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Retail

It's interesting how much you notice about a thing when you return to it after a long absence. In my case today, it was retail.

It's not that I never go in stores. I do. I sometimes buy things other than groceries. But I haven't been in a department store for YEARS, and I wandered into one this afternoon. Macy's, to be exact. The fancy downtown one.



Wow. There are big photographs everywhere of the kind of people they want their customers to imagine themselves to be: if you are female, then young and very skinny. If you are male, then it's okay to be up to about 43 years of age, but please stay skinny if you get that old. And for god's sake, be beautiful.

This is nothing new, of course. It's a large part of the reason that I avoid every aspect of corporate, retail, consumer culture that I can possibly avoid.

The way I felt on leaving Macy's is the reason I avoid that stuff: activated, on high alert, threatened and unsafe, unboundaried, excessive, ashamed. In a nutshell, like crap. When I was younger, I would feel like young, desperate crap. Now that I'm older, I find that I feel like old, worthless crap.

And to think: I used to feel that way all the time. I exposed myself to those stimuli dozens of times a day. The activation of my sympathetic nervous system was constant. Who knows what damage I did?

It's a subtle feeling. It took me four years of intensive training just to learn to recognize it, and I still usually only catch it by observing its fruits: the tension in my neck and shoulders; the negative thoughts; the fear of things that ten minutes earlier seemed perfectly safe; the sudden reappearance of the inner browbeater saying mean, mean things to me in my head.



I managed to sneak invisibly back up the street to my office, where I've buried myself safely in difficult work all afternoon. Now I have to go ride my bike home in the dark.

Damn Macy's.

This entry is cross-posted from DarkEmeralds on Dreamwidth.

Comments

starfishchick
Feb. 4th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
Ouch, sounds like a rough night. I hope you are feeling better today, and able to embrace and celebrate the awesomeness of you!
emeraldsedai
Feb. 4th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
Nah, by the time I rode home I was fine.

Experiences like the one I described here are, strangely, not about my self-esteem, any more than my run-in with a car was. The assault isn't to some ephemeral psychological construct, but to the central nervous system.

The ephemeral psychological construct--negative self-concept or "low self-esteem"--is the body's reaction to the assault, and not some persistent reality. If I'd understood that when I was 16, I imagine I'd have led a very different life.

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