Incurably Curious

Oh Shopping, What Happened? You Used To Be Fun.


Do you remember when you first discovered shopping was a legit pastime? The freedom! The choice! The thrill of handing over your hard-begged cash for something you had chosen yourself! It happened to me when I was about eleven, once we got too old for building dens and rolling down hills. Instead, we started spending our Saturday afternoons wandering around the local shopping centre discussing the issues of our youth: whether or not we’d get real jobs one day (we would), or if it’s possible to get pregnant from giving someone a blow job (you can’t), or whether we’d ever get married (the jury is still out).

In the early days we blew our pocket money in Superdrug and Tammy Girl’s polyester wonderland. Later, hours would be spent poring over the singles chart in Woolworths. (Like many ’89ers, my first ever CD was Steptacular by Steps. I don’t count ABBA Gold, which was technically my mother’s, even though I listened to it before bedtime for six months straight on my Discman because I had a weird crush on Benny Andersson when I was ten.) Plastic ‘skins’ for our Nokia 5100s were considered at length, and a decent fraction of our dwindling childhood was lost in The Body Shop, where we would moisturise ourselves senseless with all the body butters before begrudgingly purchasing a sickly-sweet chapstick out of politeness.

But while I have many happy memories of trekking round Milton Keynes shopping center in my teens, I swear nobody does that shit for fun any more. Clothes shopping is no longer pleasurable. Time is too short or funds are too low or the lunch you just ate was too big. There is too much choice, and everything looks the same. The worst part of shopping for clothes is trying the fuckers on. Changing rooms are little cubicles of ugly that will bring out the worst in everyone. Overhead fluorescent lighting gives skin the sickly pallor normally associated with liver disease, and would probably manage to make even Sleeping Beauty look like a lifelong insomniac. Why retailers insist on ugging everyone up to the max I have no idea; if I had a shop I would make it my top priority that people trying stuff on felt like hot fucking shit. Fun house mirrors, soft lighting, really fit blokes manning the changing rooms to do double-takes when people emerge from their cubicles… Maybe I’ve missed the point, but why in the world would anyone spend half a month’s rent on a dress if it made them look like a pickled hag?

The other big problem with shopping in real life is salespeople. Whereas there are undoubtedly a lovely few working in retail today, 90% of those I encounter are bored teenagers, sullen jobsworths or nauseatingly breezy people who are blatantly on either crack or commission. These overly helpful ones are the most irritating of all. You tell them you’re fine, thanks, but if you accidentally make eye contact with them they come bouncing back like a boomerang. Then you feel like a raging arsehole for being horrible to them, even though you’re not really horrible, you’re just in a bad mood because the last changing room made you look like Iggy Pop after a heavy night and you want to be left alone to stew in your ugliness.

Once I was in Agent Provocateur trying on a bra. (It was actually the outlet in Bicester Village, seeing as there is no way I would (or could) spend £350 on a feathered bootlace and a doily with straps, but it still isn’t cheap. Usually even in the sale their shit carries the kind of price tag that makes most people stiff (!) with fear. I had, however, uncovered a bargain, in deep red silk with lace edging. It was beautiful). Because it was still a bit of a splurge, I tried it on, but was interrupted when a sales assistant, bedecked in fluffy mules and a pencil skirt that made her arse look like two ferrets in a sack, burst in through the velvet curtain. Totally uninvited. My tits were out and everything, but luckily she wasn’t looking at those because it was the day after my first ever Hula-Aerobics class (don’t ask) and my entire midsection was covered in purple bruises from the weighted hoop. She completely freaked out, clearly thinking I was a tragic victim of domestic violence, until I reassured her that in fact I was an amateur hula-hooper and my injuries were self-inflicted. Dramatic as fuck though.

Because actual shopping brings on a strange and powerful urge to lobotomise myself with a clothes hanger, I now buy 99% of my stuff online. This opens up a whole new avenue of predicament. Obviously you have to actually purchase things before you can try them on, so by the time they’ve got to you they’re sort of yours already, so it can be hard to send back pieces you’d ordinarily reject in a shop. Consequently, I now have more clothes than I could ever need, and still I continue to buy more. ASOS in particular seems to see a lot of my wages, and I’m on first name terms with the DPD delivery man who does our office building. Colleagues, not used to this approach to shopping, look on in amazement as huge boxes of stuff are delivered almost every week, wondering if I’m whoring myself out after hours or racking up thousands in credit card debt. “It’s just to try on!” I protest, “I’m not keeping all of it. Most of it will go back.” And most of it does. Apart from occasionally, when something dreadful happens and everything fits perfectly. Those are the months I end up living on powdered soup and looking up the going rate for bone marrow.

But of all the kinds of shopping there is, grocery shopping is the worst. The supermarket is a desolate, frigid place, where the only fun things to be had are the kind of calorie-laden foods that will probably kill you, or at the very least leave you pudgy and incapacitated by guilt. And there is no getting out of it, because food is quite tricky to live without. You can’t rely on outdated cans of Heinz tomato soup from the corner shop for the rest of your life. The problem with groceries is that no matter how organised you are, some shit just isn’t going to stay fresh for very long, so if you want bread or milk or vegetables you are committed to dropping in to one of these pits of despair at least twice a week. Twice a week for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, or at least until you become decrepit enough to qualify for Meals on Wheels, which I think is a fucking brilliant idea. I wish they had them for lazy bitches like me as well as the elderly, but sadly the closest I can get at the moment is Sainsbury’s home delivery. A couple of weeks ago I made an online order because I live up two flights of stairs and usually pick groceries up on the way home with my bike, which means that essential but heavy things like potatoes and wine often fall by the wayside. (Quite literally, on one occasion, when one of the shitty carrier bags swinging precariously off my handlebars ripped and spewed its contents all over the road. I’d even taken the precaution of double-bagging it, but seeing as each flimsy orange abomination is about as thick as a gnat’s foreskin, even multiple layers weren’t enough.) Considering that a Sainsbury’s Local or Micro M&S or Weeny Waitrose is never more than a few hundred meters away in London, having goods delivered to one’s door seems ludicrously lazy and extravagant. I justified it by ordering a lot of very heavy things: 32 cans of Diet Coke, 14 bottles of tonic, 24 big bottles of fizzy water and a LOT of booze. Then I waited for the buzzer, smug in the knowledge that it would be the luckless deliveryman schlepping all this shit up to my flat rather than me.

Of course, the delivery bloke turned out to be about 5ft 6″ and getting on for sixty, so I had to offer to help carry everything up to avoid looking like a gold-plated twat and also possibly being responsible for someone having a heart attack. “He only had six months to retirement,” they’d tell his grieving friends and family. “But this one job pushed him too far. It was the 24-pack of 7UP what did him in.”

And nobody wants that on their conscience.

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19 comments on “Oh Shopping, What Happened? You Used To Be Fun.

  1. Aussa Lorens
    October 22, 2013

    Girl, you are never too old for building dens and rolling down hills. You just have to rediscover these worthy pursuits.

    I’m right there with you on the dressing rooms– nothing dashes my self esteem quite like that lighting and those mirrors. Really, what are they thinking? And I would KILL to have my groceries delivered. A bottle of wine and cheezits can’t weigh that much, right?

    Great post, very funny.

    • CuriousEmily
      October 23, 2013

      You’re right! There aren’t many hills here, but I’m going to commandeer everyone’s bedclothes at the weekend and turn the living room into a Arab desert camp.

  2. beautytherapystudent
    October 22, 2013

    The co-op is your friend if you want items delivered without having to pay for them to be delivered – I loved my little co-op in Sydenham and I felt no shame that their delivery driver knew me by name when I walked into the store lol

    • CuriousEmily
      October 23, 2013

      …Really!? That is literally the best piece of advice I’ve heard all week. The nearest Co-Op is less than 100 paces from my front door…would it be lazy to get them delivered?

      • beautytherapystudent
        October 23, 2013

        Really – call in and check if your local one offers it! I used to walk in, do my shopping, pay and leave without it for them to deliver it to me at a time of my choice (always 15 mins later for me as I was only a 5 min walk away and it gave me time to get in and settle the littley lol). Amazing stuff :D

  3. slickofgloss
    October 22, 2013

    Love this post. The only thing I don’t like about your blog, really, is that there’s not a post a day. But when I get this email nudge that there’s a new post up, oh, it’s worth the wait!

    • CuriousEmily
      October 23, 2013

      Aw, thank you! :) I’m on a mission to post every Monday but I’m not doing very well these days…I’ll try harder, but I can’t promise every day. ;)

  4. gedlondon
    October 22, 2013
  5. Sherbet and Sparkles
    October 22, 2013

    1. Tammy Girl. OMG. I used to save up for those t-shirts with cutesy anime girls on them. Those were the days.

    2. Another reason why ASOS is the way forward – not only do you skip the snotty kid on the til at a highstreet shop, but their twitter account is amazing. I bitched online that shoes I bought from them broke and they sent me new ones right away.

    3. The fact that wine is listed as one of your weekly essentials reassures me that you are my kind of person.

    • CuriousEmily
      October 23, 2013

      SO GLAD THAT SOMEBODY ELSE REMEMBERS THOSE T-SHIRTS. They had like animals too, like ‘Posh Puppy’ and so on. Fucking cutting edge of tween fashion, that was, none of this flaps ‘n’ naval stuff that’s so in with the pre-teens these days.

      Ah, yes, wine. Absolutely a kitchen essential. For the, er, boeuf bourguignon.

  6. Daile
    October 22, 2013

    I have a policy to send at least one item back every time I shop at ASOS – makes me feel better about my purchases. I actually love grocery shopping though, it’s clothes shopping that does my head in!

    • CuriousEmily
      October 23, 2013

      Ah well, I’m glad someone gets some enjoyment out of it!

      Re ASOS, what do you do if everything is like the most incredible, perfect thing you’ve ever tried on? It’s like picking which of your seven octuplets you want to keep, I imagine. :/

  7. Ali
    October 22, 2013

    One of the funniest descriptions of retail shopping Hell I’ve ever read.

  8. Jessica Brown
    October 22, 2013

    Loved this post, and the little trip down memory lane as you reminded me of Saturday afternoons in Woolworths and Tammy Girl. Those were the days! But I think ‘really fit blokes manning the changing rooms to do double-takes when people emerge from their cubicles’ is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. Why has no-one thought of that before now?

    • CuriousEmily
      October 23, 2013

      No idea, but if I ever come into oodles of cash I am going to pay someone to stand in my bathroom full-time and tell me how fucking sexy I look even when brushing my teeth.

      Very important, self-esteem.

  9. Amy (@photographamy)
    October 23, 2013

    I spent far too much time and money in Milton Keynes’ Tammy Girl. On those atrocious longsleeved t-shirts with cartoon cats on. Them were the days.

    • CuriousEmily
      December 12, 2013

      Oh my God, yes, what WERE they? When I first read this comment I spent ages online trying to find some on Google images, then got distracted and forgot to reply. Like Kool Kitty or something? I know my favourite had a lilac dog on it and a lot of flowers. Mental fashun.

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This entry was posted on October 22, 2013 by in Fashion & Style, Lifestyle, Shopping & Consumerism, Things That Make Me Furious and tagged , , .


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