Living

I Love The Shopping Channel And Will Not Apologize

This year has taught me that shopping for things on television isn’t outdated or boring. It embodies some of the best things about my favourite pre-pandemic place: the mall.

Over the last few months, I’d come to resent my mom’s deliveries. Every few days, rifling through the mailbox for a cheque for freelance work done months before, I’d be met with yet another package from Today’s Shopping Choice, formerly known as The Shopping Channel. Out of frustration for not receiving any mail of my own, I’d toss the package onto her bed and ask why she was so obsessed with that network.

“I honestly don’t get it,” I’d say, as if distance shopping was something new. “Why don’t you just go to a store?” (Yes, this was in pre-COVID times.)

Had I bothered to listen to her response, I likely would have encouraged her love of TV shopping sooner. For my mom, ordering through TSC was a means of experimenting with styles and trends without the pressure of in-store salespeople. (A shocking revelation, since I consider any and all salespeople my close and personal friends.) Instead of explaining to someone at the cash register that an item was too expensive, she could wait for showstopper deals to snag pieces she’d long been eyeing, or treat herself with Easy Pay, the channel’s installation billing program. Most importantly, she had come to know and like the personalities who define the channel. I’ve since learned that this where TSC’s magic exists: as a space where anybody is welcome, every size is embraced, and no one is above kindness or having fun.

Not that I gleaned any of that the first few times I tuned in. It all began one night a few years ago, I found my parents watching The Coin Show. They were completely enthralled; interested not only in the history of the coins, but in how quickly each was selling. They didn’t have a collection nor had any intention of starting one, so their enthusiasm was puzzling. I worried this marked their descent into a subculture I’d never understand–that soon the house would be filled with unusable decorative coins. I ignored their invitation to watch along with them, and went to find the cat instead.

I held onto my resentment as coin shows turned into my mom’s investment in TSC’s clothes, which only got stronger with each passing year. But then I watched as, with each careful purchase, my mom became a woman who started wearing clothes that made her feel good about herself– rarity for my mom, who battles the type of negative self image most of us are cursed with. She began wearing faux leather leggings and Ultrasuede vests that seemed tailor-made for her go-to ballet flats. She sang the praises of Kim & Co.’s, a label dedicated to celebrating persons of all sizes, and was delighted by the fits and fabrics of Mr. Max. By early this year, I couldn’t believe I’d ever tried to deplete the happiness she felt about the arrival of something she’d been so excited to buy.

I also couldn’t believe I once thought TSC was boring, considering it embodied some of the best things about my favourite place: the mall. It’s the closest I can get to the blessed normalcy of the backdrop of so much of my life, which started with visits to D’Allaird’s with my Nana, went on to running errands with my parents, through finding a site of tween independence, before the drama and retail-based meltdowns of my twenty-something life.

Onscreen, I’m met with hosts, guests and models who look like real people; who range in age, size, race, and personality, and make anybody viewing feel like a friend. I get to observe and exist in complete anonymity, browsing everything from Nintendo to Dyson while hosts deliver believable on-set banter and ensure anybody watching feels as comfortable as they do. There is no guilt, there is no shame; shoppers are made to feel worthy and deserving of clothes that make them feel powerful. The network is devoid of “shoulds” or style suggestions that force wearers into aesthetic assimilation and instead offers warmth and wit from hosts like Andrea Perry and Greta Gulliford, whose kindness radiates with every observation and joke. It’s so inviting that I sometimes tune into Kim & Co. segments specifically to see designer Kim Mendelson’s dog, who often makes an appearance.

Like I said, Today’s Shopping Choice is for everyone.

I didn’t start this year thinking I’d write about the merits of TSC and brands like Mr. Max (which, by the way, is a Canadian label, and its name is my favourite). And frankly, after I gave up my apartment and moved back in with my folks, I was certain TSC drop-offs would become even more unpleasant, a reminder that I’m notoriously bad at remote shopping and that my mother’s belief in a brand or designer spotlight exists in direct contrast to my in-person neediness. Instead, TSC has taught me that amidst a garbage year, something special and lovely can still thrive. For the first time over a decade I’ve seen my mom come alive when talking about and trying on clothes. And for the first time since childhood, shopping has become a family affair: the other night, my mom, dad and I watched a segment on a portable Pac-Man gaming system, an item none of us wanted, but was still worthy of debate as to where we’d put one if we ever changed our minds.

At 35, roaming the mall brings me comfort. I rarely buy much, but I love walking among so many different people doing so many things in a place where we’ve all decided to be. When I can finally do so safely, I will march right into the Eaton Centre and eat orange sherbet while sitting on a bench. But until then—and possibly long after—I’ll be watching Today’s Shopping Choice.