Keeping it Real; or: I am grateful for moments of humility.

Today was an errand running day for me. In my capacity of (volunteer!) Fiberwytch Assistant (or, F’wytchlet), I made my way to acquire some additional storage drawers, a bead-and-charm organizer, and a sync cable that did not come with the new store camera, despite the sales clerk insisting that it did, indeed. Heading out to our big box stores is always interesting to me. If I only look at the buildings, I realize could be Anywhere, USA. It’s a type of magic, really, that playing with reality and space, that something can be the same no matter where in the country one find’s oneself. When I look at the scenery, everything changes. Huge open sky. Mountains in the distance — from one particular vantage point, I can see a snow-capped peak most of the year. At the right time of year (read: most of the year) I can see the storms as they roll in. It’s a beautiful location, and I enjoy the trip out, every time I go. I don’t go often, because I hate shopping. I hate being in stores. I hate being away from home. But, this trip needed to happen, both for the store and for a few things we needed for the house, and so off I went, knitting in tow.

~*~*~*~*~

Every time I venture to Walmart, a conflict sets up within my mind and my heart. It’s uncool to be seen as wanting to shop at Walmart. It certain economic sectors it’s undesirable to be seen as financially supporting Walmart as a business, considering how they treat their employees, how they’re underpaid, etc. If that’s not enough, it’s uncool in my particular location to choose to support the big box stores rather than thrift stores or local crafters/artisans/what-have-you. And, of course, I would rather purchase a handmade bedspread than a mass produced polycotton comforter — who wouldn’t? It’s all very well and good to say make do or shop local, don’t support this big box store that does not pay its employees well enough that they can afford to live on their own . . . .

Except, my employer does not pay well enough that I could live on my own. I work full time. I’ve been with them for a decade. If I was on my own, I’d qualify for food stamps. I cannot imagine doing this with children to support. This whole ‘eat locally, live sustainably,’ push is not going to work before we make wages high enough that people can live sustainably. It’s not going to go the other way around. I would love, love to be able to shop thrift stores — but I’m too fat and too short. I’d love to buy handmade or at least locally made goods. I often do go without. Currently, my wardrobe consists of two pairs of slacks for work, two tops for work, a pair of jeans, and one extra top. I own a pair of four year old sandals, and shoes for work that need to be replaced before real winter sets in. (heh. So I’ve got another two months before I have to worry about that.) Today’s trip included getting a second pair of sweatpants because the nights are getting colder, a second pair of jeans for Beth, an umbrella, and a splurge on a second set of sheets for Beth’s bed. I bought a three-drawer plastic drawer unit for the store, because Beth’s storage consists of shoving her material into bags, into the closet. It takes her most of her production time to simply find the material she needs for any given project. I have moral, ethical issues with the amount of plastic in our lives . . . but the solution isn’t always going to be go without, and the changes in a lot of these cases are not going to come at a lower level. How we consume needs to be changed . . . but there are some things that cannot be changed on a individual level.

Never mind that Walmart and Target and other box stores in my area employ local people. My neighbors. You want to see these people working better paying jobs at local-focused industries, that pay them a living wage and allow flexibility? Unless you’re stepping up with a solution to that problem, pipe down. Also, get over yourselves with being too good to shop in “those” places.

~*~*~*~*~

I know I dislike shopping in Walmart, but so much of that for me is the atmosphere — not the people (and I despise people making fun of people shopping at Walmart, and how they may or may not look. If you laugh at people based on how they look, shame on you, and kindly remove yourself from my blog, thank you, bye) — but the lights. The vaulted ceiling. The noise echoing. It’s too much background stimulation, and it’s uncomfortable. (As in, now that I’m home, I’m pretty much done for the whole day. I need to nest and regroup). I do like being able to go and get a bunch of much-needed items for a price that isn’t going to break me.

I dunno. Relevant to my spiritual practice because now and again I get full of myself — “I’m going to eat locally! I’m going to eat organically! I’m going to support local artists and craftspeople and recycle/upcycle/do everything from scratch!” Except, I have three jobs. THREE JOBS. And a very expensive dog, a slightly less expensive Beth, a slightly less expensive cat, three low-cost cats 😉 and a house to help upkeep. I don’t have time to do it all from scratch.

Get over yourself, Jo.

And keep it humble. Keep it real. Stop the shame-cycle, even when it’s just effecting yourself.

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11 thoughts on “Keeping it Real; or: I am grateful for moments of humility.

  1. I’ve never found the people of Walmart memes funny. I despise how the employees are paid and treated (through pay and benefits) and bemoan the demise of the company atmosphere after the founder was gone. And before the founder was gone I loathed that they advertised as if they carried the same quality of products when in fact they carry cheaper versions for less. I can’t stand the way they prey on poor people. Add in their business model of driving out local businesses via crazy low prices and then upping the prices when the competition is gone … well.

    I don’t shop there. Nice, right? Ethical, moral me, right? Except I boycott places from a personal level and thus only place judgment on myself. I don’t globally judge Walmart (or other places I won’t shop) consumers. In spite of all that Walmart (and similar) is, they exist because so many people cannot afford to shop anywhere else. I have the privilege of not needing to shop there. Privilege. And I know it. My grown kids shop there because they have to. I get it, because I’m not an asshole. Neither are you. My preference is to shop local and artisans and the “perfect” places, but money and life sets certain parameters on all of us.

    (I’m picking on Walmart because they’re the easiest, but they’re not alone.)

    Anyway – love you!

  2. Unfortunately, we have to shop at Walmart occasionally. I loathe, loathe, loathe their politics and their shenanigans, but our favorite store (sweetbay) was bought out by Winn Dixie and they (in turn) removed several items we used to buy. Now we have to go to WD, Walmart *and* Publix on a rotating basis to fully stock up.It’s assinine. (And why Walmart hasn’t driven down business at Publix I have no idea. They are *so* expensive! But good ole Publix has been in our area for …roughly my whole life and they’re still here) If WD had replaced everything when they switched over, if our Locally-owned Publix would *lower* their prices, I wouldn’t frequent Walmart but alas, despite our requests, they have not. What’s a girl to do?

  3. I am reminded of the current pledge,to not shop on Thanksgiving , which comes from a place of privilige. Folks,at Walmart or Kmart or Macys arent getting paid time off. They may need to work that shift to make itvthe next week. And i actually talk to the clerks (radical I know) and most of them were chin lad to be there. They got extra money to work that day, it was quiet so they got to catch up and alot have said they didnt want to spend the whole day with their family of origin. When i worked retail, i would have loved to work because i had no place to go on thanksgiving.

    • (pokes my head in conversation) Yeah as someone who worked retail for several years, we don’t get paid time off for the holidays. I would volunteer to do holiday shifts so I could get paid extra. The “don’t shop Thanksgiving weekend” is easy for people to say if they’ve never worked retail or don’t have family/friends employed retail who need that shift. And as someone who is poor, there are often sales at department stores on Black Friday which are really, really, really good, so guilting people for taking advantage of a day that might actually help them… makes me cringe.

    • I’m one of those clerks, though lately I’ve been not volunteering because I’m tired of always volunteering and monetarily speaking, I don’t need to be that woman working that day. Plus, our bus system does not run on Thanksgiving and Christmas (and a few other days, too) and taking a cab eats up the benefit of going in. Walking in usually a no go, because more often than not it’s pouring here on those days, and it’s a six mile walk all told.

      That and I cannot stand the people who come in and bitch that we’re open, we should be home with our families. We’re open because you’re here, you idiots. If you don’t like it, don’t shop. If you’re shopping, shut up. But, yeah, that extra bit in the pocket is nice.

  4. I relate to this post a little too well. I’m on a fixed income. I pretty much have no choice but to shop at big-box stores for certain things. I _do_ try to get a lot of stuff secondhand at Goodwill (though that has mostly to do with the fact that 1. I’m cheap and stuff can be cheaper there than new in stores, 2. I’ve found some really cool shit there [I shop in mens’ and have an easier time finding stuff in my size there, I otherwise relate to being an odd size for the ladies’ section], 3. I’ve found some really HILARIOUS shit there, so Goodwill is always, always entertaining), and I _do_ try to purchase handmade when I can (see also, Beth’s ritual cords, and I am verrrrry interested in her impending candles). But when you live on $740/mo and your rent is 2/3 of that (because Section 8 takes forever to get on and public housing has its own set of issues), you can’t really look down your nose at places like Wal-Mart. I actually haven’t been in a Wal-Mart in a couple years because the nearest Wal-Mart is prohibitively far away but I do shop at Fred Meyer (which is like somewhat classier Wal-Mart), and when I move back east I will in fact be occasionally going to Wal-Mart for things because that is what is there in my price range. It’s trendy in pagan circles to put down people who shop at Wal-Mart and acting like we all have no conscience for workers or the environment, when the reality is I need to be able to pay my bills, feed myself, and my cat. I can spend $2000 on Etsy on a patchwork quilt for my bed made of upcycled whateverthefuck or I can spend $40 on a comforter that I know is of a material that will keep me warm during the cold-ass winter. When you are struggling to make ends meet, you cannot live your life based on the approval of others with shopping at *~the right stores~* and being all local organic everything, much as you or I might like to.

    Also the People of Wal-Mart meme makes me sick. Especially because I’ve done things like take the bus to go grocery shopping at five in the morning in flannel camo pajamas with a coat, because I’m not feeling very well and want to get there, get my shit, go home before the crowds swarm in. If someone is off from work and feels like relaxing in casual clothing like sweatpants and dares to leave the house in them, who gives a flying fuck? If a person has nothing the fuck better to do with their time than be like HURR HURR THIS PERSON IS WEARING _SWEATPANTS_ AT THE STORE, I don’t even know what to say. And I say this as a very image-conscious flamboyant gay man who normally is pretty careful with my appearance when I leave the house (and will spend extra time looking for things at thrift shops that are nice, one of the reasons why I make jewelry is so I can make myself nice things etc). I have no shits to give about what other people wear. Not everybody can be swag all the time. I really dislike the culture of mocking people for dressing down at the store. For fuck’s sake. Making fun of how people look is juvenile. So, totally with you on that.

    • The Black Friday stuff I don’t even really count as “working the holidays” because it in and of itself is like The Consumer Holiday. I don’t go shopping on that day, but I admit I don’t go shopping on that day because I don’t need to. Different story altogether if I did, and i’m basically done with people who want to shame other people because of whatever-reason. ‘People of Walmart’ meme sets my blood to boiling, I can’t even tell you.

  5. Reblogged this on The Serpent's Labyrinth and commented:
    I cannot praise Jo’s post highly enough.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of getting snotty bullshit from other pagans because I occasionally shop at big-box stores. (I haven’t been to a Wal-Mart in a couple years, mainly because the nearest Wal-Mart is prohibitively far, so I do shopping at Fred Meyer which has been described as “classier Wal-Mart”, but once I’m moved out of the Pacific Northwest and am back on the east coast, it’s going to be Wal-Mart and Target again.) I get tired of myself and people in situations like mine being treated like we have no conscience for the environment and workers when the reality is I need to be able to pay bills and feed myself and my cat and that’s really fucking hard to do enough as it is when you’re on a fixed income or you’re one of the working poor (I’ve been in both situations). As someone who owns an Etsy shop, I do in fact encourage people to buy handmade if/when they can, and I myself try to buy handmade for certain items as I can. But if I have the choice between spending $2000 on a handmade quilt on Etsy v. a $40 comforter that will keep me warm during the winter, guess which one I’m buying.

    (I do a lot of thrifting, incidentally, I actually made a Goodwill run yesterday with a couple friends because I had no clothes appropriate for New England winter [having spent seven years in southern California, and having dramatically changed clothing sizes over the last two years] so while I was out shipping some stuff via FedEx I ran into Goodwill and got some nice sweaters that didn’t cost me much. I love Goodwill… when I can find clothing in my size. Where I lived in SoCal there was really not much available for larger people in thrift stores; here in the Portland metro area I’ve gotten lucky with finding mens’ clothes in my size. Thrifting is a good option for those of us who are poor, but it’s not always an option for people because of things like size and availability… or condition of items for that matter.)

    The other thing that I’ve heard is “well you could just make clothes.” Sewing is not the easiest skill in the world to learn, despite what a lot of people say. (I can bead but I can’t sew. I’ve tried.) It’s also labor-intensive. I have all the respect in the world for people who can make clothing, who can knit, etc, because I can’t do that. But to get back to what I was saying, the “make your own” option sneered at someone for shopping at a big-box store is condescending and fucking offensive. Do you make every single one of your clothing items by hand? Probably not. So shut the fuck up, if you’re saying this kind of shit to other people.

    It is easy to judge a person’s “lifestyle choices” when you’re not living their life, and let me be blunt, when you are poor like I am, you don’t really have a choice, your choice has been made for you by the way the economy works in this country. In a perfect world we would all be able to do local organic handmade everything. But we’re not. And I find that too often the people who are preaching the loudest, do jack and shit towards food justice issues and workers’ rights and so on, and in fact are the biggest perpetuators of the economy that is hurting people.

    Classism is a prejudice that is fairly rampant in the pagan community (and one that I will explore further on my Patheos blog where I go into Captain Social Justice mode), but let me say, in short, it ain’t cute. Please try to check your privilege when you condemn people for things like shopping at Wal-Mart. It’s not as easy as “make wiser choices” and “buy secondhand, buy handmade, make your own”. If it were, I wouldn’t be trying to navigate a crowded store with bright-ass fluorescent lights, y’know?

    Now go read Jo’s post.

  6. My parents once gave me crap for buying stuff at Walmart on their dime. That was before they moved to Wyoming… What irritates me is the people who think they’re awesome for shopping at Target instead of Walmart, which while slightly less evil politically, still treats/pays its workers about the same. I used to work at Macy’s, which while it paid/treated workers better than the aforementioned, that’s not saying a helluva lot compared to the Good Ole Days of Dayton’s that I heard my older co-workers talk about. I do my shopping on bike or foot too, so the fewer stops the better.

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