Nona Willis Aronowitz describes herself as a subway rider who isn't much of a primper, uses the laundromat, and shops mainly at H&M and Buffalo Exchange. And yet in the last six weeks, she bought a $500 Diane von Furstenberg dress, sent out her laundry, Ubered $30-plus rides on at least five occasions, and acquired a $32 salt scrub that she hasn't really used because it "stings my hangnails." That's just part of the catalog of purchases she's made after trying to spend her way through her stress and anxiety. Two days after Thanksgiving, she found herself the caretaker for her 82-year-old father, who had suffered a serious stroke; in tandem with that, her partner underwent several pre-arranged surgeries. "My life became a blur of errands and chores and emotional breakdowns"; retail therapy followed.
And so she found herself in that DVF store, like "Vivian on Rodeo Drive, [the saleswoman] kvelling when one of her offerings achieved a particularly fetching silhouette. I bought the dress; she gave me a hug." That hug was a big part of it. As Aronowitz writes at the Billfold, "I've been craving not only these luxurious items but human kindness, too. Not the pitying kindness one normally gets during a family crisis, but the bland, deferential kindness that makes me feel calmer and wealthier than I really am. ... I've been feeling isolated and overworked and failed by bigger institutions, and I can offset those feelings by paying people to be nice to me." Read her full piece to find out where she's at now, and what else she learned along the way. (Read more retail therapy stories.)