The onset of online shopping can happen at any time, even when you’re least expecting it, for example while browsing your dog’s Instagram during a quick break from work when a targeted ad appears (yes, brands these days can find you anywhere, even deep in the shadows of Ms. Marshmallow’s online persona). You might click on the ad thinking, I’m just browsing to clear my head, then spot something you like and tell yourself, that’s cute but I’d never buy it, knowing very well you absolutely would and in fact might. In a show of resolve, you may close out of the browser and attempt to move on with your day only discover that, though your break did indeed clear your mind of work-related issues, it’s now filled with the image of a bikini cut so high it could only be described as a frontal thong and wouldn’t cover even the labia minora of anyone over a size 00.
At this point, you may begin to experience feelings of frustration. Unable to accept responsibility for the fact that you shopped, or rather browsed, during the time designated on your schedule for “meditation/reading/walk/LITERALLY ANYTHING OFFLINE!), you’ll likely find yourself directing such feelings of anger at people, objects, societal constructs (e.g. it’s not my fault I seek fulfillment in material goods—I’m a victim of capitalism!) or even yourself. Perhaps you’ll feel shame for having a (considerably) larger than size 00 vagina even though everyone knows Abercrombie & Fitch invented this purely symbolic size in 1998 to make 13-year-old girls feel bad about themselves. You’ll do one overly aggressive Kegel.
Now that your adolescent insecurities have been triggered, you’ll once again seek comfort in, you guessed it, online shopping. You may find yourself navigating directly to the store and adding the aforementioned frontal thong and matching nipple-sized triangle bikini top to your cart just to see if this coupon plugin finds a discount. If the plugin (it’s called Honey) fails to turn up savings, you might find yourself googling for a discount with the fervor of a working terrier tracking squirrels until you chomp down on so much as the scantest markdown: 10% off your first order (it’s not your first order, but you’ll try the code anyway. It’s worked before, after all). As you see the subtotal tumble down, you’ll decide you absolutely cannot refuse such a good deal, then realize you’re just $25 away from free shipping. You’ll begin searching for a $25 item but instead stumble upon a much more expensive one-piece swimsuit with a ridiculous underboob-exposing cutout. You’ll add it to your cart insisting you’re actually saving money because you’ll definitely return the wholly impractical one-piece and probably the bikini too.
After pressing “complete purchase,” you may be swept under a tidal wave of sadness. The thrill of the purchase is over, the excitement of receiving the items a distant fantasy. You’ll return to work without motivation and, unable to focus, toggle between tabs looking for a new fun distraction but finding only despair, i.e. Twitter. As the days wear on and the package gets closer, you may experience feelings of regret or even the sinking realization that actually, buying two swimsuits in the middle of winter when I can’t travel outside of the Northeastern U.S. might not lift my spirits.
When the package eventually arrives, you’ll feel a slight pleasant uptick. You may open the box within minutes or you might wait several days, but when you get around to it, you’ll find yourself unable to pull the bikini bottoms up past your knees and the top will get stuck over eyes for a terrifying 45 seconds before shooting across the room like an arrow, nearly whacking Ms. Marshmallow mid-flight. Once you’ve dislodged yourself from the bikini, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the one-piece slides right up your body, though it’s neither the color nor material you expected and fully exposes one and three eighths of your breasts. Only then will you notice FINAL SALE stickers on each piece of packaging. After flying into a rage (it’s common to revisit stages, which don’t always occur in order), you’ll shrug and accept the fact that you just torched $147.95 on unwearable strips of synthetic fabric. Finally ready to move on, you’ll pick up your phone, open a favorite blog, see an ad for a breezy caftan and thus be swiftly transported back to stage one: I’m not looking for a swim coverup, you’ll tell yourself. I’m just looking at them.