I Believe in Shopping
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My Switzerland

By: Rachel Blankstien

Some people can bond with their parents over dinner, a sporting activity, or a movie, but shopping is how my mother and I get along with one another. In the small town of Calabasas, a suburb of Los Angeles, appearance is critical. Every one knows every single detail about you and if you make one mistake, you will be talked about for months. For my mom, maintaining her upper-class appearance is everything. I personally, could care less. My mom wished for a daughter who received straight A's, who spoke politely, etc. Instead, she received the daughter who uses words like fuck and bitch in almost every sentence. My mother has tried to control my life by reducing my curfew to ten o'clock, not allowing me to wear mini dresses or heels, and limiting the amount of piercings I can get to just one on each ear. Before I left for college, a day didn't go by were my mom and I weren't fighting. If it weren't for shopping, my mom and I would not be able to connect.

A typical drive to one of our shopping destinations entails a screaming match between my mother and myself. Our conversations are limited to two words, yes and no. The moment we start shopping however, the conflict that existed between us disappears. No one would have known that we were pulling each other's hair out minutes ago. Shopping is our Switzerland. It's the one time we can control ourselves when we are together. My mom and I can shop together for things that we are able to agree on, like a pair of boots, a jacket, or a handbag. Four-inch heels or a short skirt, are out of the question.

When I left for college, my mom and I started talking daily. We had made great progress in our communication. During the middle of September, I received a call from my mom. She said she really needed to talk to me, and immediately my defenses went up. I thought I was in trouble. I wasn't ready for "I'm sick." Every nerve in my body was shocked. I needed to go shopping. Shopping wasn't a way for me to escape my mother's breast cancer; it was a way for me to feel closer to her.

I felt horrible about the relationship that my mom and I originally had. I was glad that I had left home. If I didn't, my mom and I would still be fighting on a day-to-day basis. The separation that we both faced when I left only helped our relationship for the better. Before I left for college, I intended never to speak to my mom again, and planned to avoid her as much as possible when I went home for breaks. Eventually, I realized how much I loved my mom and how much I valued our unique bonding experience. I believe in shopping. It gives me hope that there is a future for my mom and I.

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