The Shopping Itch

old-fashioned-cyber-mondayI tried to make it through the Thanksgiving weekend without shopping. Donna and I had cooked Thanksgiving dinner for ten, and we had a couple of friends stay over with us. We ate a lot of food, and stayed up late talking. I wanted to recuperate and relax. I didn’t make it.

On Saturday, I set off for the Union Square Greenmarket to get some local apples and dark leafy greens. I got sidetracked by the big “30% Off” sign in the window of J. Crew. I bought two plaid shirts and a wool fair isle sweater before I got to the kale, collard greens, and broccoli rabe.

It wasn’t completely my fault. My e-mail was bombarded with 30% and 40% off coupons. I tried to ignore them, but some marketer understands my psychology. I succumbed to the hype. The sweater is great; the two shirts are nice but a little long on me (or I am a little short for them). I don’t have buyer’s remorse. I have two more shirts I don’t need.

On Monday, I struggled to not peek at the Timberland, Lucky Brand, American Eagle Outfitters, and Brooks Brothers websites. I didn’t want to feel the shopping itch again. I didn’t want to be a Cyber Monday sucker. I heard the coupons singing to me. This time I resisted.

I unconsciously keep track of things I’ve seen (e.g. the wool sweater), things I’ve imagined will make me look good, clothes that will magically turn me from a butch frog into a handsome prince. It never works, but I keep believing that I will be transformed. I flip through the men’s sections of catalogs wishing I looked like the models. I can not buy my way out of being who I am, but I keep trying.


Pluto looking at himself in the Hall of Mirrors. From “Bone Trouble.”

What I see in my head never matches what I see in the mirror. When I look in the mirror I distort the image. It is like having two circus mirrors, one on the inside and one on the outside. I do not have a way to accurately see whom I look like. I don’t have a clear picture of  my silhouette; I can’t keep the crayon in-between the lines.

My holiday shopping is only for me. Donna and I don’t celebrate Christmas. The official reason is that I am Jewish and my parents believed that Jews observed Christmas by eating Chinese food. The unofficial reason is that my birthday is Christmas Eve. When I was little I resented that it was overshadowed by that other guy’s birthday. I didn’t want to celebrate either one.

I have mixed feelings about my birthday. I don’t like being the center of attention. My birthday was tainted by my mother’s disapproval of my boyishness, her desire for me to conform, and her inability or refusal to give me a present I might like. By the end of the day all I wanted to do was make a wish, blow out the candles, eat the cake, and go to bed.

I still have trouble with presents. I am unable to ask for what I want. I don’t believe that I will be taken seriously. I am afraid of being judged. I ask for things that are safe, like books (this year’s list includes Julia Serano‘s new book “Excluded” and Yotam Ottonlenghi’s first cookbook “Plenty“). If I yearn for something material, I will buy it. The intangibles I keep to myself.

Note: Here is a link to the Disney cartoon “Bone Trouble.” It is eight minutes of pure fun, starring Pluto and Butch the Bulldog. The scenes with Pluto in the Carnival’s Hall of Mirrors are fabulous. He handles mirrors much better than I do.

6 thoughts on “The Shopping Itch

  1. halitentwo

    Seriously, we might be twins separated at birth. I could so relate. Looking through the men’s sections of catalogs, imagining my face on that body, being disappointed by the reality (and the fact they rarely have my size). I was 6 when I begged my parents to NOT have a birthday party for me. And I never had another party. Momster thought she was punishing me, but not having one was far less stressful for me than dealing with what you describe. sigh.


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The peculiarities of a transgender childhood with a difficult mother…I’ve often wondered what my mother would have seemed like if I’d been as compliant as my brother.

      My mother also wanted everything to look as if nothing was wrong (big problem when you’ve got a shy chubby tomboy) and insisted that I do everything that a girl was supposed to do, including hosting a birthday party attended by the kids who bullied me at school. And there were epic battles over leotards and gymnastics lessons (I won, but I still cringe at the thought of her trying to stuff me into a leotard).


  2. RonaFraser

    I just spent more time than I should on my new policy of keeping my Inbox clean… and I saved your new post for last because it is my favourite! Ok, partly because it doesn’t involve any work for me… [oh crap – just heard another email arrive… oh well…]

    Re appearrance — I find that I don’t really know what I look like. My face is almost a surprise — when I actually look at it as a whole (so, only really in photos), I’m like “oh… I guess that’s me…”. My favourite thing is to get an outfit that looks good on me (somehow hiding my belly, possibly emphasizing cleavage, and hopefully implying some coolness or funkiness that I may not feel otherwise…). Part of me thinks I should stare at myself in a mirror until I accept that that is me and get over it… and part of me thinks I am fine in my oblivion!

    Re birthdays, I am not great with them either. I look at my accomplishments or lack thereof (ok, and my singleness) and find myself wanting… and I don’t like being a center of attention either… and I don’t like waiting to see who remembers (I used to do that, but I seem to know too many people now so, with all the good wishes of Facebook Friends, I don’t notice of anyone forgets). But one thing that has helped me come to terms with my birthday, was what came up when a good friend (aka guy I was in love with) hated his birthday. I was/am so glad he was born, so of course I would want to celebrate it! And I am glad you were born. I have read such interesting things and seen things from different viewpoints thanks to you being born. So I would celebrate your birthday! So you should too! 🙂 Imagine — if you weren’t around even just this last year, there would be a pile of people online who wouldn’t have had that “I’m not alone” feeling or that “I never thought of it that way” feeling etc. And that is only online, as there are also all the folks in your life in person! And all the cool things you have experienced over the last year, of course. So, I figure, you made it through another year, and have done some great things, and are around to start on another year… so you definitely deserve to celebrate it! 🙂

    PS. I was feeling pretty crappy this aft, and you’ve totally put me in a better mood — ok, you and the hot chocolate I’m drinking, but still!

    PPS. Wanna hear something stupid? Even though we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, we still “celebrate” Black Friday and Cyber Monday! I think it was maybe only in the last year or two that shops here jumped on the bandwagon, but still. Any excuse to lure us into spending money!!


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I am glad I was born- but celebrating my birthday, ugh. The only place I celebrate it regularly is at my office (I work for a large public transportation agency that is still very male dominated). When I started working there everyone was expected to bring in donuts on their birthday (3 dozen). I usually bring in really good danish or coffee cakes; partly because if I’m going to eat sweets I want them to be good, and partly because it is Christmas Eve day and no one really wants to be there. So the guys who come into work know they will be getting a treat.

      I am also glad I’ve been writing the blog (almost one year). It is definitely helping me think things through, and I like the interaction/interchange with people other bloggers/readers. I also like the process of writing and putting it out there for someone to find. It is a big (rare) thrill when I get a google hit that results in someone reading a bunch of posts. On the other hand it is weird that I get a number of google hits due to one post on The Sound of Music that included a sentence about lederhosen (because I spelled it correctly). But I also get the occasional “Am I butch or am I trans” google hit in which case they came to the right blog.

      I really did try not to shop this year, maybe next year I will do better. Donna always says she wants to travel to an Islamic country (Turkey or Morroco) at Christmas so we wouldn’t have to put up with the commercialization. I’d rather save my shekels and refuse to comply with it.


  3. bloggingpioneer

    I really enjoy reading your posts. I have to agree with the sentiments of RonaFraser: your point of view is so valued because it makes people say “oh how clever, never considered that!” or “Hey, I can totally relate!” Your blog is in my top three that I try to read regularly when my life isn’t completely insane. Please keep writing, and celebrate who you are. Also NEVER feel bad about buying anything from J.Crew. That is just good investment sense right there.


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Hi and thanks for the compliments and for reading me in-between bouts of insanity. If anyone had explained to me before I started how hard it is to write a relatively short post once a week I would not have believed them. But I like doing it, and it helps me think things through. I’m not a talkative person. I can write things that I would not be able to say in a conversation- and not have to worry about what other people think.

      On the clothing front, I do like J.Crew and their clothes are durable. I still have a wool rollneck sweater that I can’t quite wear out that must be at least 15 years old. I just wish I could show a little more restraint.



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