Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tuesday Top 5: Shopping For Relationship Lessons

While shopping at Marshalls yesterday, I had an epiphany. This isn't an uncommon experience--I often wander the aisles of my suburban Marshalls when I'm feeling lost or confused, eventually leaving with a pair of $10 clearance Steve Madden ballet flats, a box of expired gourmet sandwich cookies, and spiritual clarity--but yesterday I felt particularly moved by my Marshalls moment.

Here's what happened: I came across a chunky fair isle cardigan that was very nearly perfect--it was beautiful and kinda nerdy and super flattering and almost exactly what I was looking for. The only problem? The colors--muted grays, pinks, and greens--did nothing for my skin tone. I thought about wearing it with a brighter shirt underneath, or even putting on more blush to compensate, but deep down I knew this sweater just wasn't right for me.

As I put the cardigan back on the rack, I found myself getting genuinely emotional, thinking, "If I can't accept this sweater just the way it is, then I need to move on. Someone else, maybe someone with olive undertones, will come along and love this sweater the way it deserves to be loved." I caressed its pearly buttons one last time and I said goodbye.

Then I bought some cookies and $10 ballet flats and went home and wrote this list:

Top 5 Tips That Can Be Applied to Shopping and Relationships

1. You can't change a person. (You can sort of change a pair of pants. But not that much.)

If something's not right, don't force it. I could have bought that fair isle cardigan and spent years trying to make things work. Eventually we'd just get resentful of each other and I'd take him to Goodwill.

Sure, you can shorten pants and alter jackets, but altering humans is way tougher, especially if you've never done surgery before, so please, just move on. Wait for the guy or girl or shirt or suit that fits you perfectly, without massive alterations. I swear, you'll find it eventually.

2. Don't limit yourself with rigid rules and expectations.

I've had friends who have refused to get to know potential mates because they were too short or too tall or they didn't go to college or kind of looked like a squid, and I think that's a sad situation. Those guys could have been totally awesome and compatible with my friends, but now we'll never know.

The same is true of clothes: people tend to approach shopping with rigid ideas of what does and doesn't work for them, and ignore everything else. If you see something on the rack that intrigues you, even a little bit, I encourage you to try it on and see what happens. And if you meet a squid man, I encourage you to at least meet him for coffee. I bet he has some great stories to tell.

Now that's a fun guy.

3. Invest in quality.

A string of shallow, unfulfilling relationships is not unlike a "Buy 9 get 1 free" earrings sale at Claire's. You get the instant gratification but later have little to show for it and there's a chance you'll get an infection.

Quality clothing takes a little extra money and care, and quality relationships take a little extra work, but in the end, it's worth the investment.

4. Trust your gut.

I rarely do serious shopping with a friend. I trust my intuition when it comes to clothes, and it can be confusing to come out of the fitting room wearing a dress that makes me look and feel like a sausage only to have my shopping partner be like, "That is AMAZING. You HAVE to get it!"

Maybe your friends are all head-over-heels for your new beau while you're lukewarm. Listen to what they have to say and try to be open-minded, but in the end you will be the one wearing that sausage dress or dating that sausage salesman, so you have to decide. And deep down, you always know the right answer.

5. Choose a partner (or an outfit) that makes you feel comfortable.

A skirt that's too tight is no better than a man who's too uptight. You can do better.

What about you guys? Have you ever encountered any of these lessons in the shopping or dating world? Have you ever dated a squid man? Should I stop eating expired sandwich cookies?

57 comments:

Katy said...

lol!

WendyB said...

"The same is true of clothes: people tend to approach shopping with rigid ideas of what does and doesn't work for them, and ignore everything else. If you see something on the rack that intrigues you, even a little bit, I encourage you to try it on and see what happens." -- WORD!

Fashion Police said...

haha i love the comparison.
I love how u felt so emotional u know, about putting the cardigan down.
reading things like this make me think wow I'm not alone :D :P

P.S. Do visit my blog when you get time.

Hayley Bash said...

great post and I definitely agree. with not forcing things. I have clothes I swore I would make work and years later.. I still haven't.

But most importantly.. what on earth is a sandwich cookie???!!?

Annie Spandex said...

This is brilliant! I've imagined a similar metaphor... I used to think of a certain boyfriend as a really hot dress that would fall apart every time I wore it, so I would try and mend it to wear one more time but eventually just had to throw out. ..or something like that ;)

Nadezhda from New Zealand said...

My boyfriend Ryan is like the perfect black cardigan. I can wear it casually (this is not a metaphor for our sex life by the way), I can dress it up. When I'm cold it warms me, when I'm sad it makes me feel good about myself. My parents all admire it when I wear it, my friends all want to borrow it (again, not a metaphor for the above.) Sometimes my cardigan goes missing, sometimes my cardigan comes home drunk with T.A.B stubs in its pockets, but at the end of the day I can forgive my cardigan for these offenses as he, I mean it, is still the only cardigan I have loved since the day I first put it on :)

P.S Love Katys insight :P

Beth said...

Loved this post. High-larious and very good advice.

You are stronger than I, giving up that cardigan. I have a wardrobe (and two chests of drawers) full of awesome but impractical/wrong-size-but-it'll-fit-after-the-diet/omg-they-have-it-in-neon/I-know-it's-disgusting-but-its-£2 clothing.

P.S. I vow to give cephalopods a chance.

Amanda Lynne said...

best post ever. and so much truth in it!
and LOL at squid man.

Kim said...

I can't TELL you how many times I've bought something not meant for me but instead my fantasy version of me. In fact even if I could tell you, I wouldn't because it's too embarrassing.
One thing I just bought though that I know will be perfect is Closet Confidential - it's on its way as I type this and I CAN'T WAIT!!! Happy late Hanukkah to me.

Shawn said...

Dear Winona,

First, yes, please stop eating expired sandwich cookies from Marshall's. We need you around for a good, long time, and if you succumb to some terrible bacterial infection because of some too-cheap-to-be-true macarons, well, suffice it to say we would be displeased.

These are totally good pieces of advice for relationships. I dated a guy who wasn't really my type for a lot longer than I might have otherwise, and though ultimately I realized that we weren't compatible, I appreciated a lot of his qualities and learned quite a bit about judging a book by its cover.

Sal said...

How can you possibly get MORE brilliant?

I'm so glad you've been pushing #2. I feel like so many women decide what suits them and never look back. Or look around. And experimentation is the only way to expand your style!

Katy Mary said...

I love this post, it's so insightful and truly great advice for anyone! I think everyone that you said here is true and we are all guilty of such things at one time or another. Brilliant <3

Apocalypstick said...

You should've worn that cardigan and then snuck out the next morning before it woke up.

Allison said...

Sandwich cookies are like people. We all have an expiration date. Do you want to be forgotten after yours? Keep it up. You are just the cookie those cookies have been waiting for:)

(However, I wouldn't buy expired sandwich cookies on the same day that I decide to give expired PeptoBismol a try.)

Brittany said...

I 110% agree with trusting your gut... in the store and in life.

Hilarious (and insightful) post. Who knew clothes and boys had so much in common?

futurelint said...

Awesome! Very funny and true! It's taken me YEARS to finally only buy things I LOVE... otherwise I just have too many things that are okay, were exceptionally cheap but don't fit right, one day I'll figure out how to make them work, etc.

Kate said...

I love this post! So hard.

Miss L said...

I'm laughing so hard right now that I'm crying!

Amanda M. said...

You should probably stop eating expired sandwich cookies.... Wait, what even is a sandwich cookie? I know what a cookie sandwich is - it has ice cream in the middle. Wouldn't the ice cream melt before it expired?

Natalie said...

It's like when you go looking for a certain particular something on sale, you never find it but when you you have no intention of shopping at all, the PERFECT something lands in your lap.
That's how I ended up with my Man :)

Diana said...

Oh, I love this post! It's so very true.

Rose Duplex said...

Haha, this was great! Shopping with other people really is impossible, especially when it comes to second hand goodies. A weird comment from a friend who doesn't share your vision can totally sideline your judgement... On the other hand, if two people have very similar tastes then things can get a bit grabby!

Not sure if this applies to mates, too?

Ellen said...

I have cast many a backward glance at a fashion lust item - only to be grateful that I'm not waking up next to it in the morning! Thank you for putting it into words :)

Whit said...

"You get the instant gratification later have little to show for it and there's a chance you'll get an infection."

I want to embroider that on a pillow.

Anonymous said...

This came at a depressingly appropriate time.

lisa said...

Funny and so true!

phyllis said...

True you can't change a person - but you can change the way they make you feel.

caz said...

My shopping/relationship lesson:
When trying on swimwear, make sure that there's one of those sticky plastic hygiene stickers on the crotch.
Same thing with men.

E and O said...

Wonderful advice here, for clothing and relationships. I was going to tell you to stop eating expired cookies, but then I thought maybe that's the source of your super power. So nevermind.

Along the lines of your cardigan story...
I've finally realized that I don't need to purchase each gorgeous or unique item I find, just because it's gorgeous or unique.
I'd make the mistake of ignoring the fact that while it was great, it wasn't great on me. I've now learned to just admire it for a moment, appreciate that it was created, then pass on by to something that will be more fulfilling in the end.

The same thing applies to relationships.
Sure, at first glance he seems hott or seems charming, but not every hott or charming is actually a good buy. Or, in the end, even hott or charming. You can get so excited about the packaging that you fail to notice the label, or the poor fit, or the shoddy construction.

In the end he's just going to end up itchy whenever you wear him, or shrink in the wash, or make you feel ugly, or fall apart after one wearing. And then you realize why he was on the sale rack in the first place.

This is particularly important to remember if you already have an amazing sweater that fits you perfectly and makes you happy and looks beautiful and cooks you breakfast. ;) And really, there is no shortage of beautiful items out there, so enjoy the awesome one you have instead of constantly shopping for ill-fitting, itchy replacements.

A-C said...

#3 with the infection, priceless! made me giggle :)

roselizabeth said...

i sometimes get attached to cozy t-shirts and my favorite jeans, even when they have lost their shape or if they're just not really my style anymore. it's hard to have the courage to let go of something familiar and comfortable, and i find i get stuck in relationships almost as often as i fail to rotate my wardrobe. I'm working on clearing out the clutter and finding things/people that make me happy now instead of just reminding me how happy i used to be.

Lorena said...

L
O
L

fun read!

slowmiles said...

I so need to be better about not buying things in discount stores, just because they are "sort of" ok. Good reminder.

Brande said...

This post = Why I love your blog.

katharhino said...

LOVE this post! I don't shop with friends, for the same reason. I've been talked into buying an unflattering pair of pants one too many times. It's not enough to have a crush on a bright green pair of corduroys (or a guy in dance class)... you have to have chemistry AND a rational understanding of compatibility.

I used to get crushes on the most inappropriate clothing items and guys a lot.

Academichic said...

I love Marshalls, their expired cookies and gourmet coffee, and I ADORE this post - such wisdom for the ages! Hear hear! S

Jenny B said...

Awesome.
Also, always check for flaws on available merchandise. Minor ones can be okay, but serious ones mean it's still on the rack for a reason.

P.S. Skip the discount store cookies. If still soft, the peppermint salt water taffy is much tastier.

the holister abolisher said...

Do you by any chance own a green scarf? lol jk

Rekoj said...

Just had to pop off my Reader to let you know that this post was truly awesome - thanks!

Andyrabi said...

Love it! I'd add to #5 - must make you feel comfortable, but also make you feel confident and like a million bucks... Nothing better than an outfit or a man like that.

Mabel and Zora said...

I fully believe in #3.Invest in quality! It can be nice to have instant gratification but that great feeling you get never lasts! Taking your time and not buying or dating on impulse is always more gratifying in the long run!

Anonymous said...

You are awesome.

jewnbugg said...

I absolutely LOOOVEEE this post!

selinaoolala said...

this post is fantastic!! golden i tell you!! i'm dating a guy at the moment and was just thinking to myself 'hmmm he's kind of chatty? you know like he chats a lot...often when i'm not talking. he's not shy... why is he not shy? is that a bad quality? can i live with that?' so i hit myself on the head and said what are you doing woman! stop being so picky. that octopus man is very reminiscent of my last date.

Birdie! said...

Winona, you are brilliant. *gushgushgush!*

Reyna said...

You. Are. AWESOME! I'm just sayin. I do Ross. And I love that these are things you pulled for shopping! I have thought about all of these things at one point or another, but now I have a great way to explain them. I can't wait for the next slumber party I go to where we pick apart our relationships. Woop woop!

Jeanne said...

Oh, I've definitely had that conversation in the context of shoes.

I was trying on a pair of shoes and saying, well, they're cute and they fit, but they're a little off somehow in the fit -- they rubbed funny or something.

My shopping companion said, "My doctor says that if shoes don't fit right the first time, they're never going to fit comfortably."

And I realized: yeah, dudes are like that too.

I put the shoes back on the shelf.

smileyculture said...

i. love. u xxxxxxxxx

awesoooome!

Hadelicious said...

That was wildly fascinating and SO TRUE! You just linked the 2 things that most females have a love and hate relationship with.

iamhadelicious.blogspot.com

fashion herald said...

Keep eating the cookies! And right on #2, people need to stop being picky about dates. Have we learned nothing from Charlotte in SATC?

Elise said...

This reminds me a lot of a metaphor my cousin has that sometimes you just have to try it on.

Like, hmmm, this top looks really nice but I'm not sure, maybe I should try it on and see how it looks.

Same thing with people, try them on and see how they look in your life. I'm all for the squid man!

Mama Kitty said...

Hilarious!! And yet, so true. I never thought of it that way, but looking for a mate is somewhat like going shopping. Good thinking! :)

Raquel said...

These are absolutely hilarious and absolutely spot-on. Bravo! More!

millie said...

Hmm. Quite possibly the best post you've ever written (excluding any that mention yours truly, of course). Everything you said is so true of men, and of clothes. I bet there's an equally true (and entertaining) perspective from men regarding their own clothes and women... Love love, LOVE you and your blog...and everything you do, are, and stand for.

love, wonderwall. said...

i just read the january issue of elle and in there was a great article on changing your spouse. it was saying things like, you actually need someone in your life that tells you that pouting isn't flattering and that you should probably lose a couple pounds. i've always heard that you can't change a person but i think with a relationship, you change each other without realizing it. apparently the change is healthy for you too, men live an avg of seven years longer and women two when they're in a healthy marriage.

i just thought that was interesting.

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Shayna said...

Oh so THAT'S why shopping at Marshall's is so emotional! But seriously, this is great metaphor for people to think about. Especially, I laughed at the line about quality and possibly getting an infection from lots of low quality earrings and men alike. I agree fully on not being able to change people. All you can do is help them grow the ways they will, like finding out that sweater isn't just perfect for that interview, but makes a great party outfit, too. You get the idea.
Although, I must admit, my gut is often wrong. I take my sister shopping with me all the time.

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