Primark, Princesses and the Death of Language

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I’m not sure if alcoholics get a kick out of watching other people drink, but I certainly do get a kick out of watching other people shop. This goes way back to sitting in my best friend’s room after a term break or a holiday and going through all her new purchases with her, me lounging in a deep round chair, glass of wine in hand, watching her reorganize her wardrobe and shoes. Not much has changed to this day: I still regularly ask her to show me any new arrivals to her wardrobe on skype, and TV shows on makeovers are among my favorites as they usually involve a whole new wardrobe for the unfashionable subject of the show.

A whole new wardrobe. *Sigh*.

I haven’t done so well so far at staying away from the shops (damn you, ever reducing, ever seducing Oasis sale!) and not shopping has proven to be excruciating. No seriously. It’s been absolute torture. Whip me with a belt, hack me with a stiletto, throttle me with a scarf but please, please, let me be near some brand new clothing. Oh the smell of new clothes. The sound of ripping off a tag. *Sigh*.

Anyway, something’s gotta give here cause I’m going up the walls with cold turkey. I may not be able to shop but I can still watch other people doing it, right? A sort of secondary kick, clothes voyeurism, shoeporn, call it what you will. It’s a rainy Monday evening and I’m browsing the web for some of the above. My most used search engine terms have lately been overshopping, cheap fashion and shopaholism (yes, that’s a word). I have to admit I get a bit of a sick kick out of seeing people with bigger closets than mine and, likewise, with bigger problems than mine. It makes me feel normal. So on my journey through the blogs and pages of self-confessed shopaholics, I come across a link to what is called a “shopping haul video” on youtube.

Maybe I’m too naive or don’t spend enough time on the internet, but I’ve never heard of such a thing before and in fact I have to put the word “haul” through an online translator. The German translation of haul has a criminal ring to it. The kind of thing pirates get up to. What on earth is this?! I need to know more and give it a click, and here I am, catapulted into some teenagers bedroom somewhere in California.

Tiffany* (*all names changed) is 16, incredibly pretty and has put a lot of effort into her hair and make up. She claims to be “just a teenage girl from California” who happens to live in a mansion; her bedroom is all huge windows, white carpets, 1001 cushions and the de rigeur toy dog. Not to mention the professional camera crew which has been shooting her little video – the camera moves extremely steadily compared to the sort of home videos I tend to produce when I once again film my cat doing something funny. There’s intro music, there are subtitles, you name it, she’s got it, and the whole thing has a feel of a well choreographed MTV reality TV program to it.

So Tiffany*, who I find immediately suspect, proceeds to present me with her “Black Friday haul”. In between a lot of oh my god-s and I’m so excited-s she reveals a moderate shopping spree of 7 or 8 tops, 3 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of boots, some underwear, cosmetics and candles. Flicking through her channel, I realize that she goes on shopping sprees like this one quite regularly. Another one, posted in January this year, comprises of two sweaters, one scarf, one dress, one pair of brogues, 2 pairs of shorts, two tops, one skirt and two pajamas. One viewer has posted below her latest video: Where do you get the money to shop this much? Hm, do you want me to have a guess?

You’ve got to hand it to Tiffany* though – her youtube channel has 1.8 million subscribers and between hauls, she posts outfits, make up tips and DIY room decorations. She is in fact so professional that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a television channel snapped her up next week. There’s a career in there I’m sure, and best of luck to her with that.

I’m hooked on the hauls now and the next one I click on is Carmen* who starts jabbering into the camera in Spanish, which is enough to make me shut down the window immediately. Lo siento mucho, Carmen*, pero I feel a bit tired sabes y un poco lazy tambien? This by the way is not some weird mix of English in Spanish, it is, in fact Gibraltarian and I am fluent in it. Take that, coño!

Next on is Kelly*, also broadcasting from her immaculate bedroom. Kelly’s* more my cup of tea, as she speaks in a likable British accent and actually asks you to get yourself a nice cup of tea because she just finished a “huge haul” and it’s gonna take a while to go through all the stuff. Cup of tea you say? Let’s make it a glass of red. I return with a monster tumbler of Spanish plonk to join Kelly* in her bedroom while she goes through everything that she bought. Kelly* has bought a lot of stuff, but even better still, she got a lot of the stuff for free. Now we’re talking. I like your style, girl.

There is some appeal to this type of entertainment I have to admit, it makes you feel like you are sociable when in fact you are anything but, stuck alone in front of your screen. Watching Kelly* feels a bit like spending some quality with a girlfriend, just that she does all the talking and you can hang around in a tracksuit and burp without anybody taking offence. Ah the joys of the internet age.

Another few of these videos and it all starts to blur into one big stream of clothing floating across the screen, it’s in fact like watching an hour long advertisement for H&M if there ever was such a thing. None of the haulers seem to be too concerned about quality, how many times you can wash something before it will fall apart or even – and this is the worst bit – how and when they will wear this latest buy. Much more interesting than the Primark jumper that has – would you believe it – buttons, as Kelly* points out enthusiastically, would be to see in how many different variations Kelly* can restyle the Primark jumper. But who restyles in this day and age – the Primark jumper will go out of shape after one wash and probably go in the bin – doesn’t matter, it was only a fiver! Buying and discarding and rebuying has replaced quality, caring for and reusing clothing.

The saddest thing about videos of this kind however is that they will eventually replace blogging and writing, as they speak to a much wider audience: the illiterate! No need to read anymore, and for the hauler, no need to write anymore! Correct spelling will never again be a problem, and you’ll never have to worry again about the number of times you can get away with using the word “like” before you start to sound like a moron. The slow death of written language starts here, so enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Enough from me – join me again from Monday on my youtube channel…

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