You actually enjoy
I mean—you actually
enjoy it, not ironically or on some level of moral expedience.
Just writing that down gives me a little chill, just like the kind fundumbmentalists must get when they imagine the day that jackbooted gay marriage troops finally achieve one world state and start issuing the mandatory divorce decrees to the previously righteous among us. It's a scary world, run by zombies, and they're all down at Bed, Bath & Beyond
right this very second, picking out spring-themed dessert plates to match their bathroom drapes.
It's on account of my teapot, of course. I was just giving it one last rinse when it slipped up from my grasp, bouncing once on the rim of the sink before I could catch it, and there's a long, narrow crack from base to lid now. I've been carefully patching chips and cracks in this thing forever, but this is a fatal one, long and deep enough to render the best glues impotent, so I got my shopping list together, climbed into the car, and went looking for a new one.
It's always the same, too. I go out for a few select items, and there it is, that crawly, panicky feeling I get whenever I'm forced to mingle with my zombie countrymen. Having had poor luck with my last teapot from Ikea, I think to try out Bed, Bath & Beyond
, which is a shopping concept that largely eludes me. What's the "beyond?" Am I going to round the corner just past the jungle- and autumn-themed kitchen mats and suddenly fall through a cosmic doorway into the great metaphysical beyond? What's beyond bed and bath, anyway? I assume they mean the kitchen, but god forbid they call the place Bed, Bath & Kitchen
—those advertising middlemen need to earn their money, I guess, and a nice vague concept's far better than, you know, calling things what they are.
I get a nice parking spot near the entrance, my tiny four-door economy sedan neatly sandwiched between the brutish hulks uninformed parents like to believe will protect their squalling offspring rather than, as the actual facts more clearly demonstrate, jettisoning them out the back windows in low speed rear-end crashes to land on the pillow-soft hoods of the offending cars. The "beyond" is right in the door tonight, a pyramid of those insane "snuggie
" sleeved-blanket things that four million of the very stupidest of my fellow citizens have bought because, well, hurf durf, putting on sweaters is hard!
I arrive simultaneously as a lumbering couple pause there, chattering about the "snuggie" like it's something freshly released from top secret status in the space program, and then they actually pick one up to buy it
I'm never sure if I'm suffering from acid reflux or just too much choking back of bile everytime someone near me does something unforgivably idiotic, which seems to be on the increase.
Sure thing, stupid
. Go ahead and look like the member of some weird cult of brain-eating eunuchs
if you like while you sit in front of your flat screen. It'll just make it easy for those of us who are still mobile from lack of lower body atrophy to catch you and grind you up into sausages for emergency rations in our bomb shelters when civilization falls.
Well, maybe that's a bit harsh.
"Can I help you, sir?" some poor sap asks me as I manage to pass the snuggie couple and get inside.
Why on earth is it that there is always some tragic prole stuck in the front door of every establishment in which I require absolutely no assistance whatsoever, but never anyone there to talk to me in, say, the emergency room or the computer store? It's always someone standing there, at the entrance of Wal*Mart, where I shop only when I need the one thing no longer sold in any other store in America (proper waffle-weave long johns), asking me if they can help, and I always want to snap right back at them.
"Um, yes, ma'am. I'd like you to help me to have made better career and life choices that would have ensured I'd never have to set foot in this cavernous cosmodrome of slack-jawed republiconned numbskulls and fight with some flaccid fishwife over the one stinking pair of long britches in my size that you people bothered to stock while you laughably have literally hundreds
of pairs in small
. Did you ever once see anyone shop in here who could fit into a small, even as a drunken joke at a squirrel barbecue? I mean—I'd love for you to help me with that. Is there anything you can do for me?"
Sadly, I was raised, as they say, to be somewhat more tactful.
Instead, I just brood and walk really, really fast.
The tenth person asks me if they can help, and I repeat the same thing.
"They're over there, sir," he says, and gestures.
"No, those are tea kettles
"I'm sure there are teapots over there."
"Show me, please."Yep, that's a tea kettle. Uh-huh, that one too. Yes, still a kettle.
Hell, I'm not a snob, for heaven's gate—I drive an eight year-old four door economy sedan and eat scrapple for breakfast every morning. Is the distinction between a tea kettle and a tea pot
that elusive? You boil your water in a tea kettle and steep your tea in a pot.At least four billion people in the rest of the world have a pretty clear idea of how that works, you sad zombie store associate
I give up. He suggests "Home Goods," another gloomy shopping option three stores away.
Getting out of those places always feels like a rebirth. Me? Born again? Hoo-boy, have I ever been, over and over, every dang time I try to buy socks, underwear, a dishmop, or a teapot. The sky is indigo and gorgeous, so utterly wasted on the zombies, staggering around the parking lots. I head three stores down and almost don't even go into Home Goods—you can see it all right through the glass doors, just acres and acres of seasonal matched themed crap for people's stupid, hideous suburban houses (or "homes," as the realtor zombies have redubbed the concept of a pile of moldy drywall and vinyl siding these days).
I take a breath and go in.
See—I'm no misogynist, but I blame the fair sex for the peculiar biblical affliction of matchy-matchiness. It's something about our absurd teenybopper culture and the need that we all seem to have to think that our lives should remain perpetually mired in our late teen years, when a girl's notion of color and stylistic compatibility is simplified to the level of Hello Kitty
dead-eyed simplicity. Pink goes with pink. Autumn-themed bath towels go with autumn-themed toothbrush holders. Blue goes with blue, red with red, and yellow with cheerful sunshiny yellow. Sometimes I wonder how many people have actually been driven to suicide over color theory
, in this land of sorrowful stupefaction.
Gosh, though. I almost swoon, getting that whirly, unpleasant feeling of vertigo. Every single thing in the place so cheap, trivial, and unforgivably ugly that I just want to start shouting, hollering "c'mon—really? C'mon—seriously?" over and over until they haul me away in a straitjacket. I mean, I get the irony of me complaining about style and fashion when I dress like a sloppy janitor and live like a pig at forty in a two-room apartment packed with junk, but people like me exist for a reason, in the evolutionary food chain—to give hope to the men and women of the world who are inveterate "fixers" of the men and women of the world who, like me, just live schlumpedink lives of schlubbiness in semi-obscurity. The rest of you stupid lot are meant to have some
taste, or at least marginally more than me.
I find tea kettles, but no teapots. After a while, some hapless woman asks to help me, and I say, "I am looking for a tea pot
, in which to brew, not boil
, my tea."
There's a glimmer of hope, but it's dashed. She shows me to the teapots, and…well, they're all those stupid pretentious japanese cast iron things, and bad copies at that. I dream of really saying what I mean, but I just shrug and bite my lip.No thank you, you wretched zombie sales associate. Do I really look like a pompous pseudo-liberal yuppie idiot who would elaborately set up a bastardized abomination of a fake tea ceremony so I could use this tiny, heavy little teapot to brew three whopping ounces of tea to serve in cups small enough to swallow whole to my dear, dear book club friends while we sit around and smugly congratulate ourselves for voting Obama into office? Can you not see my raggedy shoes, my paint-stained twelve-dollar droopy-assed carpenter jeans from Target, and the general look of despair on my face?
"No thank you. These are a bit smaller than I'm looking for."
"How about this one?"
"That's a tea kettle," I sigh, "but thanks anyway."
I head back out, actually aghast, and overhear a conversation that explains so much.
"Can we just drive to Bed, Bath & Beyond?
" a decreasingly little girl asks her shapeless mother. "It's far
I stumble, having failed to negotiate the cognitive dissonance and basic motor skills at once. I'd just walked from the BB&B
to the Home Goods
, a distance of perhaps a hundred and fifty feet, and was happily walking back, under that gorgeous indigo sky, to get in my car and go to a more comfortable commercial nightmare, but apparently, it's a gulf that's "far" to the next generation.
No wonder all the stores' "mobility scooters
" are always out on the floor, trundling this bloated lot from aisle to aisle, where they look for seasonal lotion-saturated tissue packs to match their sunny summer-themed plastic iced tea tumblers.
I just don't get it. I don't get this crazed lust we have to shop
Where the heck is the fun?
You're not getting bargains, not by a long shot, and the "bargains" you get on sale diminish further when you factor in time and gas money and the cost of having your presumbly immortal soul oozing out of your mounting corpulence via whatever hole is nearest every single time you respond to a carefully planned sales manipulation like a little slobbering lobotomized monkey in a 1950s science lab. It's not even really social, because all you seem to talk about is the crap that surrounds you in these catastrophic temples of decay.
"Oh, honey, remember we need new scented candles for the living room!"
"Mountain Stream™ or Pleasant Orchard™?"
"Fresh Laundry™, if they've got 'em!"
And none of these people actually have the remotest understanding of what any of those things actually
smell like, except in the sense of subconsciously connecting the airbrushed pictures on the packaging to the desolate chemical stench of whatever the heck they put in those. Those things in the pictures—well, they're just far
It's fashionable to take the usual classist route and giggle about Wal*Mart and hillbillies and rednecks
and all the other people that are still okay to mock
, but the zombies roam Ikea
, Trader Joe's
, and Whole Foods
with as much atrocity, if somewhat more stylish outfits. There's a good reason why virtually every white middle-class gay guy's apartment looks exactly the same as every other white middle-class gay guy's apartment, and it's Ikea
? Just a store. Trader Joe's
? Just a store. Whole Foods
, Restoration Hardware
, Pottery Barn
, Crate and Barrel? Just stores
I get why
you're stupid. It's okay. I'm stupid, too. It's the root of my authority, or at least of my bombast.
We all grow up drowning in this thunderous cacophony of advertising, and it's worse than that. It's not that advertising tells us to buy specific stuff. It's that it tells us to buy constantly, to fill every anxiety, every insecurity, and every need with a trip to the store, and you are stupid if you don't know that yet, if you don't wonder why, even though there's no reason at all for us to be unhappy with all there is out there for us, you're always feeling vaguely dissatisfied with everything. That feeling is that antsy feeling you get when you're sitting in silence, momentarily away from the TV or the radio or whatever other distraction machines you need to keep your brain from inadvertently switching itself on, and you start to drool and reach for your keys.
"Honey, I'm going out for some refills for the scented toilet paper holders. Need anything?"
"We're all out of Swiffer pads, and see if you can get them in Baby Fresh™ scent! Also, see if they have the 'eco' kind, 'cause we're trying to be green
I retreat after a run at Target
, returning with four t-shirts, five pairs of underpants, and a roll of toilet paper, but no teapot.
All I want is a teapot, a nice plain one that'll hold four or five cups worth of tea and will last a long time, and all the zombies have to offer me is kettles and pretension. It's not that I'm a misanthropist, even though, of course, I am, in a way.
Fortunately, with the economy teetering on the edge, I'll be in the catbird's seat to watch a whole lot of stupid people find that world outside the strip mall, and I'm just grumpy and cynical enough to really enjoy the prospect. Call it sour grapes, but it'll be sweeeeet seeing the herd of people who don't know how to do a dang thing but shop trying to get by in the middle of a depression.
"Honey, we're out of refills for the Senseo
and the Target
is on fire."…and I feel fine!