Book Review: “Spent”
“Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping,” edited by Kerry Cohen
c.2014, Seal Press
$17.00 / $21.50 Canada
That thing in the store… it was perfect.
It was just the right size and color, a good fit, a decent price. It spoke to you the minute you saw it, whispering promises of confidence and prestige. Surely, it would make someone happy—that someone, of course, being you.
You already own lots of thing—so why buy more? In “Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping,” edited by Kerry Cohen, you’ll read essays about shopping and the possible reasons behind it.
Popular culture says that women + malls = bliss.
We shop ‘til we drop. We drop a wad on shoes, clothes, and things we already have too many of, happily maxing out credit cards only to sweat the day when the bills are due and the checkbook’s lean.
Or so everyone’s led to believe. The truth is, though, that women generally have individual, personal, mixed relationships with buying.
Shopping, it’s true, can be part of a dream. The woman in an ad for a sweater, for instance, looks mighty happy; ownership of that sweater seems like a portal to living that life. Shopping for it can be a matter of hope for the future—or for health, the chance to wear the item purchased, and a dream of buying time.
Conversely, shopping might make one believe that money is meaningless, that it only matters what you do with it. Buying things can be a great equalizer. It can be a sign that you deserve the finer things—or, at least, something a little better than what life and circumstances handed you.
Some women shop for their children and ignore their own needs when tracking down deals, while others put themselves first. Shopping can be a bonding experience between mother, daughter, grandmother—or son. Some may see it as a coping mechanism or as relaxation. Items bought could complete a collection, a closet, or a soul, while some purchases can definitely be viewed as acts of defiance.
Shopping can be fun, but it has a flipside. It can be irritating, exasperating, sad, desperate, and avoided whenever possible. It doesn’t always include a physical purchase. And it doesn’t always mean bringing home the goods by paying for them…
Let’s start here: I don’t think you’re going to learn anything from “Spent.”
The stories presented by editor Kerry Cohen might surprise you. They might shock you a little, anger you some, and one or two might ping your Awwwww Meter, but I don’t think you’ll learn anything.
I don’t think that matters, though. The thirty-one women who contributed to this book each likewise offer different viewpoints on their feelings toward money and what it buys. Their stories come from various walks of life, economic realities, and long-held attitudes, which is entertaining enough without having to be instructional. Sometimes, a book is just a book.
And this book is worth reading—especially if you, too, have a relationship with money and want insight to that of others. In that case, then, “Spent” is worth every penny.