Retail Therapy: Do You Do It?

Shop til you drop cover

We’re exploring the theme of adult friendship on the site this month, and while it would have made sense for November’s Good Evening theme to follow suit, we are, instead, going to talk about sustainability through the lens of retail therapy.

For those of you, btw, who are unfamiliar: Good Evening is the monthly conversation series we hold at Man Repeller’s HQ. It features intimate discussions with people across a pretty broad spectrum of vocational disciplines who we think are cool. What we mean by “cool” is thoughtful and intentional and pretty relentless about preserving the human spirit.

Glad that’s out of the way! So: why retail therapy, why now? Well! Since last May, I’ve had three breakfast meetings with Céline Semaan, the incredible MIT-educated brain behind Slow Factory and the non-profit education initiative called Study Hall (for which she now holds an annual summit at U.N. headquarters) and a lot of solid-ass writing on sustainability that’s been published in NYMag, Elle, and Vogue. Every time we sit down, we say we should host a panel discussion together after the topic inevitably comes back to sustainability through various doorways. (I know very little, she knows very much.) The one (doorway) that we keep coming back relates to shopping while sad.

Céline shared a statistic that 86% of her Instagram following expressed that they engage in retail therapy to make themselves feel better. This led her to develop a theory on mental hygiene and what she calls “the rebellious act of loving oneself as a sustainable habit rather than a hiccup of serotonin on check-out,” and ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, that’s what we’re gonna talk about. 

At the panel discussion.

That we’re finally


The timing of a conversation seems opportune, even independent of the site’s theme because it is November, after all, and as you know, when the clock strikes midnight on Halloween, early Fall ends and the Christmas shopping season begins.

I’ve known this for a long time, but it was never so obvious as last Friday when Mariah Carey posted that hilarious Instagram video, and my friend Alireza tried to steal joy from the underwhelming minority of observant Jewish people who buck out of bed on November 1st like gymnasts on a springboard to ask Alexa to play holiday music.

Not to mention the onslaught of personal messages I got on Saturday from women who were apparently walking through Soho at the same time that I was; 4 of the 7 mentioned that even though they did not say hello, they were Christmas shopping.

All of which is just to say that with holiday cheer also comes holiday blues and what with all the transactivity (a portmanteau for transactional activity) that is going to occur—that is incidentally already in progress—a tinge, or perhaps yacht-load of retail therapy is on the 5th Avenue skyline, which is my cheeky and cheesy way of saying “imminent horizon” because I feel like I write that too much. 

So, tell me, do you participate in retail therapy? Shop when you’re sad? If you do, why? What do you buy? What does it do? How does it make you feel? Does the feeling last? I’ll tell you my answer if you tell me yours! Lay it on me, and, hey! Come listen to Céline and me and Karmay Gorley and FIT’s Prof. Catherine Geib on November 14 when we sink our cavities into it. Get your ticket here.

Graphic by Dasha Faires.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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