Dear Boots: August 2023

By Anna Mitchael

Questions from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Dear Boots,

In my small town there’s only one clothing boutique, and I’ve been shopping there since the day it opened. However, I recently discovered the owner was gossiping around town about my best friend. Now if I shop there, I feel like I’m supporting what I don’t believe in. But if I don’t shop there … well, I don’t shop. You seem like a woman who enjoys a new frock now and again. Got any words of wisdom for how I can work myself out from between this rock and hard place?

— Might Drop Without the Shop

Let’s go ahead and get the sad statistic out of the way. About the time I started writing this column I was thinking about advice, particularly really good advice. And when it comes to advice that has been life-changing — what would qualify as words of wisdom — it probably only adds up to 5% of the total advice I’ve been given in my lifetime. (And 5% might be generous.) Think of how many people are always quipping tips they think will help you maneuver the world more easily: “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” and, “The double patty is better than the single,” and, “Try to be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.”

All of us think we’re handing out nuggets of truth — whether they are gold nuggets depends on how they hit the listener. Do the words go in one ear and out the other, or do they drop anchor and settle into the heart?

As someone who spent a healthy number of years living in a one-horse, one-stoplight, no-boutique town, you better believe I’ve got some words for you on this topic, Mrs. Might Drop Without the Shop. Whether they are wisdom words is something only you will be able to ascertain. Should there come a day when you can drive down the main street of your town (because if there’s only one boutique, I’m betting my top, bottom and middle dollars it’s on Main Street) without feeling the war of the wills duking it out in your chest as you pass by that boutique, then these words shall be classified as wisdom.

If the war of the wills rages on and it takes all your bodily power to keep the steering wheel on the straightaway, I’ll just take my seat at the table next to your well-meaning Aunt Edna, and we can swap ditties about proper handwashing technique, how loud music should be played and how bad it hurts to be part of the 95%.

Now. Without further ado.

The happy statistic. When it comes to deciding when and where you are going to spend your money and how you are going to use your fiscal reach to better or worsen the world, that power is 100% up to you. Not 99.9% or 98%, but the whole enchilada, hog, kit and caboodle.

I can hear those Debbie doubters in the back row being all, “It ain’t my choice to spend my money on my mortgage,” but I beg to differ. Granite or quartz. House or trailer. Energy bills or sweating bullets while the fans try to catch a cool breeze. Dinner out or doing our own darn dishes. All day long we flex our values by where and how we spend our pennies.

Your question reveals you very clearly know this truth.

I would go so far as to say you agree with this truth because the crux of your question is whether there’s a way for you to slide out from underneath the crushing weight of it.

If you go to this woman’s shop, buy the clothes she’s selected, give her your money, then wear the clothes as an advertisement for her shop to everyone else in town, you are affirming the person who spoke vicious lies about your wing woman. (Because your best friend is a saint, correct?) However, if you choose to not shop there, then you are affirming that “principle” is not a four-letter-word. I also would argue you are taking a stand against gossip, which, don’t we all know, every town big or small could use a little less of.

You were correct when you guessed I am a woman who enjoys a new dress. There is nothing quite like finding a dress or shirt or pants or baseball cap with a sassy saying that feels like it was made just for you. Having said that, in the times I’ve gone without much boutique access (see above reference to one-horse town) I did find myself face-to-face with an interesting question: Why is it that I believe I need to go searching for a mystery piece that will somehow complete me?

And if that question doesn’t drop anchor, try this one: How come finding one piece that is perfect isn’t ever enough and usually leaves us with the feeling of wanting more?

The last thing I would ever do is wish pain on a saint. But I have a hunch that should you choose to follow through with this … boycott (if we would dare call it that) of your local boutique, you might just find that this experience becomes about much more than missing out on the distraction of shopping or finding some new clothes that will join the ranks of your old clothes in a couple months’ time. With nothing else to do on an afternoon, you might remember that sitting around with the friends who know you’re complete just as you are is the very best place to be. And maybe you’re right: Maybe that’s between a rock and a hard place. But once you settle in, I guarantee you will hardly notice the squeeze. I don’t know if it’s wisdom or wishful thinking, but I firmly believe more relationships and less stuff is what towns, big and small, need right now.

— Love, Boots