Shopping With Shani
Some things never fit.
Welcome to Cheaper Than Therapy, a healing newsletter for 80s babies by Shani Silver. This newsletter does not publish free content, but if you’d like to read it you can subscribe here. Thank you for enjoying the work of independent writers.
I hate disappointing people. While I’m secure in the fact that nobody really enjoys it, there are some of us who grew up learning to avoid upsetting others as though the floor of our childhood was lava. I am one such person, with memories of being young that feel like running an emotional obstacle course, perhaps one that’s made of knives. We talk about people-pleasing like it’s some character flaw we chose, when in reality it’s a safety protocol we had to adopt. Sometimes we used it to deal with heavy shit, other times it kept us safe during the most common of activities. The ones your family still found a way to make traumatic. I mean really, that’s talent.
Disappointing people made me feel unsafe, because the adults around me had incredibly disproportionate responses to me being anything other than their precise expectation. Saying no to something minor could result in a major explosion with far-lingering consequences. As a result of such imbalance, I learned that being myself was a terrible idea.
Shopping was dangerous. It was just one large exercise in being disappointing, with the shame and fear that came along with that bearing down on my young nervous system. It also involved modeling clothing on an awkward teenage body for my mother, grandmother, and any strangers or peers in view of a poorly lit Dillard’s mirror to witness. When anyone took me shopping, all they’d remember afterward was how “difficult” I was. All I remember is how shopping felt like a fucking setup.