Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Nordstrom is Porn

Ironically, nothing makes you feel quite so American as living abroad. And if you really and truly want to feel American, move to a formerly socialist nation with a depressed economy.

Forget the language barrier, the shattered buildings, and the fact that people still drive around in Yugo hatchbacks. The hardest part is the complete lack of shopping. There is very little to buy here, and there’s no one around who can afford to buy it. For the average American, consumerism is a way of life. For the average American in Sarajevo, consumerism is a grand lost art, like pyramid-building. Consumer nostalgia runs high.

I was a shopping addict under the best of circumstances. However, the forced withdrawal has warped me a little. I cruise Nordstrom’s website like it’s porn. I even close the browser whenever someone enters the room, so no one can catch me at my dirty little habit.

I can absorb every detail of a catalog, whether or not it’s a store where I would actually shop. I swipe misdirected catalogs from the mailroom to feed my habit. I even read those home decor catalogs with the corny seasonal decorations (who doesn’t need a foam scarecrow and assorted reusable easy-clean plastic pumpkins for their front yard in the fall? It’s festive!). Sadly, as there is no comparison shopping, I find myself wanting everything I see. Ugly sweaters? Votive sets? Day-Glo orange DVD cabinets? My sense of style has completely vanished.

I’m not alone. Every time the mailroom gets a shipment, the entire embassy community gathers around the door, hoping for a package. In fact, as I write this, there’s a group waiting outside in sub-freezing temperatures. A friend stopped by my office today to say how excited she was to go home for Christmas. Seeing her family was all well and good, but she was truly thrilled to go to Rite Aid. Only in Bosnia would Rite Aid be considered an exciting day out. Entire lunchroom conversations revolve around Target. Coupon codes are spoken of with awe.

Being homesick for shopping is completely normal. I promise. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Nordstrom might be having a sale.

Postscript: Special congratulations go out to Mike West and Erin Shannon, who got engaged this past weekend. Hooray!

1 comment:

Michael J. West said...

Thanks for the shout-out! You TOTALLY make the invite list for that one.