Thursday, July 8, 2010

Avis Cardella's "Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict"

After spending her formative years reading fashion magazines voraciously, Avis Cardella found her calling writing about fashion, photography, and culture. She has written for British Vogue, American Photo, and Surface, among other publications. She lives in Paris with her husband.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict, and reported the following:
When I look at page 99 of my memoir Spent, this is what I find: The emptiness propelled me back into the relationship with Thomas. I became convinced that the only solution was to marry and start a family. Already in my thirties, time was running out. Indeed, several critical pieces of my story are in those three sentences: emptiness, relationships, family, time running out.

My compulsive shopping, of course, was directly linked to my need to fill the void, to answer to the emptiness I felt inside. Cliché as it sounds, this turns out to be the linchpin of many a shopping addict’s run to the retailer. I was no different. What was I really searching for? What are we all searching for?

Relationships, with friends, lovers, or family were what suffered throughout my years of compulsive shopping. Probably most damaged was my relationship with myself. My desire to sidestep true and difficult or painful emotions was at the core of my self-deception. Naturally, no other relationship could be sustained when one of the main requirements was that I be emotionally present. For many years, I wasn’t.

The time running out that I refer to in this particular passage has to do with starting a family. I was reacting to my biological clock. I don’t know any woman who has successfully sidestepped this, those with children or without.

(Just for kicks I popped open to page 99 of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly popular, Eat, Pray, Love, and wouldn’t you know it, the entire page finds her grappling with the issue of having children.)

Like Gilbert, I realized that time would not wait for me to wake-up and come to the party. Yet, I was reticent to accept that time itself could not be bought, and a fabulous wardrobe couldn’t be a stand-in for self-esteem.

My final sentences of page 99 read: I had always believed, like many New York women, that I was the one calling the shots. I was in control...

Really? When I read that now the folly of this thinking is staggering. Still, it seemed to be the folly of so many women who chose to ride out the last two decades in a haze of getting and spending and chasing and wanting and believing that choice itself was what made them empowered. At least this was the message being sold.

So much to choose, to buy, to have, and to want ... so much that often had absolutely nothing to do with what we really needed.
Read an excerpt from Spent, and learn more about the book and author at Avis Cardella's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue