Approval

The Gaslight Anthem.

The Gaslight Anthem

I did not shop on Thanksgiving.

One of the reasons was that I am in support of the retail employees who have to come in on what was once a sacrosanct (and scarce) day off, and do not appreciate the creep of commercialism into this once sacred day.

The other (and larger) reason is that I simply don’t want to fucking shop on Thanksgiving. I cannot fathom having the impulse to get my bloated ass off the couch after gorging myself on food and booze and standing in line at some dumbass big box retailer with all the other mouth breathing rubes to buy consumer goods. I literally cannot picture a scenario in my life where I would find myself shopping on Thursday night after a Thanksgiving dinner.

I also did not shop on Black Friday because Black Friday is awful, and is largely a horseshit media invention circa 2003. I spent the day with my wife cleaning the house, raking leaves, and putting up Christmas lights. The closest we came to scoring a Black Friday deal was when we went to get sushi at our favorite local joint, and they had $1 nigiri from 4:00 – Close. Full disclosure: They have this special every day.

Small Business Saturday, however, is something I can get behind. Not for others, mind you, but solely for selfish purchases. The crowds have likely thinned, the profits stay local, and I’m intellectually insecure in everything I buy.

Wait, what? Small Business Saturday neuroses coming at ya’!

Why do I seek the approval of strangers? I never outwardly ask for it, but I yearn for it, and it makes me crazy. At the local record store, I perused the bins of new and used records without a care in the world. I was surrounded by other hipsters (old hipsters at that), and I couldn’t give a fuck what they thought of my taste, my choices, or what I lingered over at any given moment.

Yet, when it came time to check out, I grew tense wondering what the bearded guy behind the counter with the paunch and the “Pavement 2010” shirt would think about what I had selected. For reasons unknown, I wanted him to look at my purchases, decide they had both artistic merit and indefinable “coolness,” and, I dunno, give me a knowing wink or a nod or something indicating I was part of the elite. Good choices, bro.

Having some distance from this now, I realize how appalling this desire is and just how grotesquely insecure I am. Fine. This is a guy working retail who happens to be dealing with the next guy in line when there are 10 more behind him. He could not give half a fuck about anything I’m purchasing, only that I’m contributing to the machine that is keeping him gainfully employed, which is thereby keeping his rent paid, his belly full, and his car gassed.

But still!

Love me! Validate me! Set me apart from the rest of the cultural chaff! This Gaslight Anthem album, Joe Strummer album, obscure Johnny Cash album, two Jerry Lee Lewis albums, and George Carlin comedy classic ARE legitimately what I want, but I want you to CERTIFY MY TASTE. Why? I have no fucking idea.

He doesn’t. He rings me up, asks to see my ID in concert with my debit card, and gives me a receipt. He offers nothing. I have no idea how he feels about my purchases. I go to my car and immediately forget about this desire. It’s intense but ethereal. I want the clerk’s validation for the entirety of my tenure in line until the transaction is complete, but nothing out of those bounds.

Everyone, I suspect, has some consumer anxiety because what we buy is a reflection of who we are. Putting those choices on the counter exposes us in a way we don’t always feel comfortable disclosing, so we pacify that anxiety with a psychological desire for validation from the stranger who has now seen inside our kimono. And we rarely get it. Macauley Culkin buys army men in Home Alone, and when the clerk shoots him a sideways glance, he nervously retorts, “For the kids…”

It’s momentary, but intense. But once it’s over, I think nothing of it ever again. That is, until the next transaction.

pale ale

We showed up at the liquor store shortly after that, had our arms loaded with Konig Pilsner, Boulevard Pale Ale, Dale’s Pale Ale, and Mama’s Little Yella Pils, as we perused our local liquor store’s impressive selection of bombers. Obscure and hard-to-make beers populated the shelf and Kristin and I gazed at them adoringly. The bearded clerk saw our arms loaded, our inquisitive faces, and asked, “Can I offer you a cart?”

We both said no as we needed to be heading home by now, but the anxiety returned. I’m getting the right beer, right? This guy knows I have TASTE, right?! I’m not buying Straw-Ber-Rita, fer chrissakes… TELL ME THE BEER I LIKE IS GOOD, GUY!

I have issues.

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