Jody Gehrman: Catalogue Junkie
It's still Rocketgirl Jody Gehrman week here at Jordan's Muse. Today you get a taste for her wry non-fiction style with this essay, "Confessions of a Catalogue Junkie." Enjoy! And don't forget to stop by her website: www.jodygehrman.com.
Confessions of a Catalogue Junkie
The other day I sat zombified on my couch, surrounded by a sea of catalogues. I picked up one after the other, flipping through the pages in a kind of daze. After observing this behavior for a good hour, my boyfriend asked, “Are you looking for something?”
“Are you looking to buy something?” And then, when confronted with my blank stare, he added, “Catalogues usually sell stuff, right?”
The truth is I rarely buy anything from catalogues. I use them the way some people use bad TV or celebrity gossip sites. They put me in an eerily calm, hypnagogic trance of retail escapism; I could never afford (indeed, hardly desire) even a fraction of the things I gaze at, but nonetheless, just staring at them, mentally trying them on, envisioning the glamour they’d add to my life, has a narcotic effect on me.
Of course, this hobby, if you can call it that, is a colossal waste of time. If I spent half as much energy organizing my space as I do drooling over "Hold Everything" catalogues, I’d be living in a shrine to tidiness instead of the ode to grunge I call home. My actual wardrobe is a bizarre hodgepodge of second-hand treasures and desperate pre-vacation purchases that fell apart on the beach, but I study J.Crew’s instructions for going from the office to a night on the town in the same wool gabardine suit as if herein lies the secret to my ultimate salvation. Who am I kidding? I’ve never gone from the office to a night on the town in my life, let alone in wool gabardine.
In the end, I suppose it’s a shamelessly indulgent habit, and I should quit. Then again, some people unwind with a needle, some latex tubing and a spoon, so I guess there are worse forms of stress reduction.
My catalogue addiction started at the tender age of thirteen. Bored, glamour-starved, with intelligence-zapping hormones coursing through my system, I found a page of catalogue offers tucked into the back of my Teen magazine. I sent away for all of them, and quickly received mail from every clothing, make-up and shoe producer in the Western hemisphere. Since then, my mother’s house has been buried in the resulting onslaught. Every counter and coffee table is covered with slick offerings from J.Jill, Crate and Barrel, Victoria’s Secret, Pottery Barn; every bathroom is abundantly stocked with on-the-pot shopping sprees.
That’s the thing with catalogues: once you get into the master mailing list, your name and address are forever the property of the corporate powers that be, and your catalogues reproduce with a life of their own. Mind you, I doomed my mother’s house to its catalogue curse long before the advent of the internet; now, all you have to do is think about entering certain sites and you’ve got five catalogues from them within the hour.
I will say I’ve been a faithful junkie, if nothing else; even when I went through my anti-materialism phase and refused to shop anywhere but the Salvation Army, Sunday afternoon might find me lazily perusing Nordstrom’s newest eveningwear. It doesn’t matter if I’m the furthest thing from the target audience. Just last week I planned a garden that would set me back at least four or five grand; I had it all mapped out, right down to the miniature dragonfly lights and the frost-resistant rutabagas. Will I ever plant such a garden? Of course not; I can barely keep my windowsill cactus alive. Did it fill me with a strange sense of euphoria just earmarking those pages? You know it.