Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Best in the Bunch

I had a brilliant lunch with a friend yesterday.  We went to a couple of stores after lunch and snooped around for things.  I found some discounted clothes for work and got much-needed cat litter.  I think she had fun, and I know I did.  I think I've found a shopping buddy! We're going to have a shopping date soon.

She has this great way of looking at shopping that fits the dynamic in my household perfectly.  It seems the boy and I are gatherers living with two hunters, my DH and the girl.  My friend's son asks her, when they go shopping, whether it's going to be a hunting or a gathering trip. I like that distinction.  Maybe it'll become part of my family's vocabulary too.

Gatherers like to look around and see if they can find something better.  They like to touch everything if they can, and sort through piles seeing if there's a shinier object mixed in with the others for the same price.  This makes me think of how I used to shop for stuffed animals.  I looked through what appeared to be identical, mass-produced critters, but I was looking at the spacing between the eyes and the ears for the one that clicked for me.  To me, at least at close perusal, they all looked a little different and I wanted the cutest one.

When it came to clothes, though, my inner gatherer hid away in terror.  Through jr. high and high school, I wasn't bullied, but I was ostracized.  At least in high school I finally found a group I could be a part of, (I'm still close friends with one of them!) but clothes weren't on that group's radar, so I continued to dress myself defensively.  The idea that jr. high imprinted in my vulnerable brain was that since I was laughed at and looked down upon even more when I wore something new, it was better to keep wearing the same things over and over, and buy things very similar to what I already had.  And I hated shopping for clothes.  It was stressful.  I didn't want to buy anything, because it felt like anything I chose would be make me an easy target for weeks.

Anyway, in college I went on a non-shopping trip with a whole new set of pals (it took me a year to find them but once I did, again, I'm still friends with some of them to this day), clothes shopping became a delight.  We couldn't afford anything except ramen and frozen peas, so we didn't buy anything, but we tried on all kinds of clothes.  Clothes we didn't dare wear.  Clothes someone else picked out for us.  Clothes that made us look like entirely different people.  Thinking on it now, I wonder how much this experience of clothes changing the outward personality influenced the ideas behind Masks.  We had so much fun, it shocked me out of my hatred of buying clothes.  And I've never looked back.

Now hunters just want to kill it.  They want to buy something convenient, within their price range, that will function the way they want it to.  If they don't see it, they don't mess around looking hopefully at other things, nor do they consider upgrading, or shopping for something else 'since we're already here.' I can't speak to the inner process in a hunter's mind, but I expect that shopping is a boring but necessary chore that ought to be made as quick as possible.  If something they grab is sufficiently defective that it won't work, they either return it or just let it collect dust.  Of course some things I've carefully picked out don't work out sometimes either.  Maybe gathering behavior doesn't gain me anything.  But I like it.  It's not a chore.  So I persist in it.

You'd think that grocery shopping would turn into a sort of hunting trip for me, but it really doesn't.  I'm still gathering.  The only reason I get it done quickly is because of familiarity.  I know, of the things I buy, what's available and what a high-quality item in a given batch will look like.  So, if I snatch the first bunch of celery in the center top and stick it in my cart without a backward glance, it's not because I'm hunting.  It's because within that glance I knew immediately it was a good bunch and sorting through the whole bin will not produce a better one.

It's a fun and potentially useful way of looking at the world.  I wonder what I'll learn from my friend next time.  I can't wait to find out!

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