was the first time we’d been able to get together in nearly two years. Getting together with friends is always so therapeutic; even the anticipation before the big event is something to be savoured.
Gaining access to the restaurant with COVID precautions in place was as complicated as going through Customs at the airport. So, I was delighted to finally make contact in person with my friend to talk about shoes, fashions and other girl stuff. Wrapping up our lunch with a lovely pot of Mighty Leaf English Breakfast Tea, I decided to stroll my favourite stores and see what’s new.
It had been several weeks since I’d been in a mall. The retail offerings on display were not up to the standard of what I normally see at this time of year. Is it supply chain shortages? Many storefronts were boarded over and in those that remained open, the inventory was tired-looking and uninspired. It looked like they’d hauled out everything they had been unable to sell last winter and put it back out on the racks. Usually, we’re bemoaning the early appearance of Christmas excess before Halloween but the displays were sadly lacking and the mood was not festive.
I was optimistically thinking that if I saw the right pair of jeans that miraculously fit me and in a medium wash, then I would treat myself. That’s a naive assumption though as boomers all know buying jeans requires multiple trips to multiple stores with multiple piles of try-ons, over several weeks in different area codes before we ultimately give up. Sadly, they’re only designing and manufacturing jeans these days for women who are size 0 to 6 with 34-inch inseams and 22-inch waists. Nothing appropriate for this old gal with no waistline and petite leg lengths.
To buy or not to buy . . . that is the question. I’m being extremely discriminating about anything I buy these days as I already own too much. Any rogue trips I have made to the mall recently have been a disappointment. While I used to enjoy poking through new merchandise and having a nice lunch out, I now find myself and my tired old feet just wanting to go home. COVID definitively cured our rampant affluenza. One pandemic replaced another and in my case, forever altered my behaviour.
The “shop your closet” mantra now has critical relevance. If you’re like me, you’re finding all kinds of things in your closet that haven’t seen the light of day for eighteen months and you had forgotten about them. It’s like discovering hidden treasure. While we had nowhere to go and no excuse for getting tarted up to go out for the last year and a half, our fashion purchases languished in closets and drawers gathering dust. The other day I found a bracelet that I absolutely loved in the back of my jewellery drawer and was blown away by how much I forgot I owned. During the pandemic, I had another hip replacement that resulted in the loss of a few pounds which was an unexpected bonus. All those pants I’d forgotten about in the dark depths of my closet now fit even better.
Being confined to quarters for the last year and a half has altered my circadian rhythms. I no longer feel like I should be up and at it every day, always busy and productive. I really enjoy my life of relative idleness and feel no urge to ramp things up as the world returns to normal. I do feel somewhat responsible however for the number of closed shops in the mall that suffered during my absence. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I did manage to finance a trip to space for Jeff Bezos and his wealthy friends though. When one door closes a window opens.
Even my weekly grocery bill is lower now that I shop online and opt for curbside pickup. I’ve eliminated those impulse purchases in the bakery department that can add inches to our waistlines and wasted dollars to our checkout total. Even though we can now eat out in a restaurant from time to time, our choices are more considered and less frequent.
Sadly, I do regret not being able to travel now as we don’t have that many years left that our creaky old legs will allow us to hobble around those lovely cobblestone streets and climb the steps to ancient European ruins. I had planned to attend a writers’ retreat in Paris that has been postponed/cancelled for the last two years. I’m worried I’ll be too old to travel by the time it’s safe to do so again.
The past eighteen months have been a financial bonus for us. Not being able to go out and spend money has reduced our monthly expenditures by almost half, allowing us to use the saved money to buy more stock in lucrative Canadian banks. We’re living on very little while growing our net worth. If only I’d been able to do this thirty years ago when it really mattered. Boomers are now learning how little we actually need to live a happy life. In fact, we’re actively trying to dispose of our possessions and downsize. The antiques and tchotchkes we shopped so carefully for over the years are now worthless and have become a burden.
We’ve accumulated more material and consumer goods than we ever hoped for or needed and have reached an age where we realize relationships and experiences are more valuable than ‘things’. We’re off-loading. Those aimless trips to the mall are not fun anymore and while I feel responsible for all the jobs lost now that I’m not cruising the malls and buying things I do not need, I’m reminded of the wise words from my friend Margaret, “I have enough.” And, that’s a good thing. We’re no longer worshiping in the cathedrals of instant gratification. I’m just not getting that familiar buzz any more. Better late than never, don’t you agree? Or am I totally off the mark?