Saturday afternoon. My phone vibrates with a text alert. It’s a message from my friend M.
“Hey, are you still going to La Cañada? Because if you’re going I wouldn’t mind coming along.”
Somewhat astonished, I agree to meet her there in a couple of hours. La Cañada, for those of you who don’t know it, is not french for Canada. It’s retail heaven on the Costa del Sol. The worst nightmare of my fiancee, R, who reluctantly agrees to plod along because he is promised some tapas and wine at the end of it all.
Astonished I am because my friend M doesn’t shop. She is a non-shopper, whereas I am more of a non-stop shopper. She is, in this respect, completely alien to me.
A couple of hours later I meet her under a Christmas tree in the busy mall that is already overflowing with shoppers stocking up for the festive season. They’re blasting out the Christmas music and everything is covered in tinsel. R looks like he is having a panic attack slash stroke, so I dump him quickly in an electronics/ book/ gadget shop and give him the firm advice to go and have a beer. Now.
What, I wonder, is my non shopping friend doing in a mall?
“You looking for anything in particular?”
“Yes I really need a new coat. My husband has threatened to bin the old pink thing I have been wearing for the past five years.”
I chuckle at the thought of her partner sending her shopping because he is sick of her clothes. Unheard of in my world, where R is at a complete loss trying to keep up with my outfit changes.
First stop, Zara. M throws on a selection of four coats. Items one to three are a no go. Item four is a maybe but in my opinion a very lukewarm option. It’s the kind of coat you buy because you are out and about and you are cold. Sensible, cheap and unoffensive.
“I think I’ll get it.”
“Shall we have a look around and check out the other shops? You can always come back to it.” You’re not buying that coat on my shift, is what I really want to say.
She agrees to come back later. On the way out I stop dead at a bright red knee length coat. Oh what beauty! And the color, like blood. I try it on, twist and turn, caress it a little. I hang it back and decide to make a decision before we leave.
“I think I’ll just get that one,” she explains on the way out. “I just can’t be bothered to go shopping most of the time.”
“I see.” I don’t see. I don’t have a clue what she’s talking about. I hit the shops all the time. Literally, all the time. I don’t always buy of course but I certainly enjoy having a look at what’s new.
“I mostly buy books…. I buy so many books I bought the same book twice recently, because I had forgotten I already owned it.”
“Happened to me with a pair of flats from Topshop”, I add. At this point I am starting to feel like a retard. I buy about five books a year and the last four I bought were books on personal style. Am I an intellectual vacuum? Does my love for fashion make me shallow?
When it comes to fashion and style, I am a woman possessed. Seriously. Gwen Stefani once said “I love clothes so much, it’s embarrassing.” That’s exactly how I feel. Embarrassed. Beautiful clothes could make me weep. I can never get enough of them, can’t get enough of fashion mags, style books. With my clothes meticulously categorised and hung up on identical hangers, my wardrobe looks like a showcase for obsessive compulsive disorder.
I have no idea why my clothes mean so much to me. Let’s put something straight here, it’s not vanity. I am not a particularly vain person. I go for beachwalks in a tracksuit. I don’t put make up on to buy a bottle of milk. I don’t wallow in my own beauty. In short, I am not vain. But I do think that when you can put some nice clothes on and look your best, why on earth would you choose to put on something ugly and unflattering?
Apparently science has the answer to why most women shop – women used to be the ones who gathered the food, had to find the best spots for it, choose the ripest fruit and vegetables by touching and feeling them, getting to know colors and textures. Sound familiar? For them, this was also a way of socializing and interacting with one another. Therefore, shopping is a positive experience in our psychology. Other theories explain that women buy clothes at the time of the month when they are most fertile (does this phase last 30 days per month? Because that’s what it seems like in my case), not directly to attract the males of the species, but to detract attention from the less attractive females of the species. I’d like to know more and I suppose I could read up on it, but then again, I really don’t like books very much.
As M and I continue shopping we find a coat that is nice on her, and I convince her to make the purchase.
Then, at the end of our journey, I spot a coat that nearly breaks the bank but is so beautiful that tears start welling up in my eyes.
“You could go for the more sensible option, the red one, that you could have for a few years and that is cheaper”, she says, while I twist and twirl dreamily in front of a mirror. “Or you could get the expensive one you love.”
My eyes glaze over. For me, it’s an easy choice.