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The Day I Didn't Buy A Dress

I'd like to say that I'm a work in progress. One of the areas I really struggle in (along with white bread consumption, intolerance and grumpiness) is buying stuff I don't need. I've written about this before. I'm trying to change my mindset. When I feel down, my usual instinct is to go shopping but I can't do it anymore.

Yesterday was a good example. I'd popped into the glorious Ealing Broadway to buy a cake for my other half's birthday (Ealing isn't a shoppers paradise as there's only 2 places you can buy decent clothes and M&S is one of them). There's no Whistles. No department store. There's a giant Primark. Quite often you end up buying a dress in M&S - perhaps a linen one that you're unsure about because Twiggy is modelling it and you're not quite at that stage yet.

Anyway there's a Monsoon in Ealing. It was sale time. There were literally racks and racks of dross. It was like an explosion had happened in a sequinned, tie-dye, swimming costume factory. It was all the kind of thing that you buy for a holiday, wear once and never wear again (or the fantasy you have of a holiday where you look like Talitha Getty in the 60s but in reality your thighs are chafing and you're more like Denis Roussos). I spotted a dress that I'd seen a couple of times. It had recently been on a few blogs. I took it into the changing room.

The following conversation happened...

Me: You don't need another dress

Dress: Yes but I'm different. If you wear me I'll basically make you look like one of those casual, throw it together Mums that is effortlessly cool

Me: Mmmm but I look like a tablecloth don't you think?

Dress: Don't be so small minded. Listen if you want a retail hit, it's either me or that giant linen sack you clocked in M&S

Me: But that was in the CLASSIC range. I'm not ready for the CLASSIC range!

Dress: Exactly. And I'm TRENDY. I'm the one the fashion bloggers are already wearing

Me: I'm not sure whether I actually like you

Dress: Since when did that influence you buying stuff?

Me: Since today, this week, I'm cutting back. I'm reading a book all about the simple things and how to enjoy life without consuming stuff

Dress: Let me guess. It was written by a man who doesn't like clothes

Me: Mmmm you might have a point

Dress: Men who don't like clothes don't understand. Clothes make us feel good. They bump up our ego. They make us more effective. They just don't get it. Don't let some writer dude in Blue Harbour dictate the way you feel!

I walked out the changing room, depositing the dress on the rail. The truth was I wasn't sure. I liked it because I felt like other people I liked liked it. I liked it because I had an idea that it would make me a better, more attractive person.

Whilst browsing the other slightly depressing retail outlets, and looking for a cold compress for my near constant headache (the weather hasn't been kind recently), I thought about the dress. I also thought about how it's easy to say that consuming stuff isn't a route to happiness but truth be told, there is definitely a happiness when you've bought something nice. I browsed M&S and balked at the fact that there were cherries that cost £9.99 a kg. Out the corner of my eye I saw the linen sack. It would be very practical but basically suggested someone who had given up and wore flip flops with towelling socks. I saw a four pack of Nectarines - they were £4.

I could basically buy 4 packs of cherries and some nectarines or the dress. I could get a meal out or the dress. Or a really NICE face cream or that dress. Or just forget the dress.

I decided to go back in. In Monsoon I caressed the dress again. I admired the fabric. I held it in front of me. I looked in the mirror and saw my face. It was a mixture of expectation and resignation. I wasn't going to buy it. I went back into M&S and bought the nectarines. I ate two of them on the bus with the woman next to me looking on in disgust as the juice ran down my chin.

I've just finished Matt Haig's book called 'Notes On A Nervous Planet,' and I keep Googling him to see what his dress sense is like. I don' t think he's quite Blue Harbour. The pictures are cropped but he definitely wouldn't purchase a long, vintage-style gingham dress. I browsed online and two fashion bloggers are wearing the dress already. I think it'll be fashionable for ten days max. The longing is fading.

Willpower is a muscle and you have to keep exercising it.

I'm a work in progress. Those nectarines were tasty and I'm not paying £9.99 for cherries. Not even when my book comes out.

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