07/09/2012 02:23 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Are You A Recreational Shopper? (POLL)

At a family reunion, a distant cousin asked me a strange question: "Do you shop?"

I wasn't sure what she meant, so I said something like, sure, when I needed something I would go into a store. That didn't satisfy her. "No," she asked again with greater intensity, "Do you shop?"

It then dawned on me what she meant, and I said "Oh, you mean recreationally?" At this point she turned away, aware that although we might have been vaguely related by blood, we had nothing else in common. You are either a "shopper" or you're not.

People like me only go into stores when they absolutely have to, like when I realize that I am down to three t-shirts that I am wearing in rotation, or that everyone else's jeans are skinny, and mine are flared. Other women seem to know instinctively when something is in or out of fashion. Or maybe they are just paying more attention than me. It isn't until a fad is on its way out and on the discount shelves of the dollar store that it enters my consciousness.

New clothes just don't appeal to me, compared to the cozy and familiar items in my closet. I have been known to come home with something new and have found that I already owned its identical twin. And I am holding onto innumerable tatty items for when I garden. (Except I don't actually have a garden.)

Let me give you a simple example of how I operate. Say I need a pair of black pants. A shopper would know exactly the brand, cut and style that flatters them, visit their favorite store and purchase them (and probably pick up a cute shirt or two to match). It would be an enjoyable experience.

This is what happens to me: I force myself into a department store. Confusion mounts. Pants are sold on Floor 2, 3, 5 and 7. Designer fashions are on 4 and 6. Sale merchandise is scattered around, and there are discounts if you are a frequent shopper or it is your birthday. I'm think I am a petite, 4 or maybe a 6, but I could also be a Junior size. And what is Misses?

The music is loud and disorienting. Have you ever wondered why stores are designed that way? My personal theory is that they have discovered that people spend more money if they are rattled and discombobulated. Someone probably designed a maze for rats that replicated Bloomingdales and found that they bought more if J. Lo was playing at a loud volume. If I accidentally do find a pair of pants that look familiar, I will think they are way too expensive since I remember what things cost in 1988. At this point I am exhausted, convince myself that I don't need the pants, and flee.

Discount stores are even worse, as the clothes are all over the place, you have to know what you are looking for or you end up with something that has been on the shelves for years, and has been exported and reimported from a third world country innumerable times. I can't shop online because the pictures don't translates to actual clothes in my mind and I have no ability to conceptualize what something would look like without trying it on. Smaller stores can be better, except if they are too small and the salesclerk tries to be helpful, which intimidates me. I know I am beyond help. I need Stacy London and maybe a couple of Xanax. And actually I could use a pair of black pants. In a size 4. Or maybe a 6, it has been a while.

Want more? Head over to to read their vintage shopping tips and be sure to check out Stylelist on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest.