Confessions of a Chronic Shopper
It began with Barbie. I received my first at age four, and for awhile, I was happy with just that one. But when I walked down the all-hot-pink aisle at Target, I couldn’t help but need another. Magic Moves, Peaches and Cream, Crystal. Barbie and the Rockers. And then came the accessories. Barbie’s pink Jeep. Barbie’s bed and bedroom furniture. Kitchen accessories. Gym equipment. A tall Barbie house with an elevator. My sister and I had the works. We would set up luxurious Barbie mansions and would select from a bottomless Barbie pit four or five Barbies apiece, creating elaborate plots that could contend with any of the afternoon soap operas. Their days consisted of primping, changing clothes at least 35 times, ordering miscellaneous stuff advertised on the radio, and dating. And with only a Ken and a Derek to go around for eight Barbies, there was much stealing of boyfriends. They led extremely enriching lives.
Then Cabbage Patch Kids were born. Since they were in such high demand, it was agony wondering if I’d even get one. But Grandma Bonnie and Grandpa Leo were successful on Easter of 1985. Although Grandpa had to literally fight with a woman in the aisle of Toys ‘R Us over the last Cabbage Patch on the shelves, he won, thank goodness, so that I could have Martina. Martina Dorisa. But after awhile, Martina needed a playmate. And another. And a fourth. So, I acquired three more—Billy, Gary, and a little premie named Felice. My sister had four as well, and ironically, when we played with them, we would pretend that we were destitute single mothers. The home we set up was underneath the ping-pong table in our basement, cramped quarters for two girls and eight babies. But we were impoverished, after all.
In all honesty, however, I cannot remember a day when I ever felt the scarcity of money —whether it was the fear that I might not be getting another meal or that I might not be getting another Christmas present. As the fourth and youngest child in my family, my parents were in their thirties and well-established when I was born. While my older siblings felt the consequences when my parents struggled to make ends meet, I never had to witness such financial straits or worry about money at all. I grew up knowing only affluence, receiving almost any desire I entertained, and so consumption naturally became a part of my life, just as some children who are born into poverty naturally understand privation and want as a natural way of life.