Black Friday Angst

November 25, 2016. 

I arrive in Boston to visit a friend who does not return home for American Thanksgiving. Instead, a few of us head up, down, east, west to visit her in New England's largest city. Our day is pretty mundane, we eat, we talk, we walk around one of America's most historic cities. It's a brisk day, though that doesn't stop the hoards of shoppers milling around Faneuil Hall, an outdoor shopping space and tourist trap extraordinaire.

The day is fun and friendly, with black friday sales barely making their mark on the assortment of independent trinket and food shops in the area. My friend, however is eager to visit Primark, a large Irish department store that specializes in the trendiest of fashion at shockingly low prices. She tells us that it's one of the only ones on the continent, so we are of course eager to visit this trendy North American rarity. 

Primark is stunning, unlike anything I've ever experienced before in my life. Four stories of afforable clothing, like incredibly afforable clothing. My friend picks up 2 coats at $20 apiece. I find a replica of the exact jacket I'm wearing for $25, $75 less than what I paid for mine. I feel a rush of euphoria in that store. We seperate, and shop. There's no need to hunt for bargains here - everything is already so afforable. I load up my arms with sweaters, dresses, beanies. My friends each find carts for their found treasures. Being the only Canadian of the group, I stay mindful of the fact that I must somehow transport all these new goodies across a border.

The store is absolutely massive. I've always been a fast shopper, so I make it through the floors considerably faster than my friends, who take their time milling around, trying on shoes, filling their arms, baskets, dreams with peacoats, Christmas sweaters, and stockings. On the final floor, I decide to head into the dressing room. My friends are taking too long and though I'm quite certain I can fit into all that I've selected, I have nothing better to do.

So I enter what is the largest dressing room space I've ever encountered in my life. The stalls are about half-full, and due to the sheer number of dressing rooms, I march straight into a stall with my 6 items. Once in there, I face a pile of discarded clothing. I spot a few items I'd glossed over, or failed to notice. I have a brief moment of panic: perhaps my fast browsing was detrimental to my shopping spree. How many awesome items had I failed to notice?

I try on my items slowly and indeed, they do all fit. I should now mention that of my 6 items, 3 of them were plain black sweaters. On the last of these 3 sweaters, the woman in the changing room beside me begins speaking to her companion.

"This dress doesn't really fit me, but it's $9!"

"Buy it!!"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I?"

This catches me off guard, and I begin reevaluating my 6 choices. Why did I choose these 6 items of clothing? They were all incredibly basic, and absolutely available in any clothing store in Toronto. The answer was obvious, it was because they were so incredibly cheap. But why, I though to myself, was that a reason to buy anything?

I didn't need 3 new plain black sweaters. I also didn't need the metallic glittery top I'd picked out or the velvet pink romper. In fact, as a girl with a newly acquired credit card and a chequing account that suggests that I don't really need anything new at the moment, I wasn't sure why I was so eager to buy things at all.

I've always been a very nervous shopper. I get overwhelmed very easily, and I often default to all black outfits and incredibly basic looks. I know that I hate shopping, but somehow the lure of low, low prices attracted me like the desperate, broke consumer that I am.

I'm also an overthinker, and for some reason, overhearing this conversation in this Primark changing room causes me to discard all of my items. I return to my friends and they are incredibly confused. Why on earth would I not take advantage of these incredible deals?

I offer them a weak, jumbled explanation of my finances, and an even more unintelligable speech on how things don't define me and how I am not objects - at this point I'm desperately trying to explain to myself why I'm reacting so strangely to Primark on black Friday and incessantly rambling about how happiness and material objects aren't me - some really annoying and ill-timed stuff.

My friends shrug me off. They are of course focused on their own mission. And after another hour, we reconvene on a couch to tally up our choices and make some important final decisions. One friend has picked out two coats in exactly the same colour. Another has chosen a gray dress identical to one she purchased two days ago. Everyone has loaded up on tights and beanies, with carts overflowing. I have not been able to resist the call of the sale, and I've picked out a few pairs of tights and socks - sensible! I convince myself.

We make our purchases and one friend remarks:

"Wow! That was so much fun!"

As I head home the next day on a painfully long greyhound bus ride, my sister calls me.

"Hey! How was Boston? Did you do the Freedom Trail? Try a cannoli? Did you go to any museums? See Boston harbour? Ooh, did you tour Harvard? Or see Fenway Park?"

"Um, no."

"Oh, really? What did you do?"

"We shopped at Primark."