Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Word: Agorasploring

Happy in a souk...
...or a Cracker Barrel

I'm thinking of a word to describe that practice we have of merrily wandering through shops, malls, outlet centers, souks, bazaars, antique emporiums, flea markets, tag sales, big box stores and mom-and-pop mini-marts— no purpose in mind but the sheer joy of looking to see what's there.

Shall we call this act of Exploring the Agora agorasploring? Does that sound too much like a virus?

My husband doesn't understand. While he can stare at a wall of running shoes for what feels (to me) like hours, his interests in the marketplace are segmented to what he needs (windshield wiper blades, a hose nozzle) and what he covets (more running shoes). Anything in between doesn't matter.

I suspect most men fall into that mind set. While there are some who do "love to shop", it's a structured event that ends with— ta da— a purchase. Women are different. We stop to smell the roses (by Jo Malone) and feel the fabric (Scottish three-ply cashmere).

I'm lucky though because same husband most graciously understands the best way to seal a manicure is to wander through Marshall's/TJ Maxx/Homegoods on the way home. On vacation he happily succumbs to an afternoon by the pool with his newspapers, books and Bloody Marys while I'm checking out the local offerings. Everybody wins. What he doesn't understand is why I come back happy without a bag or box to show for it.

You can't call it "window shopping" either. While windows may be entertaining, they are mere shadows of what lies within. Window shopping at a store whose doors are closed for the night is not my idea of a good time.

Window shopping at Marshall Field, 1909

Here's something to amaze your friends: The concept of display windows as we know them today originated with Harry Selfridge (later of the London department store Selfridge's) in the 1890s when he was the impressario of Marshall Field in Chicago. These windows were arranged in "sets" to evoke the new fad of motoring, showing the fashions one would need, from dusters to goggles to special bonnets. Previously, "quality stores" believed in privacy (no windows onto the street). Everyone else artlessly piled their show windows with the greatest number of goods that could be stuffed in.

Stephen King, uber-prolific author of the horror genre, wrote a book, "Needful Things", that ended in the near annihilation of a little Maine town. Needful Things was the name of a store that amazingly sold exactly what you were lusting for— at a price. A good lesson that sometimes looking is better than buying.

You probably don't
 need to go in


  1. I guess that I'm do have this as well, ohh and there is no cure in sight!
    I was just at Marshalls/Home Goods wondering around while waiting to pick a paper. Hoe gracious of your husband to stay at the pool with his paper while you feel in your shop senses and how smart of you; I always feel sorry for the males dragging their feet in store that they obviously don't want to be at!

  2. Oh, but there IS a word for it - flanerie.

    1. How fascinating! Please explain, and would the act of doing it be called flanering?

  3. I love wandering through stores, just looking. Sometimes it's more fun than actually shopping.

  4. I don’t know why but I have never been so keen on shopping or window shopping or whatever the term is correct, I just like to go buy what I need and head back home. Weird I guess since I am a woman, but you are lucky to have an understanding husband.