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How the Pandemic Crushed My Self Control

Something insidious was happening to me, and I was pretty sure COVID-19 was responsible.

For example, I glimpsed an online ad for sneakers, and suddenly I had to have them. There I was, just reading an article about how Jodie Foster was still trying to figure herself out when the sneakers materialized at the bottom of my screen in glorious, holiday-island turquoise. They had those very squishy looking soles with air bubbles in them, promising pain-free skipping, running and playing on surfaces not covered with snow. I ached to buy them.

The only problem was, I’d recently purchased new sneakers. Two pair, in fact, one black, one white. Not to mention the fragrant skin lotion, candles, books, socks, KN95 masks, patterned cloth masks, more books, new PJs, dog supplements and human vitamins, earrings and a new bathrobe … all online.

I am not, by nature, a shopaholic. Having escaped the New York City hustle, I live a modest, rural life in a small home. I am judicious and frugal in my spending. At least I used to be.

Now I seem to be afflicted with this unexpected side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: shutin-shopping addiction. I don’t know if there’s a cure for it, or even a treatment. But I am hoping that the COVID vaccination, should I ever be fortunate enough to get one, might help before I exceed my Visa limit.

It all began with the realization that I was running low on “White Citrus,” my favorite Bath & Bodyworks hand cream. I knew that our local mall, which almost went bankrupt until a medical multispecialty center took over half the empty stores, still housed one open Bath & Bodyworks store.

But when I called, they did not have “White Citrus” any more. It was a retired fragrance.

That gave me pause. As a woman of a certain age, did I really want to be wearing a “retired” fragrance? On the other hand, nobody's been close enough to smell me in months; they wouldn’t know the difference. I started looking online.

I was terribly excited to find that Bath & Bodyworks was sponsoring a big, online pandemic sale. For a short time only, I could get three for the price of two, or five for the price of three. I bought ten, including shea butter.

After giving several of my White Citrus hand creams away for the holidays, I went back to the Bath and Bodyworks site. Only a few of my retired hand creams were left, and no shea butter at all. I panicked. I bought everything they had and also several scented candles.

These days, I find my eyes wandering from the important and serious online articles I’m perusing to the bright and beautiful ads running in a column down the side of the screen. I mean, I have never been an ad clicker! I don’t know what’s happening to me. Now all the marketers of the world know my preferences: Celtic serenity fairy-light trees. Sure fire weight-loss supplements. Beautiful sweaters that would’ve looked great on me ten years ago.

Not only is there the compelling luminosity of the ads, there is also the excitement at the mailbox. I have someplace to go the evening. What will it be tonight? A flexible quilted bag with a book from Amazon? A robust brown box with loungewear from LL Bean?

Nothing beats the thrill of stopping atop my long, slippery driveway in February, full of expectation. I leave the car door hanging open, the dome light and the warmth and the sound of NPR’s All Things Considered tumbling and crumbling into frigid air behind me as I skid to my big metal mailbox. I flail my hand around in the dark interior and strike cardboard. Bingo!

I am hopeful. I believe that soon we will all be vaccinated, that I will be able to visit and hug my friends again. We will have dinner together and laugh like in the old days. We will all embrace, reeking of White Citrus, and light a candle, giving thanks for science, extreme masking, and curbside pickup. We will be grateful to be alive. And I expect we will be cured of all these unresolved, ancillary illnesses, like compulsive online shopping, that go along with a pandemic.

Meanwhile, with spring arriving, I’ve realized that I really do need those turquoise sneakers. Who doesn’t need a little color, a little splash? I’m expecting delivery in four to five days.


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