I’m going to go a little off-book (ha!) on my post today. Instead of reviewing what I’m reading right now, I’m going to talk about something that has taken as much of my attention in the past month as reading: LuLaRoe.
I’m sure most women in the United States at this point have heard of this clothing line, sold Mary Kay-style by consultants in Facebook Groups and in-house parties. The clothing is soft, the patterns are vibrant, and the leggings, in particular, are amazing.
I’m not here to make a sale pitch to LuLaRoe (no free commercials from me; I’ll leave those to Kellyanne). Instead, I want to talk about something that happened to me, and LuLaRoe is the focal point.
I have always been a sucker for retail therapy. When I’m stressed out or bummed about life, I like to go and walk around a mall somewhere with shops that cater to my interests (i.e. Barnes & Noble is a must). I don’t necessarily like the crowds so much as the atmosphere. I’ve had this for years, where buying something gives me that little pick-me-up I need to get through the rest of my day. Of course, I’m very aware this isn’t the healthiest way to deal with negative emotions. As an English student, I was also informed of the potential postmodern ramifications of this habit. I remember when one of my former professors compared retail therapy to Baudrillard’s theory on simulacra, and I wanted to cry. I know I’m a slave to capitalism and commodities as much as the next person; I just don’t like being called out on it!
All philosophy and theory aside, I love shopping (even just window shopping!), because it’s one small element of my life that I find stress-relieving.
For the last two years, books have been the largest portion of my retail therapy. I worked in a bookstore, so they were readily available, and most of my friends and family were also buying and reading books. Books have the added advantage of taking your mind off things after you buy them, because you then read them and escape to other worlds. They were the perfect prescription of retail therapy for me, the stressed out master’s student. However, I now work full-time in a library and can get most of my reading material for free; I also no longer have an employee discount at a bookstore. So, I’ve been spending less money on books in recent months.
Jump forward to last month, January, when I was introduced to LuLaRoe for the first time. Now, about 30 days later, I have three tops and eight pairs of leggings. I’ll admit it–I dove in headfirst and bought my way back to the surface.
There are some fairly realistic reasons for my swan dive that aren’t linked to the main idea of this post–stress and emotional coping mechanisms. A big part of my interest is purely physical. For more than half a decade, stress and work environments had left me skinnier than I should have been. After getting married last year, I have returned to a relatively healthy BMI; however, in the process of getting there, I gained nearly 20 pounds. People who know me personally laugh at me when I mention this gain, but they don’t fully understand the ramifications of this development. Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to be a normal-sized human again, away from the dangerous stages of being underweight (and my husband in particular is grateful for the improved *ahem* curves). I’m happy in my body, and other than seeking ways to keep my diet healthy and making sure I exercise, I’m not trying to change it. But here’s the thing, guys: after nearly 6 years of being a size 0, I am now a 2-4, and NONE of my clothes fit. I’ve gained just enough weight that my jeggings and skinny jeans are unbearable, my dress pants don’t button, and my fitted tops stretch uncomfortably. I have been in need of a wardrobe modification since the beginning of my new job, but money for a fresh look isn’t readily available to a twenty-something newlywed. And besides, what if I lose a lot of weight again? (Or reach a size 6?).
LuLaRoe, in many ways, came to my rescue at just the right time. I’m not suggesting the clothing is cheap and/or super affordable–I conveniently had Christmas blow money left over for most of what I bought. What it is, though, is flexible. The One Size leggings fit me, and I know they will fit me if I gain weight or lose it. It’s the same way with the tops. They’re comfortable, modest, and flattering, and at a time where I feel very exposed and inappropriate in a lot of my clothing, they’re lifesavers. (Also, in terms of price, it’s relatively comparable to any other decent clothing brand/store/line that sells things I wound find appropriate for work.)
I also really appreciate the opportunity to support local ladies (and gentlemen!). There’s something very personal about the LuLaRoe selling platform. And I love having the opportunity to give business to my neighbors and friends.
For the last few weeks, I have found it hard to talk about anything without bringing up LuLaRoe. I have worn all of my pieces in work and weekend outfits; I’ve perfected my chosen methods for washing and hang-drying (including making plans to buy a new and separate drying rack to accommodate the influx); I participate in every giveaway from every LuLaRoe page I follow. I am, put simply, obsessed. Just like books, a lot of my friends are interested in LuLaRoe, too. Some are discovering it along with me; others are long-time supporters. We talk about what our favorite styles and patterns are, and what our “unicorns” might be. Most of my time on social media has been spent scrolling through pages of styles and patterns, clicking on different outfit combinations and entering giveaways. I’ve been to open houses and brought family and friends along with me. I was on a retail therapy high, both from what I bought and what I hadn’t.
A group of my friends and I were talking on Facebook about how cute and fun the fabrics of LuLaRoe are, in such a fashion, when someone else interjected that she didn’t find the clothing–and the leggings in particular–that great, and preferred other pairs she could find cheaper elsewhere.
Let me start by saying that this a totally legitimate and normal opinion. The clothing isn’t cheap, like I mentioned, and not everyone is satisfied by the sizing options and pattern choices. Many people have said that LuLaRoe fits the style and personality of teachers and librarians, and many people say the color choices are too wild for them. I, the librarian, find it perfect for my personal preferences. Other people in other professions and with other fashion tastes may not, and that’s totally okay.
I know all of this, and yet my immediate reaction to this person’s comment was anger. There were five or six of us with similar opinions, sharing in something positive, and she chose to interject with, “Actually, what all of you find so interesting, really isn’t that great.”
I felt a little attacked and belittled for my excitement, which I had shared on my own page and with no ill-will toward those who disagreed. My purpose was to express my happiness over owning a piece of clothing that sported my favorite animal (giraffes!). Moreover, this person and I aren’t close at all–I actually had to think about how I knew her after I saw her name in my notifications. While the people I had been exchanging excited comments with are good friends of mine and each other, she was an outsider entering in to a comrade-focused discussion. Yes, it was public, but I had not intended for it to be a sounding board. And again, I don’t care that people disagree with me, but it bothered me that this person took it upon herself to disagree with me in a space that wasn’t seeking to debate.
After giving my husband a long list of potential (not-so-nice) comebacks that I would never actually share with this person, I started to calm down and think through the situation more slowly. Our conversation had been completely normal, but my reaction had been to be hurt. This thing I had been celebrating was suddenly threatened, and I didn’t know why I felt so badly about it.
Then, it kind of hit me, and I wasn’t so surprised.
This negative reaction to a positive conversation was the same thing I had been reading and witnessing on every social media site I had seen in the last six months. Nearly every post has been politically charged, and those who react to it are from divided sides and fighting for their voice on the issues. People are vicious with each other, spouting their opinions everywhere in violent and inappropriate ways. The problem isn’t that we are expressing ourselves and our opinions on social media. I have seen very kindhearted and thoughtful people attempt to post or talk about an issue they value personally, and in response people call them names, insult their integrity, and question their humanity–and that’s when they are trying not to be rude.
And here’s the thing–the attacks aren’t just related to politics and recent governmental changes. Simply posting any sort of sentiment, opinion, or perspective about yourself or others leaves you vulnerable to violent contradictions from others.
I fully admit to being sucked into the comments sections of way too many posts, where I see members of communities on both sides attacking each other in ways that are, put simply, disgraceful. My heart has grown heavy with the knowledge that we have stopped listening to each other and insist on spouting our own opinions and values over and atop those we disagree with. We have people in leadership positions refusing to hear what constituents with different opinions have to say.
I have often found myself on Facebook, just wishing people would listen to one another before responding. Those who actually would do this, and would try to find some common ground from which to then debate, were equally attacked for their methods. The language used has little to do with the actual position or evidence provided by the person who started the conversation; we have resorted to shameful, disgusting, personalized hate-words. People are fully entitled to their opinions, but the current situation has gotten out of hand, and I don’t want to put up with it anymore.
As I said, way back at the beginning, I often find myself participating in retail therapy. And that’s what this situation was. I found myself buying things from LuLaRoe and knowing that it was helping me cope with something, but not really understanding how or why it was helping me, or why I was seeking it out repeatedly. At least, not until my retail therapy got its wake-up call. When negativity showed up in my LuLaRoe space, I realized that my shopping had been insulating me from all of the crap public culture is currently dishing out.
I’m not saying that retail therapy and LuLaRoe Facebook groups are a healthy way to deal with negative or depressed thoughts and emotions associated with social media, politics, and relationships. I’m also not saying it’s my only method of choice. I have been investing more deeply in my faith and Scripture over the last month than I have since I graduated from my undergrad. I have been reading deeply and broadly, challenging myself to understand present issues from perspectives other than my own. I have taken time with family and invested more and more in my relationship with my husband. I have played with my kitties and unplugged for awhile. I’m not saying any of these methods are perfect, or that I carry them out perfectly, even as they help me cope.
What I am saying is that the “untouchable,” “invincible” feeling social media gives us is extraordinarily dangerous. It is so easy to forget that there is another person on the other side of that screen, and that what you can say can really hurt them. This issue has been real and present since the origin of social media. I mean, look at what Zuckerberg first created Facebook to be! And yet, recent political issues and divisions have amplified the (I mean, let’s call it what it is) cyberbullying we see everywhere.
I’m not calling my own experience cyberbullying (although I do still wish this person’s indifference to LuLaRoe had not interrupted a rather fun discussion in favor of the products). Now I’m talking about what my LuLaRoe addiction helps me escape. I love social media, because it’s often my main tool of communication with so many people who are important to me. And I think we are entitled to share our beliefs and opinions there, as well. But there is a graceful, healthy way to do so. And the constant barrage of negativity toward one another has to stop. Hatred is running rampant, and while we quickly spot it in those we disagree with, we are less willing to admit when we find it in ourselves.
I want everyone I interact with to know that my opinions are presented for my own understanding of myself, and not to attack someone else’s worldview. I also want people to realize that, when they share opinions I don’t agree with, I don’t see it as an attack on me (unless they wanted to hurt me). I want to be intentional about not invading people’s “positivity” spaces with my dissenting perspectives. We need to give people room to be happy about what they believe in and enjoy, and who am I to interrupt that? Moreover, when I debate with someone or disagree with them, I want to have an honest conversation in which we exchange ideas civilly and appropriately. In those cases, I want our words to come from a place of love, or at least mutual respect. And, should my views offend someone, I want to apologize to them even as I seek to stand my ground on what I believe.
To my many, many friends and family who have already helped me to carry these sentiments out, I am grateful to you. For those who have challenged me and held me accountable to the same standards, I thank you.
I’m not going to be perfect at this, and for that I apologize ahead of time. But I’m ready to do what I can. And, just as I refuse to let Spiritual challenges break my faith, I refuse to let the haters ruin my Facebook.
So, if you need me, I’ll be shopping for XXS Carlys.