Live Through This

Liberating Things

Shoplifting was my secret other life.

In high school, I started stealing lingerie—really fancy shit like thongs with French lace and sheer silk bras with satin straps. These usually didn’t have electronic tags that beeped when you walked out of the store, so I would go to a department store, grab a bunch, take them into the dressing room, choose two or three pairs, wear them over my regular underwear, and then cap off my spree by buying an inexpensive item, like a tin of mints or a tube of lipstick from the makeup counter, before strolling outta there, my padded ass wiggling like the smug motherfucker that I was.

At school, I was on the honors track and spent the weekday hours of 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM as a virtual mute, waiting to be released. I wanted a bad reputation, but I failed at failing. I was at the top my class, my teachers would write personal letters home to my parents, praising my performance, and the only time I was ever called into the principal’s office was to receive an award.

My shoplifting was my secret other life that no one knew about. When I was a junior, I started doing it every weekend. I wanted to tell someone that I was morally bankrupt, that the seed of corruption was in full bloom, that I was bad to the bone, that on the outside I may have seemed innocent, but beneath my good-girl façade was this criminal, a woman who took her chances and wasn’t afraid of the consequences.

During the spring of my senior year, a few weeks after I accepted my admission to Stanford University, I convinced Diana that she needed to steal underwear with me. “Help me celebrate,” I said. “I need sluttier underwear for college.”

That day I stole more than $400 worth of underwear and bras, and Diana stole about $500 worth. We were caught by these girls who went to the same high school as Diana and were now working for Bloomingdale’s. They followed us into the dressing room, pretending to be fellow shoppers, all the while tracking how many items we had brought in and how many we had taken out.

The second we stepped foot outside of the store, we were stopped by a security guard who told us that we had been caught stealing and that we would need to come with him. He escorted us to the other end of the mall and ushered us into a back room where the two girls who had followed us earlier were waiting.

I whispered to Diana that there was no way they would press charges: “How are they going to prove it? Are they going to make us strip in front of them? All we have to do is scream ‘sexual harassment’ and they’ll back off.”

We were asked to remove the stolen items in a dressing room. I tried to ask, “What stolen items?,” but they had heard it all before.

From there, we waited for the police to arrive and handcuff us and take us to the police station. In the back of the cop car, Diana and I sat in silence. Months earlier, Stanford had paid for my flight to California so that I could attend their “Admit Weekend,” where I and several hundred other prospective freshmen were told over and over that we were “special,” that we were “extraordinary,” that we were “future leaders.” On the way to the station, I realized that I might have to go to court, that I might have a permanent record, that I might have to check “yes” on the part of job applications that asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime, that there was a good chance my public life as a “good girl” was now over, and even if I didn’t care, there were enough people in the world—like someone on the admissions committee for a university, or someone who might one day be my future employer—who did care, and because of them, I would have little choice but to care as well.

Inside the police station, we were read our rights and fingerprinted. The two police officers rattled off a litany of threats: “Your future, as you know it, is OVER” and “How would you girls like to spend a night in jail?” and “I’m ashamed for your parents. How do you plan on explaining this to them?”

I knew they were trying to shame me. I knew I was supposed to feel genuine remorse, that this was their way of scaring me straight, but all I felt was a deep and pervasive numbness, followed immediately by indignation. What right did these police officers have to moralize? What right did they have to shame us? When my father had his social security number stolen and thousands of dollars in disputed charges to sort out, the police did virtually nothing.

“What is wrong with you?” my mother asked me when she came to pick me up. “Don’t you know if you put bad energy into the world, the world gives it right back? Oh god, what if Stanford revokes your admission? Why are you just sitting there, not saying anything? Don’t you care that you may have just ruined your future?”

I was sitting there, not saying anything, because my parents were taking turns shouting at me. I was sitting there, not saying anything, because the last time I told my parents what I cared about, they told me to stop caring about that. They told me to put an end to my fanciful delusions of becoming a writer and get serious about life.

At the seminar I had to attend as part of my sentence, I recall my instructor telling me that my biggest mistake was not in shoplifting, but in agreeing to go into a room with a strange man that I had never met before. My friend Diana had to attend a similar class, and she told me that everyone applauded when she revealed that she had stolen from Bloomingdale’s. Most of the people there had stolen petty cash from the register or small things, useful things, like a box of cereal. One woman stole packing tape because she was moving and said she couldn’t afford to tape up her boxes. A few of the people in my class cried when they explained why they had stolen. One woman praised God and publicly asked Him for forgiveness.

When it was all over, Stanford didn’t revoke my admission. The God I didn’t believe in didn’t come down to smite me. And the lesson I was supposed to have learned never materialized. I continued to shoplift. A couple years ago, I went for a mall haircut and came out with a mullet. I was so upset that I ran into the nearest department store, pulled a scarf from the accessories wall, ripped the tag off, tied it around my mullet, took a deep breath, and calmly walked out of the store. When I started my first full-time job as a union organizer in San Francisco and moved into my first adult apartment with my boyfriend, I would regularly go into our local Safeway, order a sandwich, yank the price off the wax paper, and toss it behind a box of Nilla wafers and walk out.

In recent years, I’ve been trying to accumulate less stuff in general, especially stuff made overseas by underpaid and overworked employees, and in the process of trying to reduce my consumer footprint, I’ve somehow, without even really noticing, stopped stealing shit. I’ve been trying to reconcile my desire to drape myself in beautiful things with the reality of what textile workers actually get paid for their labor.

At an Occupy Wall Street rally I attended last October, a woman stepped up to the mic and asked why we criminalize individuals who steal from corporations, but fail to punish corporations who steal from individuals? This is an interesting point. It’s not like I believe what I did was good for the world. I could look back on my stealing days and, in hindsight, find crude justifications for what I did. I could tell you, for example, that what I was really doing was looking for small ways to subvert a capitalistic economy that tells us that individuals are worth far less than stuff. Or I could tell you that back then, I wanted things to be free, and if they weren’t, I wanted to be free to take them. All I know is that in some ways, I still want that—I don’t want to work four to five part-time and freelance jobs so I can have the flexibility and time to be the writer I dreamed of becoming as a teenager and STILL not have affordable healthcare. I need to believe that as self-serving and bratty and inarticulate as it is to flip the world the middle finger, that it’s OK sometimes.

A few weeks ago, I gave a poetry reading for my friend Polly’s reading series in Brooklyn. I brought five books with me to sell. I left the books out on a table for anyone to look through and browse or buy. At the end of the night, I had sold three, but only had one left.

“I think someone took one of my books without paying,” I told my friend Polly. “But it’s OK. Maybe they wanted it and couldn’t afford it.”

“That’s still not right, though,” Polly said.

“It’s actually all right with me.”

“Are you sure?” Polly asked me.

I was sure. ♦

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111 Comments

  • starsinyourheart July 26th, 2012 7:14 PM

    I love this so much. I remember the first time I took something, a cheap pair of earrings that I just put in my ears and walked off with. I thought I was such a bad girl ha.

  • ravenflamingo July 26th, 2012 7:26 PM

    Great article. I remember when I was 11 and I would steal little things thinking I was cool. I was so stupid!

    http://agirlnamedraven.tumblr.com

  • deodorant July 26th, 2012 7:46 PM

    I had the EXACT same thing happen to me at Bergdorf Goodman (shmancy), and I’ve drawn the same conclusions from the experience of being arrested. I still maintain that anything that is not nailed down at Whole Foods is free…lol forever at the idea of spending 2$ on an apple.
    Also I was listening to “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction just a few minutes ago!

  • katiemeg July 26th, 2012 8:10 PM

    “it slowly dawned on me that the sign I saw in the store was not a promise but a threat, that the world was not capable of tracking my every move, that in the grand scheme of things my deviancy was negligible at best, and once I understand all that, I was free.”

    that’s fuckin rad, well said.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:35 PM

      Thanks so much Katiemeg <3

  • lylsoy July 26th, 2012 8:20 PM

    Jenny, you are such a talented writer and absolutely loved this although I never had the balls to shoplift! :)
    http://gossipgonzesse.tumblr.com/

    • maddzwx July 26th, 2012 11:55 PM

      but did you have the ovaries?

      • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:44 PM

        I wish there was a “like” button on Rookie.

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:38 PM

        HOLY HAHA I love all the comments in this thread.

  • lula July 26th, 2012 8:27 PM

    I stole quite a few things after my parent’s divorce, but little things like Lisa Frank band-aids. Not that I’m proud of that, by the way.

    • maddzwx July 26th, 2012 11:58 PM

      hmm…me too. I used to steal mainly lipsticks, though. I wonder if it’s common to steal after parents seperate?

  • ViolentDreams July 26th, 2012 8:28 PM

    shoplifters of the world unite and take the eff over!!!!!

    • Maddy July 26th, 2012 9:17 PM

      If this sort of comment is the response the author intended to provoke, it seems that this article is glorifying shoplifting.

      • maddzwx July 27th, 2012 12:06 AM

        I really don’t think this was the sort of comment Jenny meant to provoke, and I think ViolentDreams really isn’t getting the point of the article.

        • Impybat July 27th, 2012 9:25 AM

          ViolentDreams is referencing a Smiths song ;)

        • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:43 PM

          I didn’t know there was a Smiths song like that, but as an IWW member I approve of that comment ;D
          She was just making a funny comment, no need to worry about glorifying shoplifting.

  • robotcupcake July 26th, 2012 8:36 PM

    This is a very shortsighted and self-centered viewpoint. The writer seems to feel like she has done the world a favor, especially in being okay with a single, small theft against herself. This is just bragging about how anti-establishment and brave she is – neither of which I would agree with.

    • Jessica Vixenelle July 26th, 2012 8:56 PM

      I agree, I think, but I don’t mean to offend– what does the last part, about the person who couldn’t afford the book, have to do with the rest of the essay?

    • caro nation July 27th, 2012 12:36 AM

      She’s not propagating, she’s not preaching, and she is certainly not trying to shine a light on her “anti-establishment” lifestyle.

      And the book signifies her feelings towards a seemingly amoral theft as a former criminal herself. I thought it was a good ending. It assisted in alluding to the blatant lack of morality present in transactions by large corporations, and how petty, negligible theft on the consumer’s part can be seen as a vengeful act of righteous indignation. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:48 PM

        Wow, caro nation, I think your reading of the ending is so incredibly insightful and elevates the actual writing in this article into something greater than it ever hoped to be, and for that I am grateful! For me, the ending is about the lack of humanity in transactions that happen in our post-industrialized, corporatized, service-industry heavy world, and wanting to imbue my life with a little bit of that humanity, and part of the humanity is having the freedom to make exceptions on a case by case basis, and in the case of my book that was stolen, I’m trying to acknowledge that as an Asian-American, somewhat financially stable, college educated woman in my twenties, I am in a place of privilege, and because of that, I didn’t mind that someone took one of my books. I hope that makes a little bit of sense.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:39 PM

      She specifically said that she doesn’t think she is doing or did the world a favor, and she also said that she stopped stealing because she realized it was silly. She knows that stealing does neither good nor harm. I’m not sure if you read the whole article. This paragraph summarizes it pretty well

      “a woman stepped up to the mic and asked why we criminalize individuals who steal from corporations, but fail to punish corporations who steal from individuals? This is an interesting point. It’s not like I believe what I did was good for the world. I could look back on my stealing days and, in hindsight, find crude justifications for what I did. I could tell you, for example, that what I was really doing was looking for small ways to subvert a capitalistic economy that tells us that individuals are worth far less than stuff. Or I could tell you that back then, I wanted things to be free, and if they weren’t, I wanted to be free to take them. All I know is that in some ways, I still want that—I don’t want to work four to five part-time and freelance jobs so I can have the flexibility and time to be the writer I dreamed of becoming as a teenager and STILL not have affordable healthcare. I need to believe that as self-serving and bratty and inarticulate as it is to flip the world the middle finger, that it’s OK sometimes.”

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:43 PM

      Oh, I’m bummed that the article comes off that way. That’s the total opposite of what I wanted to convey–which is that I don’t feel AT ALL like what I did was a favor to the world or that I was AT ALL anti-establishment. And in fact, to be truly anti-establishment is to take a real critical eye at the freedoms that are denied from MANY, MANY low-wage/minimum-wage/no-wage workers in first world and third world countries and figure out what your role will be in resisting and defying and changing that. I’m still figuring it out, and when I was a teen, my ideas of what it meant to be free were so limited, and my creativity was strangled and deadened, and led me to feel as if my only chance for subversion was through an act that was not at all subversive–aka stealing shit. It sucks that it didn’t come through.

  • Sugar July 26th, 2012 8:42 PM

    I’m confused. What is the point of this?

  • webbff July 26th, 2012 9:03 PM

    Thank you for writing this article. I thankfully stopped shoplifting years ago, yet I don’t feel shame in it. (Sorry, I’m a good person yadayada. Learned a lesson.) It was really stupid of me actually. (Stealing a rubber bracelet or a set of clay?! What did I even need that stuff for?)

  • jamielovesbrit July 26th, 2012 9:19 PM

    Totally yay! This article relates to me SO HARD man, and especially the conclusion.

  • malifera July 26th, 2012 9:49 PM

    I don’t think it’s brave to steal; I think it’s cowardly.

    I liked this article because I respect others experiences, but I did not read “stealing is cool” like some others have.
    I read “this was a cry for individuality, which now being fully realized, is no longer needed”.

    Also, dumpster diving is a good way to get free stuff off the system without harming anyone emotionally or financially.

    • Moxx July 26th, 2012 10:13 PM

      I support this message. It’s how I feel too.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:33 PM

      I don’t think it’s either cool or cowardly. And the part about harming people emotionally or financially, it depends. Stealing from a corporation doesn’t help the workers who are oppressed by it, but it doesn’t harm it either -it harms the corporation itself. But when stealing becomes an addiction or is done by people who think it makes them “cool” then they don’t care who they are harming -and the more they are harming the better- so they will steal from businesses owned by working people who are also struggling.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:51 PM

      I agree with this wholeheartedly! I’m so glad that you mentioned dumpster diving. I should have the foresight to include a list of activities like dumpster diving that are good ways “to get free stuff off the system without harming anyone emotionally or financially,” like you said. I think Freecycle is a really good group to join, and I’m a big fan of clothing swaps and book swaps and just in general giving away my possessions to other people, especially things like books and cds that I think someone else might be interested in.

  • old hands July 26th, 2012 10:18 PM

    i’ve been stealing since i was 14 and have never gotten caught, but now i’m over 18. and shit gets serious when you get caught and you’re old.

  • Mister Racoon July 26th, 2012 10:54 PM

    Jenny, I’ve been following your writing since Fashion for Writers, and you continually inspire me to write.

    That scene in the beginning with your grandmother? I had a similar experience with my own growing up. Every time we went to a restaurant buffet, she would enlist me to steal enough bread rolls for the week. If people made a big deal about her accent at the register, I would slip candy from the ice cream station into her purse.

    monicamakebelieve.tumblr.com

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:29 PM

      hah that’s awesome and hilarious.

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:53 PM

        Oh gosh, my grandmother would do the same thing. Once, she slipped an entire rotisserie chicken in her bag at a buffet.

  • clairee July 26th, 2012 11:13 PM

    This was fascinating to read, knowing that there are some people who are perfect good girls that may hide some less perfect, goody-goody secrets. I’d always assumed every other goody-goody seeming person was like me, too afraid to ever break even the dumbest of little rules, let alone shoplift. I love all the things you write, Jenny.

    http://modalityblog.wordpress.com/

  • Jules July 26th, 2012 11:36 PM

    I thought this article was beautiful – I don’t think it was saying “stealing is cool,” I actually don’t think the point had anything to do with shoplifting. I think the author portrayed beautifully searching for things the world cannot give you, looking outside the messages society sends, and learning to understand yourself. Her story about shoplifting was a way of sharing these reflections with us.
    Great writing!

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:28 PM

      I agree :)

  • EveyMarrie July 27th, 2012 12:36 AM

    You have no idea how much this applies to me lately. I’ve stolen things every so often for quite awhile. Usually little things like eyeliner or eyeshadow, easy things. It was wrong and I unfortunately got one of my friends in trouble indirectly by convincing her it was okay to steal.

    This didn’t stop me though. I’m still doing it unfortunately. My family’s financial problems have been going downhill, I’ve been stressed about college and my future, now I’m stealing almost every time I go out to a clothing store.

    It’s really sick and I think it’s my way of coping. Like how shopaholics get their kick by buying things, I feel better when I can walk away from a store with fifty dollars worth of clothes for absolutely free.

    I’ve been trying to stop by going to clothing stores less and bringing a tiny purse if I do, that way if I have the urge to do it, I can limit myself to either one thing or nothing. (Being the picky shopper I am even WITH money, picking one item is impossible for me, so I’d walk out with nothing.)

    I am scared the one day I get caught because it’s bound to happen. I’m trying to stop though. I REALLY am :(

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:27 PM

      What you are doing isn’t wrong, don’t feel bad. The people who own those things and want to keep you away from them get a lot of profit off of them without working, they profit off the needs of you and your family and are directly or indirectly responsible for your financial problems. Your parents and the people who work in the stores and the people who make those things and even you (if you work) only get paid for a small portion of their labor and everything else goes to those who own everything in a very long and wasteful hierarchy of command. You get the urge to take those things because you know that these things should be free for the taking and giving for everyone. That being said, this can develop into an addiction and it can be harmful to you, even if you don’t get caught. I think this little sticker is the only way for me to express to you what I want to say: http://crimethinc.com/tools/downloads/preview_big/surveillance_big.gif

      Don’t feel guilty :) but just be considerate of your parents and your family and when you do things like these keep them in mind.

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:56 PM

        I think a-anti-anticapitalista gave some GREAT advice! I used to worry that my stealing was pathological and unstoppable. I mean–actually, it was pathological, and it did stop. My family was also struggling financially when I first started stealing, and it became a habit. Something that helps is to try and find other things in life that make you feel fulfilled and remember that EXPERIENCES are always more fulfilling than MATERIAL THINGS. A wonderful day with your friends, or a day where you are creating things like working on a zine or playing music will, in the end, feel better than some material object you covet, and if you start to look for those experiences and work toward them instead of thinking about wanting THINGS, then eventually, I think it will really help curb your desire to steal.

        • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:58 AM

          Waah this made me teary-eyed :’) In our society we all struggle with this, with the inability to have material things and with the sad urge to want them. That’s some good advice on resisting that urge, and when we resist the urge we win!

      • mulberry July 28th, 2012 12:20 PM

        This is only true if you’re stealing from a giant chain…a lot of people don’t make the distinction. Shoplifting from independent stores directly affects the people who work to make that store exist : -/

  • Mags July 27th, 2012 12:59 AM

    I thought I was the only one. I was also encouraged to shoplift when I was very young by an adult that I trusted. I continued shoplifting into my teens and I sometimes still get the urge. It’s like I want to be bad on purpose, like it will give me some sort of release that I can’t find elsewhere. It’s such a strange feeling. I know what you mean about it making you feel free.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:20 PM

      Because the constant threat of force and social alienation being imposed on you and your fellow human beings by a group of people who own everything and produce nothing is what is keeping you from being free.

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:59 PM

        Oh gosh, both comments are sticking straight to my heart <3 <3

  • LeatherStuddedFae July 27th, 2012 1:23 AM

    Some of these comments seem to be sort of against what Jenny is trying to portray in this article.

    Well, in my point of view, sometimes doing the bad thing is good. I could see corporations, companies and even the society in general is being simply unfair and that sometimes, it’s a good thing to throw it back to them. lol, sometimes.

    “At an Occupy Wall Street rally I attended last October, a woman stepped up to the mic and asked why we criminalize individuals who steal from corporations, but fail to punish corporations who steal from individuals? This is an interesting point. It’s not like I believe what I did was good for the world. ”

    This is what really struck me. :)

    http://stylestuddedfairy.blogspot.com/

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 10:59 PM

      I so appreciate this comment! What the woman said at the Occupy Wall Street rally meant and still means a lot to me.

  • Jessica W July 27th, 2012 2:10 AM

    This was such an interesting read.
    To be honest, I went from “Oh my God this girl is what is wrong with the world” (sorry) to “Oh my God this girl is a free spirit, bless her soul, we need more people like her! Ex ex ex oh!”
    I’ve never stolen in my life, but I completely see where you’re coming from.
    But in saying that… Gurrrl you gotta stop stealing!

    Jessica @ http://www.thelovelorn.net

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:56 PM

      I like this comment :) I agree. Although I don’t think “bless her soul” because she’s a “free spirit”, it’s just that she is right in her commentary about property and how things should be free -except for the textile workers part because it doesn’t harm them if things are stolen, the company won’t increase their wages if they get more profits because people stopped stealing- I think the last thing about the book was nice :3

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:03 PM

      Omg, your reaction is amazing. I think I was a delusional brat acting out in a lot of ways, and I definitely have not grown up or figured out how to be the best person I can be, but I am trying to figure out how to fuck an unfair, oppressive system that undervalues people and overvalues material objects/money/hierarchies of power, etc, without resorting to useless, indulgent acts of minor transgression.

  • Antionette July 27th, 2012 3:52 AM

    I’ve been stealing since I was 9. Every week after piano lessons, I would go to ou local gas station and steal cheap Airheads. At first it was just one stuffed into my backpack, but by 5 weeks in, I was stealing 3 or four at a time. I have no idea how I didn’t get caught. The reason I stopped this little escapade was that my older brother got caught stealing Playboys from a local grocery store, and I could see the shame in my parents’ eyes. They didn’t need two thieves in the family. But, it started again at about age 13 when I discovered I could steal the little bracelets, earrings, and other trinkets on display at the stores I bought my clothes at. I stole from GAP, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and Target. I moved up to scarves, and even tank tops a couple of times. I still do it when I am upset or desperate, and have yet to get caught. Is it sad to say that I am impressed, even jealous of Jenny’s haul of $400 at Bloomingdale’s? Maybe, but we all deal with our “rebelliousness” in different ways, and hopefully my urge to steal whenever I walk into a store will soon subside.

  • deryik July 27th, 2012 6:17 AM

    What interested me the most is that you feel sorry for the underpaid- overworked textile workers, but not for the underpaid-overworked employees in the store you steal from.

    The employees at the stores are the people who probably have to pay for it instead of you. 5 burgers made and 4 paid? well, sorry for the girl at the cashier, she should have been more careful. now there will be a cut from her salary, plus her boss will enjoy 5 minutes of free bullying. and most probably she is just like you: a part-time worker with no access to affordable healthcare. and maybe some green card concerns, too. but since she is not an exploited textile worker on the other side of the planet, why care? if she’s in the city, she’s richie rich!

    This is how corporate system works: theft does not hurt them, it hurts their employees. they just add a percentage of stock loss as an item in their balance sheet. that lady at occupy movement should have known better. they keep a track of how many incidences occured at every employees shift, giving them grades of “efficiency”.

    I have full respect for the ethical concerns over working conditions, but just because one is not in a sweatshop but in a store does not make the conditions better. working 12 hours in a store with only 15 min break for lunch – how is that different from a factory? it’s still about cheap labour and its exploitation. relativity doesn’t change it.

    just a note: I don’t care about the morals of theft etc., really. I just wanted to point out that the concern about “ethical labour” needs some consistency.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:47 PM

      As a person who works as a cashier, I will tell you that that’s not the way it works. The store and the corporation looses money, not the employees. You are merely not giving profits to the company that exploits people or to the owners who want to survive off of others labor. You are not doing anything helpful or harmful for the workers.

      • Sugar July 27th, 2012 2:58 PM

        Actually, it does come from the employees. You do not seem to understand how Economics actually work. You seem to believe in a false dichotomy.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 12:47 PM

      But I agree with the overall point of your comment, justincase. :)

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:32 PM

      @deryik, Oh, I totally agree with you. I think what is needed in general is a broader, all-encompassing critique of all that is wrong with a labor market where the workers– whether it is a textile worker on the other side of the planet, or someone in America working a minimum wage, shittier-than-shitty service job–suffer and have to take a monetary hit over and over again. I’m horrified to think my article privileges exploited workers on the other side of the planet over exploited workers right in our neighborhoods. That was not my intention. The idea that the service industry is the fastest growing industry makes me sick, because I know how much service workers are underpaid and denied basic benefits and rights as workers.

      I’ve been a minimum wage service-employee in the past and I’ve also worked for a union that organized service employees and I’ve also had both parents work several minimum wage service jobs when I was growing up. My mother used to make donuts at Dunkin Donuts. My father used to deliver Chinese food on his bike.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:35 PM

      @deryik, continued…

      What I believe it is always necessarily complicated and messy to examine and describe the way individuals react to a system that does not allow individuals to flourish, to live with dignity and humanity. What I want is not a pardon for shoplifting, nor is it to justify my past stealing as a way of ACTUALLY dismantling the system. I recognize that my actions were puerile and indulgent. What I want is a system that does not undervalue and underpay its workers. I don’t want to to see the used bookstore in my neighborhood close up shop and be replaced by a Walmart. I don’t want to offer a crude, and incomplete critique of “ethical labour” but I realize that this article only briefly touches on my ideas on what constitutes as ethical labor and what hopes for humanity I have. But hopefully, this comment continues the conversation and hopefully you know that I want and hope for rigorous AND vigorous ongoing discussion on these matters.

      • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:53 AM

        “What I believe it is always necessarily complicated and messy to examine and describe the way individuals react to a system that does not allow individuals to flourish, to live with dignity and humanity.” I agree, and I think a lot of people did get that from the article but still, like you said, more discussion is necessary.

  • Nishat July 27th, 2012 9:30 AM

    oddly I think this is one of the most controversial articles on this website. I stole confetti when I was 9 and never ever did it again. I was absolutely drenched in guilt. People are different though. I think this article should have highlighted how yes, it may be liberating but she did get off quite easily. Stanford could have easily denied her entry to the school after that, and many universities do.

    Of course she’s not encouraging it, but this article wasn’t discouraging either, you know? My friend once stole underwear too and it led her to a very, very Christian life. I doubt she’d ever steal again but it changed her.

  • Sparletta July 27th, 2012 11:15 AM

    I’m a bit shocked at the amount of people who admit they have stolen.

    I can proudly say I have never stolen anything in my life.

  • Sparletta July 27th, 2012 11:22 AM

    Actually…. I take that back. If you consider downloading music illegally as theft, then yes, I am a thief.

    And I will continue to do it.
    So I’m sorry I said.

  • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 11:24 AM

    First of all, I applaud Rookie and the author for this article. I think Rookie is awesome and is taking a huge step in creating this magazine for teenage girls that is actually full of positive messages and encourages thought and dialogue, but the feminist dialogue is incomplete without also talking about class and imperialism and capitalism -which a complete feminism would consider part of patriarchy-. I understand why Rookie would be very cautious with talking about this, because it might drive a lot of readers away considering how this is a mostly American (and middle-class, and I’m not holding this against them because you don’t choose what you are born into) readership and Rookie should be accessible to all, but to the most oppressed in society (although IMO for everyone to an extent, because even the rich are oppressed in the current system) the mainstream ‘feminist’ dialogue doesn’t offer a complete alternative and doesn’t completely speak to their issues. This article makes a point about that without alienating the mostly liberal or not completely “politically developed” audience. This is a process and I think Rookie does a good job walking beside people and helping them to discover things for themselves as opposed to imposing views or ‘converting’ them.
    TL;DR: Rookie is awesome and I wish every teenager in ‘merica would know about it and have access to it because it would make the world better.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:38 PM

      Wow, thank you so much for this honest, open, and visionary critique. I would love to have A LOT more discussion about class and imperialism and capitalism and what globalization means and what solidarity means and ALL OF IT. I love that you took the time to respond to so many comments on this article, and I am so grateful to everyone who thought about this article with however much levity or gravity as everyone did. There is room in the feminist dialogue for both frivolity and seriousness and I hope Rookie can be a forum for both.

      • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:48 AM

        I totally agree :) that’s why Rookie is aweweesoome. Also, YESS, solidaarity. You just made me get all warm and fuzzy inside :3

  • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 11:32 AM

    And, well, you are harming those textile workers when you buy but not when you steal, because when you steal you are not giving profits to the company that exploits them. But also, like you said, by stealing you aren’t helping them, or making the world better, just like by buying “consciously” or growing your own food you aren’t doing much either (not that this isn’t something good in general but when people do these things and then wash their hands off saying they did enough that does more harm than continuing to shop at Walmart but being active and helping create long-lasting revolutionary change for everyone). These things help you keep the guilt away but they don’t really help make the world a better place or build an alternative or help the exploited in any way. I believe in pre-figurative politics and in creating the new world in the shell of the old but these things always have to be done with the purpose of creating consciousness and bringing world-wide paradigmatic change forth, otherwise they are merely personal ‘feel-good’ choices.
    With that said, sometimes shoplifting comes from a place of materialism and not from a place of real need. I am not saying there is something wrong with stealing unnecessary items but it can become an addiction that even the wealthy engage in and it can be personally harmful. This can also be bad because people who do this will even steal from small businesses owned by working-class people who are struggling and try to justify their actions (i have friends like this :c).

  • jonatron July 27th, 2012 11:49 AM

    To suggest that removing demand on goods manufactured by exploited individuals will somehow improve their working conditions is absurd.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 3:17 PM

      Agreed.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:16 PM

      @jonatron, YO, I agree with you. I hope my statement about trying to figure out how to reconcile my desire to buy pretty dresses with not wanting to support a system that exploits individuals did not imply that I believe the only way to “solve” this problem is by removing demand. In no way, is this article saying such a thing.

  • saramarit July 27th, 2012 12:53 PM

    Totally agree with deryik.

    I enjoyed this article until the paragraph on political motivations for shoplifting. I don’t think people should be given the impression that they are hurting the profits of any large corporation by shoplifting. The chances are they would just lay off some minimum wage employees. And shoplifting isn’t going to get you affordable healthcare, that makes no sense to me at all.

    Most shoplifters are not college students looking for some extra luxuries. They are often people on low/no incomes or people who have drug problems or previous criminal convitions. When they get caught the consequences are obviously much worse than what you have faced.
    I’m glad you managed to curtail your theiving because if you got caught again it could have really screwed things up for you.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 3:21 PM

      She wasn’t saying those were reasons to shoplift at all actually, she was saying she COULD have justified it this way but that’s not the reality. What she was saying is that there was really nothing immoral or wrong about shoplifting, and that they were just immature ways of expression and coping but that they were OK sometimes because the people who profit from those goods are stealing from you and exploiting you. She wasn’t suggesting shoplifting was a solution but rather a way of coping, which I believe is a waste because that frustration could be used for creating change as opposed to being released in something personal like shoplifting.

  • annadee July 27th, 2012 12:58 PM

    I really needed to read this. Over 10th grade and junior year I developed a sort of klepto problem, but I got caught halfway through junior year and those days are over. I’ve realized stealing is wrong but not in a “Oh, poor innocent Kohl’s!” sense, in the sense that I don’t need to be materialistic and have a sense of entitlement to random things. I understand how you feel completely.

  • llamalina July 27th, 2012 1:33 PM

    I loved this piece. It came full circle at the end and those are my favorite kinds of stories.

  • saramarit July 27th, 2012 1:48 PM

    I’d think it’s important to mention that the compulsion to steal or engage in other risky behaviour can be (not always but sometimes) a symptom of mental health problems and if you feel like things are getting out of control you should talk to someone and ask for help.

  • Natashisss July 27th, 2012 3:16 PM

    I disagree with this article. It is importaant to open dialogues about capitalism and imperialism, but I believe this is a very twisted approach. USA has a complete generational system of capitalism and stealing is not a prudent way to defy or transform it, specially if we assume that most of US citizens do not live in poverty and the core of their consumerism is closer to a whims rather than “movements” challenging the economical system. Stealing is inevitably linked to morals (which vary from every individual) however, independently of these morals, I believe that Rookie here is not encouraging a healthy path for young girls to initiate discussions on the subject of USA capitalism.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 27th, 2012 3:22 PM

      I agree with you, but the article seems to be discouraging shoplifting for people who don’t need to, at least that’s what I got from it, and is instead pointing to the reasons why people shoplift and why it is not imoral facing the fact that the ones stealing are those who profit from the products.

  • sn0whill July 27th, 2012 3:29 PM

    If you’re stealing for material reasons, you’re always stealing. It’s a different story, I feel, if you can’t actually afford what you REALLY need. It’s the Aladdin “gotta steal to eat” situation; (http://www.fpx.de/fp/Disney/Lyrics/Aladdin.html#One%20Jump%20Ahead)
    Big corporation or not, you’re committing the same offense whether it’s a big store or an independent. You may cause more harm if you’re stealing from an independent store, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re essentially saying if you’re stealing for material reasons, you’re too good to pay for things. Why should you pay for things? Because unfortunately we do live in a society where things cost money. Yes, a lot of material goods may well be overpriced, yes corporations out there are doing a LOT of wrong by their workers but that does not, in some bizarre reverse of your logic, make it okay for shoplifters to shoplift a lipstick or a purse or, oh my god, $400 of lingerie. What you’re saying are not justifications for your past stealing. Maybe I’m misreading somewhere but I’m sorry, not a lot is. Like Nishat already pointed out, this article is not encouraging stealing, but it’s not a whole lot discouraging either.
    Why should you get something for free when other people in the country can’t actually afford the basics? But it’s okay for you to nick some cute scarf because you’ve had a bad day? I also disagree with the ‘maybe they wanted it but they couldn’t afford it’ thing. I want stuff I can’t afford all the time, doesn’t give me any sense of entitlement to it. Want, not need, is the difference here.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:27 AM

      But her commentary is not on things simply being overpriced, is on the fact that things should not cost money in the first place. Just because society is a certain way doesn’t mean it’s right. You are a Rookie reader, therefore I assume you probably identify as a feminist or are supportive of feminist and LGBT issues, so because society is patriarchal or because society says everyone should be straight then does that make it right? does that make it the way things should be? does that mean that everyone who disagrees needs to just suck it up?
      And companies don’t even feel things being lost from all the profits they receive, and if you work for one of them i shall inform you they steal most of your labor.
      The reality is, society should be run by the principle “to each according to his need, from each according to his ability” but all working people, regardless of your job and your financial situation and if you can at least afford most of the things you need or not, contribute FAR past their ability and receive FAR less than what they have given to society. So why is it morally wrong to take from those who own everything but contribute nothing?

  • miranda11 July 27th, 2012 3:48 PM

    Shoplifting has a lot to do with race and class. In most cases, white, upper- to middle-class people shoplift items they can afford to buy and don’t need because it makes them feel “liberated” or “rebellious.” In reality, it’s just as materialistic and consumerist as buying yourself tons of things you don’t need. It fills a hole in the same way that cutting or drug use does.

    I think it would be much more useful and progressive if Rookie featured a story by someone who isn’t high up on the social ladder; someone who had to steal to survive or to help their personal situation; not someone who stole fancy lingerie because it felt good. I don’t understand how Rookie can be all about feminism when it’s often whitewashed and middle-class-centric.

    • RiotViolet July 27th, 2012 4:49 PM

      @miranda11 I can totally see your point. Like I mentioned in my previous post my rich friends are the once who introduced me to stealing. As an minority teenager I have grown up seeing a lot of disparity amongst my white friends and myself. When some of my family members and neighbors would steal because they virtually had NO money, they liked doing it because they felt like a badass. I would also enjoy reading an article in that POV but it doesn’t make this article any less enjoyable. I wish Rookie would heed your words about adding more diversity to their site, and from the shoes of someone not previlaged. XX
      Violet Lee
      http://violet-lee.tumblr.com

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:13 PM

        @RiotViolet: I second everything in your comment and it made me think about post Hurricane Katrina, that really messed up fiasco where–I think–Yahoo news reported this image of some white folks “finding” bread and soda from a grocery store after the flooding, and then a near identical image of a black man also holding stuff from a grocery store, but he was described as “looting.” That shit is racism, plain and simple, but also complicated like you suggest.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:11 PM

      @miranda11, I totally agree with you. Have you ever seen Wanda Sykes do this bit in her stand-up where she’s with a white friend who wants to steal a bottle of wine in a liquor store and Wanda is all like FUCK NO and is joking about how the store owner has been eying her suspiciously this whole time and the joke is basically like, OF COURSE this white girl who is privileged enough to not be immediately criminalized for her VERY existence, would want to steal, and OF COURSE, Wanda Sykes, an black woman who has experienced too many instances of instant criminalization or witnessed it in her community, would not have any interest in stealing, and the irony is that the person who is the most honest is the one who is still being followed suspiciously.

      You know, I totally agree with your critique. There was a lot of stuff that was originally in this article that was cut so this article wouldn’t be too long, and one those things was about how my parents both worked several minimum wage jobs each, and we struggled financially and my original impulse to steal was a response to wanting fancy, useless shit because it seemed like such a privilege to own things that were not necessary. Not that my personal narrative affords this article a free pass, but if you want some details, in elementary and middle school, I qualified for free lunch, and I lived in a single-family house in Queens with two other families and their extended families. My family is now very comfortable middle-class, but that wasn’t always the case. Also–I’m not white.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:33 AM

      I agree. Good insight.
      But sometimes among people who aren’t poor but still working class it comes from the urge and the feeling that things SHOULD be free, that if the girl with the rich parents has the right to have that lipstick then you should too. The author is admitting that her actions were bratty and that there are people who actually can’t afford things though.
      But yeah I always feel the same about Rookie being extremely middle-class-centric, but one has to think about the place were Rookie is coming from, which is mostly tumblr and fashion blog readers, and you can tell rookie wants to go beyond that but it’s hard when that’s what most of your readership and the people who are already here are.

  • foreversly July 27th, 2012 4:03 PM

    I got caught a few weeks ago and it feels awful and I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth it

  • RiotViolet July 27th, 2012 4:41 PM

    omg, this is so relevant to me right now. I’ve been stealing stuff since middle school-mostly clothes- and feel very awful everytime. I started when I found out my friends who were wealthy would take things. I would be like “Why would they steal when they have money? I’m poor, I should be the one doing it”.Everytime I go into the store in which I assume I’m going to be stealing fror I always butterup the salespeople, and have them like me so they will over look me when I leave empty handed. I would go into a dressing room and fit crap loads of clothes under my dress and just leave. Everytime I do it I feel awful, because I know my parents didn’t teach me like that. I really need to stop. I’m almost 18, things get serious once your legal.
    http://violet-lee.tumblr.com

  • Sheenathepunkrocker July 27th, 2012 6:22 PM

    This article left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m glad it opened up the dialogue for the discussion of shoplifting, and I’m even more pleased that it didn’t take the “scared straight” approach as well; however, I was not happy with the justifications provided for shoplifting. Honestly, these justifications did not sound completely genuine to me, simply because I find it very hard to believe that the reason the writer stole $400 dollars worth of lingerie was to fight our capitalist system, and not because they wanted to have a bunch of awesome garments for free. Either way, what if everyone decided to take this approach? None of these garments could even be made if everyone decided to steal them. I’m sorry, but this is the time of individualistic thinking that I feel can really harm a society. Although Jenny is my favorite writer on this site, I am really not a fan of this piece. I think the only way for it to truly be beneficial is if Rookie provides other points of view on the issue, such as a writer who wouldn’t shoplift simply because they believe it is morally wrong for them to do so.
    Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the piece itself, I really do appreciate the questions it brought forth and the issues it called me to think about.

    • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:45 PM

      Hey Sheena, I totally appreciate your honesty. To be honest, I was expecting a lot more people to be repelled by this article and straight up disgusted. I tried to stay away from offering any justifications because I don’t think AT ALL that shoplifting solves anything or in any way helps to dismantle a system that privileges profit over workers. I like your question of “what if everyone decided to take this approach.” You’re so right that if everyone decided to do whatever they wanted, it would ultimately hurt many, many people. I don’t at all want to privilege individualistic greed or consumption. I don’t at all want this article to seem like I am promoting shoplifting as a good thing to do or even an excusable thing to do. My hope for this article was to track a time in my life when I was both incredibly indulgent and immature, and also desiring a kind of creative life that the structure of my home life and my school life and the structure of the society I lived in was totally denying me. But now, I realize that it’s not at all transgressive to steal. What is transgressive and subversive is to want universal health care, and to want to fight for a world where all workers make a living wage. I’m bummed this stuff didn’t make it into the article : ( But I am grateful for your thoughtful comment, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond!

      • Sheenathepunkrocker July 28th, 2012 1:33 AM

        Thank you for taking the time to reply to me! I really like what you said about the transition from the immature desire to shoplift to the logical want for universal healthcare. If the transition had been more evident, I would have had a completely different opinion regarding your article.
        No matter what, I really appreciate the honesty of your writing. I look forward to your next article!

      • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:38 AM

        I think fighting for a living wage is ‘progressive’, transgressive would be to fight for no more wages ;D
        I think this stuff was very clear in the article, but a lot of people misread the part when you said ” I COULD make justifications like…” (or something along those lines) for you actually making those justifications, when in reality you were saying those aren’t justifications. Anyway, I enjoyed it :)

  • mulberry July 27th, 2012 6:53 PM

    From someone who has worked many minimum wage jobs as a sales girl…please think about who you might be hurting when you shoplift. I agree that stealing is not going to financially ruin a corporation, but I also think its more complex than that.
    I am a really trusting person. When someone comes in the door, I smile and ask them how they are, and when I talk to people, I ACTUALLY CARE. I leave people alone if I get the vibe they don’t want to be talked to. I don’t like making people uncomfortable, I don’t lurk, I don’t give people the steely glare when they walk around. All this said: I get in trouble if shit gets stolen when I’m working. I want to have faith in people and respect others enough to treat them like human beings when they come into my work, not like Potential Threats to be Suspected at All Times. When people keep stealing stuff, though, it makes trusting & liking people feel like naivety. I once had a woman come straight up to the counter and have a really sweet conversation with me before heading straight back out the door. I was kind of smiling to myself about the niceness of people until the realization hit me that there was a pair of $90 handmade earrings missing from right in front of me, the jewelry rack still wobbling a bit. I felt so stupid, naive, and almost betrayed in a weird way.
    I just want to encourage fellow humans to be considerate of the effects of their actions on others. Also, stealing from independent stores is pretty sucky. Also also, corporations might not have feelings, but individuals do.

    • mulberry July 27th, 2012 6:57 PM

      Or, in short:
      Try not to be one more person who supports the notion that people can’t trust one another. The world is already a really bitter place.

      • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:53 PM

        I really, really understand and empathize! You know, when I read the Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano, I was so upset that I threw the book in the garbage because of all the scenes in the first section when the protagonist keeps stealing books from used bookstores. The thought of people stealing books from used bookstores is something that is deeply upsetting to me because it’s a dying business and one that is primarily kept alive by people who LOVE books to death and will love it to their own financial and personal downfall, and the thought of someone stealing a book disgusts me. Obviously, there are MANY other examples of this that go beyond used bookstores. There are MANY MANY small businesses, family-owned businesses that I want to see flourish. You gave a great example of what it feels like to be a salesperson and to have to be constantly suspicious and the real feeling of betrayal when someone steals. A corporate, globalized economy wants to deny us emotions–I was able to steal from Bloomingdale’s because I saw the store as a corporate entity and had little humanity for the people who worked there. That is totally fucked up and what I want is a world where that is not the defacto way of operating. And yet when we call our bank, we have to slog through the automated system before we can talk to an actual person. And even then, it’s a different person each time and the interaction that follows is often devoid of mutual empathy and humanity, and THAT is what I am morally against. Stealing was something stupid I did that thankfully got me thinking about all this.

        • Jenny July 27th, 2012 11:55 PM

          And in short, person to person relationships and interactions are so important to me, and the world really is a bitter place to deny us such interactions. And I agree that it’s fucked also to deny others basic humanity, and trust is a big part of not denying humanity for anyone.

      • a-anti-anticapitalista July 28th, 2012 9:41 AM

        True. I work at a store as well and I am exactly the same way. I hate treating people like “customers” or robots so when I am nice I actually care. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they stole something but that’s because it doesn’t affect me unless they are taking things under the cart (which if my manager sees will get me in biig trouble) so I can understand why you would feel that way. Most of those people probably don’t know that it can get you in trouble if things are stolen.

  • thefawnboy July 27th, 2012 8:45 PM

    i once sort of unnoticeably stole a toothbrush from a biway , and a chocolate egg from the cashier checkout at a shoppers drug mart, because i couldn’t find my parents in the store and got hungry
    i went out of the store with the egg, and ate it on a bench with an old lady and her granddaughter
    i was around 5 i’d say

  • madcat July 28th, 2012 12:59 AM

    I find this article… interesting, and am a bit disappointed in many of the comments. Stealing from another group or individual is never okay- small OR large scale- in my book, and it’s upsetting to see so many girls proud of their involvement in this sort of activity.

  • bethleeroth July 28th, 2012 10:31 AM

    I just want to say… WOW. The discussion here. I can’t think of any teen girl magazines that would provoke this kind of thoughtful discussion about important and complex issues in the world — and it makes me SO HAPPY BEYOND BELIEF to see how knowledgable and revolutionary everyone is here. SO much hope for the future! Keep spreading the love and the smarts… the world needs this.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista July 29th, 2012 12:49 PM

      I know riight? it’s unbelievable. The discussion is actually even better than I expected. It makes me happy

  • GildedLocks July 28th, 2012 3:23 PM

    Awesome piece, Jenny! <3 Kudos to what Bethleeroth said. My favorite Rookie pieces are the ones where the comments are as interesting as the article.

  • allyishere July 29th, 2012 8:40 AM

    I love Jenny’s articles about her rebellious former youth! <3

  • GraceSaysHi July 29th, 2012 8:00 PM

    This article really resonated with me. Thank you for writing it, Jenny. (:

  • eliselbv July 30th, 2012 10:00 AM

    I can tell the world now that when I was 11 I stole an earing at H&M and felt so guilty that I went back to the store the day after and told a cashier that “I found a 2€ coin on the floor and I just wanted to give it back”. It was totally false but I could not come and say “I stole earings yesterday and I fell so guilty that I come back today to pay them”.
    I talked about the story to my older brother and he just laughed at me telling that big stores actually have a special budget for stolen items.
    Ever since I stole one or two accesories because they broke after two days but I don’t understand how someone can steal clothes, food and so on.

  • lyrarose July 31st, 2012 4:16 PM

    “I was sitting there, not saying anything, because my parents were taking turns shouting at me. I was sitting there, not saying anything, because the last time I told my parents what I cared about, they told me to stop caring about that. They told me to put an end to my fanciful delusions of becoming a writer and get serious about life.”
    This is so beautifully written!

  • mymlen August 1st, 2012 1:55 PM

    This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time!
    While a normal magazine would wright “STEALING IS A CRIME, DO NOT STEAL, ONLY CRIMINALS STEAL”, Rookie sortof defend it, but at the same time dosn’t encourage it.
    I’ve had a little stealing history myself (stealing earrings, and underwear and stuff), but I have always felt ashamed that I don’t feel guilty about it.
    If i stole from an old lady, I would probably feel bad about myself, but to be perfectly honest, I can’t feel bad for H&M.

    “I wanted things to be free, and if they weren’t, I wanted to be free to take them. All I know is that in some ways, I still want that—I don’t want to work four to five part-time and freelance jobs so I can have the flexibility and time to be the writer I dreamed of becoming as a teenager and STILL not have affordable healthcare. I need to believe that as self-serving and bratty and inarticulate as it is to flip the world the middle finger, that it’s OK sometimes.”
    I have always thought the same, but I have never managed to put word onto it. Thank you , Jenny!

    ps: sorry for my bad english, I’m norwegian!

    • Jenny August 5th, 2012 8:01 PM

      Your English isn’t bad, it’s wonderful! Thanks so much for your comment <3

  • Eugenie August 4th, 2012 7:52 AM

    I wonder if the reason you basically got away with your activities is that you are a nice middle-class asian girl- the same reason you are able to continue to be blase about breaking the law? After all, what could really happen to you with your class privilege? Further to that, I have to say that talking about the nation’s lack of affordable healthcare as a de facto reason to engage in morally bankrupt behavior sounds a lot like a way to have your liberal-chic ethics and your $100 bra too. And the fact that you use some kind of “higher moral imperative” like protecting the rights of poor factory workers or the planet to paint yourself as still emerging on the moral high ground is so self-serving. Ugh.

  • Han August 6th, 2012 6:38 PM

    Thank you for writing this article. This really hits home for me because I was also a good student who stole on a daily basis when I was in high school. I was finally caught when I was 15 after two years of compulsive stealing. I was caught by a local store owner who owned a super-expensive boutique. All of the items were thin and cheaply made while being absurdly expensive. I think I justified my actions by thinking that “the owner is so rich, she doesn’t need an more money” but when I was caught she just looked at me with such hurt eyes and told me that her business was failing and that she had a three year old son who’s dinner I had just stolen.
    I personally haven’t stolen since then but I don’t condone the act. I recently went to a seminar where James Scott, a professor at Yale, spoke about how we need to commit little rebellions against our government in our day-to-day lives to prepare ourselves for the inevitable large rebellions we will have to take part in to defend our rights.
    Perhaps part of these “smaller rebellions” are stealing from those giant corporations?I will personally never steal because I can’t take the chance that I might miss an important differentiation between a corporation and an individual and end up hurting someone.
    It’s hard to sort though, but I really appreciate that you’ve taken this article to challenge the notion that “stealing is evil”. On that note I would like to suggest that everyone here to watch the movie BICYCLE THEIF. It’s an incredible movie and it would be a great addition to this discussion

  • alittlehoneyformyheart August 19th, 2012 11:10 AM

    I used to steal library books from my school library. It just bothered me so much that all these lovely classics were being stowed away at the bottom of the shelves, yellowing and unappreciated. And most of them last being check out almost six years ago.

    So i ripped off the stickers and the micro cards and nonchalantly walked past the chip detectors to bring these treasures to a better place.

    I honestly can’t say i regret doing so as i love them all to bits and read them frequently. And idk is it still considered stealing if the thing was underappreciated and mistreated to begin with?

    http://alittlehoneyformyheart.wordpress.com

  • heartcity September 16th, 2012 7:23 PM

    Jenny! I’m late to the game but this was me! Never got caught but. We could have been accomplices.

  • sophiethewitch October 26th, 2012 6:25 PM

    Do you think it’s wrong to shoplift if you’re from a middle class family? It sounds exciting (probably just because I’m so sheltered haha), but I never have, because my parents buy me things that I actually need, and give me an allowance, which makes me think I shouldn’t. Of course I’d never steal from a small business that actually needs the support, but if it’s a big evil corporation- do you think it’s ok?

  • sunshinedazey November 21st, 2012 8:29 AM

    I look at my shoplifting like the author’s mother did, like kharma, that if you put out negitivity, aka stealing, that negative will be returned to you eventually. It’s probably not true but it’s the way I deter myself from doing it. I’m also not religious, and feel no guilt for stealing from these big corps that make huge profits treat their employees terrible, but I also realize that is just a rationalization. I think the author is corageous for being so honest and seems to have struck a nerve by writting about a topic that is seldom talked about. I hope if nothing else this makes readers think about things from another perspective.

  • decemberflower April 18th, 2013 9:53 PM

    Jenny… I don’t understand. Every time I read another one of your Live Through This pieces, I feel like I have some idea of what you’re like or once were like or your history… but then I find another one that shows a completely different aspect of your story and I’m like WHAT. How can one young person have so many interesting aspects of their life?!? Keep them coming, your writing is so amazing!