Gain De Pain

Day 10: Items purchased. 0; Temptation Radar: 0

“This time she thought herself far more unhappy : for she was experienced in sorrow, with the certainty that it would never end.  Any woman who had imposed such great sacrifices on herself could well be permitted a few fancies. She bought a Gothic prie-dieu, and in one month she spent fourteen francs on lemons for cleaning her nails; she wrote off to Rouen, to order a blue cashmere dress; she chose the very best scarf from Lheureux; she tied it round her waist over her dressing-gown; then, with shutters closed, and book in hand, she would recline on a sofa in her accoutrements.”

excerpt from Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

We are not so far removed from women of old, really. The same struggles, disappointments, deferred hope, were as real and devastating in the heart of an 18th century french woman as they are for us today. In our most sincere attempt to ease the burden of affliction in our lives, we find potent, effective, yet permissible ways to numb pain.

Take for instance, our heroine, Emma Bovary. She is a lovely young woman who finds herself bored to tears, trapped in a marriage to a unexceptional doctor. What begins as a seed of disenchantment, becomes a vehement obsession to create happiness in  a world of fantasy inspired by books, poets, etc.  But as fantasy would have it, reality proves excruciatingly incomparable . For a season,  she focuses on being the perfect wife. She doats obvious affection upon her husband & household while secretly harboring ferocious resentment. She entertains, sews silk garments, and decorates.  She tends tediously to all the affairs of her household. She is perceived perfect by all. This apparent devotion is short-lived, followed by the abandonment of the mundane tasks. Emma retreats again to notions of aggrandizement, which escalate toward an emotional affair with another man. After several months of shamelessly indulging her fantasy, she learns that he is moving to Paris in order to pursue career goals. Madame Bovary finds herself desperately miserable, with her crazy dream to blame for her ennui. It is here, where the reader is introduced to the opening excerpt of this blog.

Madame Bovary discovers sedation by shopping.

Shopping itself, is intoxicating, but the effects are drastically augmented when it’s  actually initiated as a therapeutic regimen for pain. Several triggers of Therapeutic Shopping come to mind, as I look back over the years. They seem always to be birthed out of a small seed of despair. For example, shopping in the spirit of self-entitlement or punishment is a significant prompt;  retail havoc wrought upon the significant other who fought ceaselessly with you over your selfishness. The Punishment Purchase is reflected in times where you’ve squealed into the mall parking lot because you’ve just had enough of that heated argument! Certainly, buying a hot new dress & going out with your friends would prove to be a suitable remedy. Next, is  Security Shopping which stems out of disappointment or insecurity. It’s easier sometimes to take the bottle of emotion labeled “insignificance” and shatter it against the credit card. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Surely, the invoice won’t sting as much as the slap of that friend. You whisper to yourself “How could she say that?”, as you slam the card down for a $235 pair of shoes. After all, you just want to feel better. These purchases stem from wounds such as betrayal, or abandonment.  Attached to perfectly tissued and packaged tote, is the receipt reading: “That’ll teach her. Thank you for Shopping!” Really? Teach her? C’mon. Who are you kidding?   Finally, there is Gain de Pain, simply translated Gain by Pain. This trigger represents, perhaps the most heartbreaking disguise.  It is pulled as the make-shift solution to one’s chronic melancholy. It is prompted by her personal disillusionment  and intensifies in her desperate effort to mask feelings of inadequacy with stuff. Over the years I’ve observed how women, myself included at times, will just pile on the stuff to “feel better” about life.  We walked out with a dress, but really bought a lie.

Pretty things don’t make pretty people.  Buying MORE stuff doesn’t solve problems. It only creates more layers to peel in order to expose the real.  Louis Vuitton won’t change the fact that she was betrayed by her husband.  A Perfect St. John Knit may hide the bruise that he left, but it won’t erase it. The Chanel shades may very well conceal the tear stains, but the tormenting guilt of mistakes will remain, unless a true healing process is permitted. A makeover will never be a substitute for repentance. Though it may help sweep the broken pieces, it cannot mend them. The game of charades is fun at first, but usually ends in a pool of mocking laughter.  What are we really shopping for?  Deep down, I believe the search is aimed toward the perfect outfitting of acceptance for who we are, wholeness of heart, encouragement to run a little longer , and mercy when we screw up.

Today, it was easy. I didn’t crave anything new or fashionable.  I craved more revelation on this journey. I smiled at the novel I picked up in an effort to branch out this year. Although forlorn by the tragedy of Madame Bovary, I am inspired by her. It’s as if story reads to me in a series of side notes:how could it have been different? Could _____have been a solution? What if  she’d expressed a moment of vunerability and gave voice to her pain? Gratitude filled me to the core, for I am being shaken out of this deranged lunacy of “All Things Fashion”. Thankful that I’ll not sell myself short, and trusting that you won’t either.


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