‘Lèche vitrines’ is the French word for window shopping. Direct translation: ‘licking the windowpanes’. How many times have I done that? Looked longingly into shop windows and felt a kind of gnawing hunger for whatever object of desire is displayed, with its implied promise that it will make me look better, feel better, work better, cook better, live better.
This morning I went off to Kalk Bay for my regular writing session. I walked past all the funky little shops that line the Main Street. And because I’m currently very cash strapped, buying anything at the moment isn’t an option.
And I was struck by how lovely it was to be clear that I don’t have any spare money. My window shopping experience was restful. I found myself enjoying the beauty of the bohemian dresses, silky scarves, mohair throws, colorful crockery and feeling at peace. Because I can’t buy anything, I could let these objects just be in their beauty and not feel that gnawing restlessness of having to own any of them.
I could simply witness their display in the windows and not teeter anxiously on the brink of ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I? The blue one would go with my skirt but the pink suits me better. Maybe I should get both?’
I’ve taken to going to the shops with just the right amount of cash in my purse. This forces me to only buy what I have on my list. I went to Checkers with R 40 for bananas and bread. There was great satisfaction in having just the right amount, with a few bucks spare for the car guard.
I passed shelves of Tupperware, thermos flasks and water bottles and caught myself reaching out, thinking ‘Hmm, this could be useful.’ My hand pulled back when I remembered I didn’t have enough money to buy anything apart from what I’d come to get. And a rush of something like relief flooded through me. I didn’t have to make any buying decisions, because I couldn’t. And because of that lack of external choice, I looked inside and saw I could choose to feel dissatisfied or to breathe in and know that I have all I need, right now. Bread and bananas.