When I popped into my local shop this morning to pick up the paper there was a queue of people in front of me buying flowers, chocolates, and greeting cards. It could be any celebratory day: Valentine’s, Christmas, birthday, but it is in fact, Mother’s Day. Over on Ethical High Street I wrote about gift ideas for Mother’s Day that didn’t involve buying a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t mean buying stuff for special occasions is a bad thing. Consumerism is often thought of as a dirty word and ‘greeting card days’ just a chance for shops to push their well, greetings cards. What though, if we consider shopping as an act of love?
This is exactly what Danny Miller proposed in his book A Theory of Shopping (1999). An anthropologist at University College London he was the first person to talk about shopping in this way; shopping as a way of showing love. Miller argues for the importance of the relationship between people and things and how this affects every day social and family life. The type of shopping that Miller talks of is not so much shopping for televisions and fashionable party dresses, but rather the type of shopping needed for everyday provisioning such as for food and basic clothes. Miller argues that everyday consumption practices are more than just fulfilling the most basic physical needs, but they are also linked to social relations, love and care. This is just the kind of shopping a mother does, so on Mother’s Day it’s no surprised we’d want to give something back. Flowers and chocolates say ‘I’m thinking of you’ and a simple ‘thank you’.
Whether we’re buying food for the family or jewellery for a friend’s birthday, shopping is both a form of nurturing and a message to say we care. It’s a way of spreading love through something material. If we give the right gift it can be something the receiver keeps forever, as a reminder of a particular time, place and person. Memory lockets are an example of a thoughtful gift because they are timeless. The same is true for collectable items, books or family heirlooms. Although I’m sure the best gift a mum could receive is the chance to put her feet up.