“I shop, therefore I am.” This always struck me as a stupid saying and yet, the older I get, the more I feel the truth of it. Alone on my sofa, with nothing on TV and not even the stamina to devote to something dark and Machiavellian on Netflix, it’s shopping that I turn to when concentration is poor, energy is low and Instagram is getting on my tits again. For 90 per cent of the time, I love Instagram. But, sometimes, a bikini selfie on an idyllic beach in Mykonos will push me over the edge. On those nights, I will look wildly around my living room, hear the gentle snoring of my kids upstairs, spot the mug glued to the coffee table for all eternity UNLESS I, AND I ALONE, MOVE IT TO THE DISHWASHER, and feel the four walls closing in on me. “I will never escape this room,” I say to the fireplace. “It is my destiny to sit here, hunched over my laptop like an osteopath’s wet dream, blankly scrolling through dresses on the Zara website.”
Shopping is therapy. Everybody knows this. Well, everybody who likes shopping. Unless you have a Prada penchant, it’s cheaper than therapy-therapy, plus you can do it from the comfort of your sofa without having to tell a bearded shrink all about your mother. Unfortunately, we’re living through a period of economic instability where shopping is feeling less therapeutic and more… wanton. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, unless you are literally married to the hedgie who betted on the pound plummeting and promptly pocketed £220 million, the B-word probably has you tightening your belt. As opposed to buying a new one.
It is my destiny to sit here, hunched over my laptop like an osteopath’s wet dream, blankly scrolling through dresses on the Zara website
Retailers are ever loathe to reveal falling sales figures, for the simple reason that customers require confidence to spend, and nothing dents confidence (and spreads panic) like the cold hard fact that sales of summer dresses have fallen by 30 per cent since June 24. (NB: they haven’t. I am hypothesising). So far, all we know is that “high-street footfall” has dropped 11 per cent post-Brexit, although this could be as much to do with the hideously freaky rain we’ve been experiencing, as anything else. If my friends are anything to go by, everything’s gonna be fine. Fiiiiiiiine! One has developed a penchant for brightly coloured nail polish (she says her yellow toenails cheer her up), while another has gone Full Patsy and bought a £300 pair of shoes. High red suede ones. With straps. Nothing shrieks “optimism” like a sexy pair of heels.
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I spent the days following June 24 online window-shopping, clicking disconsolately through Matches and Net-A-Porter, while imagining a life where I could afford (and have need for) a £1,200 maxi dress with a ruffled hem. After a week, this Brexit-inflicted penury got boring. So I bought some fake tan. Followed by a toothbrush. Passing by Topshop en route to a job, I purchased some lurex socks with a natty lace trim. Soon, I’d spent a grand total of £11.50. It may not boost the economy, but at least it had boosted my mood.
While nobody would urge someone to spend money they didn’t have, sometimes a small, mood-boosting purchase can be what stands between you and the abyss. If a lipstick or a pair of rhinestone-encrusted hotpants are what it takes to lift the gloom, so be it – embrace your inner showgirl. I was in New York during 9/11, and will never forget the city’s then-mayor encouraging everyone to get out and shop. It seemed like the last thing anyone would want to do after their city had been attacked by terrorists, but in economic terms, at least, his exhortation made sense. We still don’t know how much extra our Zara habit is going to cost us in the long term (there are dark mutterings about “added complexities and barriers to business”) but, in the meantime, I’ll be damned if a bunch of clueless politicians are going to come between me and my beloved retail therapy. Why should I be the responsible adult in this relationship? F**k dat. Let Johnson and Gove run for the hills. Me? I’m running for the tills. And, next time, I may even break the £11.50 barrier.