0 In Life Online

The allure of on-demand everything

I hate every manner of shopping with the fury of a thousand exploding suns. You can’t tell from looking at my bank account, which has been locked in a never-ending spiral of “balling to poverty” since the first paper paycheck from my part-time job at the local library, but I fucking hate shopping.

Especially at grocery stores. Maybe you love the serenity of browsing through a Whole Foods, gently pressing each organic Haas avocado to test its ripeness, hauling gallons of sloshing milk, juice, and olive oil, and $200 worth of sustenance home in reusable fruit-colored bags strapped uncomfortably to your shoulders. Good for you.

Finding the perfect outfit in a brick and mortar store can be fun, I guess. That hasn’t been my jam since high school. For me, hopping from store to store wading through trendy shit like tweed capes and boyfriend jeans that completely negate your ass, to eventually arrive at the one top you might wear to work, is as fulfilling an experience as going to see your lukewarm date’s poetry performance. You’re bored, there’s no open bar, everyone around you is more pretentious and self-absorbed than they have any business being, and if you eventually cave and take him home with you, you’re in for a guaranteed disappointment. Just like that fucking top.

Cuz see, there’s a difference between spending time and money buying the same staples every week and shopping for novelties you don’t need that make you happy. I don’t enjoy buying clothes, nor food that must be cooked to be eaten. But I LOVE making extravagant purchases, the value of which I can’t readily explain.

This is my real, serious “to buy” list:

  • I have no way to play it but I’M BUYING IT ANYWAY

  • 2 rare, vintage records from my favorite artist, which I will use purely for decoration because I can’t afford a decent turntable.
  • 3 bottles of Woodford Reserve (one for me, one for my roommate, and one for toasting to our broken hopes and dreams).
  • 1 automatic, reclaimed-wood standing desk, plus midcentury leather-upholstered drafting chair, with genuine walnut trim, for the five waking hours a week I spend at home in my currently unfurnished office. (Pinterest made me want it.)
  • 1 Nintendo Switch, so I can speed-play the new Zelda and take it back to Best Buy before the return policy expires.
  • 1 calligraphy class. In London. Which requires that I also buy a ticket to London.
  • 2 fancy watches, because I want people to look at me and think, “wow, there goes a classy woman who collects fancy watches!”
  • 1 trash can. The good, stainless steel kind, not the shitty plastic kind occupying a dark corner in every single man’s sticky-floored kitchen.

No one will ever see most of these things (except the trip to London, which I will Instagram from beginning to end and beyond.) If I’m not buying an object purely for my own sensory enjoyment, it’s for a hapless stranger on the bus to notice out of the corner of her eye before returning to her iPhone. You’ll also notice that most of this stuff is designed to beautify my house. In an ideal world, I would leave home for international flights and nothing else. Groceries? Instacart. Furniture? Etsy. Everything else? Fucking eBay, y’all.

You know what I will spend time and money on? Conferences, pole dancing classes, standup comedy shows, video games with great replay value, blog posts, photography, rock climbing. Maybe even hanging out with friends and family?

I spend more money than I should hiring people to go get lemons for my gin and tonics from the Whole Foods two blocks away because I can and I don’t want to waste my time shopping anymore. If I need a bookshelf, I do not want to spend 40 minutes taking an exploratory bus trip to Crate & Barrel, where I’ll discover the only thing I can afford is a set of four (4) wicker placemats that are already fraying on the sides (for the “rustic” look.) The minimum two hours it takes to find a gym bag in a store, purchase it, and transport it back to my home could have been reduced to 15 minutes of browsing and $6.99 shipping.

I know I’m a privileged mess. I do not care. I will pay a complete stranger to feed me, dress me, and send me to my boyfriend’s house. My therapist is an app. My nutritionist is an app. My human maintenance routines are all managed by smartphone, because come the fuck on, I was not born to make Target runs and die.

Relegating everyday purchases to the internet doesn’t detach me from the outside world, either. Life isn’t all Ubers and Amazon Kindle. Most days, it’s reading a library book (that I sent for online) on the bus to and from work (which I paid for with an app instead of walking 45 minutes to the nearest kiosk.)

Will I die if the internet stops working? No, but I’ll be a hell of a lot less productive. As much as I hype the idea of compartmentalizing my life in neat little bins labeled “ONLINE” and “OFFLINE,” there’s no bullet journal hack for automating mundane tasks you don’t enjoy. (There is TaskRabbit, though.) Apping everything lets me spend more time being a human and less time buying the same boneless skinless chicken every month, or hunting in vain for a shoe person at my department store to help me find a newer, less beer-stained shoe that looks exactly like the ones I have on.

I don’t mean to knock you intrepid outside-goers who like touching apples with your own hands before accepting them into your home. All I’m trying to say is: do you. San Francisco is an entitled paradise of excess and greed, where cafe staff are being systematically replaced with robots and everyone’s got an app that’s the “hot new thing.” Startups have once again solved a problem that no one actually had, and I’m into it. I will live this life until the on-demand economy implodes. I am going down with this ship.

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