There has been plenty written in this blog about how money doesn’t secure happiness. Author Peter Walsh suggested asking ourselves “Is buying this getting me any closer to the life I want?” and encouraged us to choose experiences over items. Researcher Christopher Barrington-Leigh talked about how the more materialistic you are, possibly the less happy you are. Accumulating stuff is not the path to happiness, many seem to preach.
What both authors did highlight was the link between social interaction and happiness and encouraged us to cultivate our collection of friends and family, not stuff, to become happier people. But I wonder if there’s something missing in that equation — namely, how social the shopping experience can be.
I started thinking about this last week after my little sister, who’s pregnant with her first child, asked me to join her on a maternity clothes shopping trip. Okay, it was also an excuse for us to check out the new Marshall’s that had opened next to the maternity store. But as we pulled out elastic-waisted jeans for her, and later at Marshall’s, a variety of items for me, we talked over a lot of things — her pregnancy, maternity leave plans, the family’s reaction to her pregnancy, the recent death of a family member, my daughter’s upcoming dance recitals…really, there was no shortage of topics. It was sister-bonding time, as my sis calls it, and by the end we were talked out and shopped out, but we’d gotten our sister fix in.
Speed ahead to Saturday and the plans my six-year-old daughter and I had lined up. She’d been asking for mommy-daughter time, so we walked to Starbucks (a macchiato for me, a smoothie for her) and then to our hairdressers to get our collective bangs trimmed. As we wandered home, we decided to check out a used book shop in our area. And as we looked through Harry Potter and Madonna’s The English Roses (for her) and Ami McKay’s The Birth House and Carol Shields’ Unless (for me) we talked about what records were, why she liked The English Roses, how happy she was to get some one-on-one time with me, which classmates she’s having trouble with right now, why I picked McKay’s and Shields’ books to purchase, what kinds of vegetables we were going to grow in our garden this year, her school concert on Thursday…well, you get what I’m talking about. As with my sister, it was the turning over of topics as we browsed the bookstore that let us spend a little more time together strengthening our mother-daughter bond. And by all indications, that shopping bond will take us well into the future to when we’re discussing her starting high school, her first boyfriend, her prom, her engagement, her wedding, her pregnancy.
So let’s not write off shopping as a route to happiness yet because while it may just look like shopping, oftentimes there’s so, so much more going on.