Anyone got any (metaphorical) nicotine patches or AA tips? I’ve been feeling pretty self-satisfied with how little I’ve bought since I started this challenge, but now I’m starting to get the come-down jitters.
Last weekend I went home to see my parents, and had a wander around the shops with Mum.
I suppose this would be the equivalent of putting a recovering alcoholic in a brewery, or someone trying to quit smoking in a room full of smokers.
Everything is so beautiful! The shops glitter with Christmas party dresses. Gorgeous winter woollies in Fairisle knit just make you want to snuggle up in hibernation.
To me, every item promises new life. A new running kit will mean that you suddenly LOVE going to the gym. Home accessories like cushions and candles will make you feel cosy and warm. A stunning dress will make you feel like a million dollars.
When the products on the shelves call to me like this, it can be hard to ignore. It’s all rubbish, of course. You get a temporary lift, a little boost as you tell yourself the benefits of what you’ve just bought. It’s all a trick, though, isn’t it? The retailers want me to think that every item offers a new beginning, rather than being just another “thing”.
At home this weekend, we exchanged Christmas wish lists. I had to divide mine into the slightly more realistic, and the nigh-on impossible.
My real Christmas list has some fairly mundane items on it, like slippers (let’s turn the heating down now, girls). I’d also love a new pair of running leggings, since I left mine behind in a hotel room when I was away with work, and haven’t been able to recover them.
The dream list? How I’d love to fill a shopping trolley with the contents of a Fat Face store. Oh, and if you’re offering, I’d be chuffed with a new smartphone, a MacBook Air, a sunny holiday, and an obscenely cool SLR camera. What’s that? You weren’t offering? Oh, darn.
Shops make me feel like my desire is normal; as though all these things are attainable. ‘What do you mean you haven’t got a few grand spare to spend on gadgets and clothes?’ they ask, ’What’s wrong with you?!’.
Each time the latest version of a gizmo is released it makes the problem worse. The poorest in society fall one step further behind. The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ widens. We seem to be obsessed with having the latest, to hell with the cost and how much money we actually have.
I’m angry, to tell the truth. I’m angry that I’m made to feel dissatisfied and inadequate, because I can’t keep up. I’m angry that people struggle to do so, when there’s absolutely no need. What made people think it was unacceptable to go to a friend’s house for a cup of tea, rather than meeting in an overpriced coffee shop? Who does it benefit when a new trend is decreed each season? Why do we feel worthless and do ourselves down, just because we can’t adhere to the fashion dictators’ rules?
I’ve got no solutions; every tweak that Apple makes will indoctrinate people into wanting to needlessly spend hundreds of pounds. For some, it will cement a feeling of alienation from a society that measures a man’s worth by how much he owns.
I think you just have to be wary, and be fully aware that it’s the ad man’s job to convince you that your self worth depends on buying that product immediately.
You can choose not to buy something, not because you can’t afford it, but because you know that you haven’t been sucked into the crazy vortex. And as you walk past that item, choosing not to buy it, you can have a cheeky little smile to yourself, feeling just a little bit smug and self-satisfied.
Take that, Ad Man!