To look around my new apartment, you would never know that I just moved in Saturday. Books are on shelves, pictures are on walls and food is in the fridge. I was able to accomplish this thanks to help with heavy lifting from my dad, my dad’s girlfriend Susan, my sister, my sister’s boyfriend Marvin and my sister’s roommate Kelli, who just volunteered out of the blue, I think because she had a breakup a few years ago that followed very similar patterns to mine and B’s. Pity is way underestimated.
I went on a 48-hour move-in frenzy, unpacking boxes, stocking up at Ikea and assembling furniture until the wee hours of the morning.
“My fingers are sore from all the screwing,” I told Cathy the next morning. “I’m really tempted to make a bad joke about how that’s the only kind of screwing I’ll be doing for a long time, but I won’t because that’s just the sort of ‘I’m a pathetic old maid’ humor I’ve vowed to avoid in an attempt to convince myself I’m both a feminist and dateable.”
“Good thing you didn’t make that joke,” Cathy said.
“Also, the pun is just lame.”
I’m really quite happy with my new place. I’ve achieved a certain look that can’t be found in decorating magazines, which are always full of sleek open spaces and butcher block tables. I’m trying to come up with a name for a look that is neat, colorful and very crowded. That is urban but not in a loft kind of way. Maybe Shabby Funk? Like Shabby Chic but with less white-washed wood.
All this is to say that my World of Things is in order. My brain is a messy place right now—we’re talking clothes strewn on the floor, old pizza boxes piling up, phone bill unpaid. But when I look around at my World of Things—my necklaces hung neatly on brushed steel hooks—I feel better.
I realize this sounds a lot like that Retail Therapy you read about Jessica Simpson practicing to get over Nick. Leave it to capitalism to co-opt even the grieving process. I’m trying to tell myself that my new relationship with my World of Things is different. I find myself roaming very simple stores like Trader Joe’s or Sav-On. I’ll pick up a jar of face wash or scented candle and think, I could buy this because my World of Things is in order and I know exactly where I’d put it, and it would look cute (if crowded) because my new apartment is not stacked high with newspapers and crammed with wads of tangled computer cables.
Then, more often than not, I’ll think, Or, I could just not buy this. It’s a great revelation, an option they don’t tell you about on shiny happy Target commercials. Both options bring me joy and relief.
I think I’ve finally learned how to live an essay written by Erik Snyder, this guy in a couple of my classes at CalArts, who used to write gentle, contemplative pieces about wandering the halls of his old elementary school at night and walking through Target, enjoying the shiny buzz of it all without buying anything. That, he said, was the ultimate way to reap the benefits of capitalism without falling into its trap.
Of course, I did end up buying a bunch of stuff at Target (and I really do need face wash). And I heard a couple of years ago that Erik died “at his home,” which sounds like suicide or an overdose, although of course it’s possible that there were natural causes his family just didn’t feel like telling people about. So I still spend too much money and I am still sad and maybe Erik was too. But it’s nice to pretend for a few hours a day that we’re not, and it’s nice that an artfully displayed stack of bath linens can help.