They say all groups have bonding rituals, activities that hold them together. Some groups even have special uniforms, hand signals, and secret codes. My family isn’t any different. The women in my family have many bonding rituals, but one in particular has had a profound impact on my life…shopping.
My family shopping trips were not about spending money; in fact, sometimes, we would only window shop and scope out items we would later buy on sale. No, these shopping trips were about spending time together, gathering and bonding, as women have gathered and bonded for centuries. As Kate Fox writes in an article called “Girl Talk,” “Females, as gatherers and with responsibility for bearing and raising children, also had a critical need to build cooperation and trust with other females.”
Whether women are gathering berries or bargains, we forage in groups. Shopping is a way of foraging for bargains in a welcoming environment designed to allow you to let your guard down and share your resources and experiences. A store is the place where my female family members could go and discuss the issues of the day without feeling as if we are having a “talk.” It is also a way to talk about things that affect the group such as problems, relationships, and men.
My first shopping experiences were with my grandmother. I remember her excitement as she found treasures that would eventually turn into heirlooms, like the jewelry I inherited. I was there when she cautiously picked out rings with golden hues that dazzled my young eyes. Color, clarity, carat, cut…I carefully listened to the questions she asked the jeweler before spending her hard-earned money. Unfortunately, my grandmother is gone, but there are many reminders of our shopping expeditions…Trust me, they were expeditions.
My grandmother passed away weeks before my 8th grade graduation. After she passed away, I didn’t want to go on with life. Her life ended, and I felt mine did too. I wanted to stay home curled up into a ball on my tear soaked pillow; however, my mother knew that I needed to go on with my life. That’s what my grandmother would have wanted. Therefore, my mother took me shopping.
The once joyful process of perusing the packed racks was now tedious and tiresome. Every department was full of painful memories of my grandmother. She was supposed to be there, but she was gone. How could she be gone? The latest fashions reminded me of her laughter as I mockingly picked out the most hideous garment and exclaimed, “I’m going to buy this for you.” Gone was my grandmother’s gleeful laughter as she shook her head in dismay.
No one could understand why shopping was painful without her. Then, something hit me…Maybe she spent that time teaching me about life and love via shopping for a reason. It was during shopping trips with my female relatives that I learned everything I needed to know about life and being a woman. Whether it was buying my first bra or my first business suit, we discussed everything from boys to bargains.
By now, it should be obvious that I decided to go on living. The next step was to shop for my prom dress. Everyone was confused when I started a desperate search for the most flattering shade of pink for my dress and shoes. Once my search was over, my aunt supplied me with a matching pink purse. However, the look wasn’t complete until I draped my grandmother’s black shawl over my shoulders. Her ruffle-trimmed shawl was the perfect complement to my all pink ensemble. Finally, everyone understood my mission. The night of my 8th grade prom, I felt my grandmother’s presence as I proudly wore her shawl and danced to nearly every song.