Recently I’ve been keeping a record of everything that I buy and why. This ha’s helped me to question each purchase and ultimately buy a lot less. There have been a number of occasions during the past few months when I have found myself holding an item of clothing in my hand, ready to take it to the counter, when I have thought about what I would write about it. The excuses for buying it sounded stupid in my head, I couldn’t possibly put it down on paper. So, reluctant but also strangely relieved, I returned the clothing to the rail and walked out of the shop.
This week I bought two pairs of new shoes. I do not need them; I don’t even wear heels. I could have put them back and didn’t. Why?
Following some minor surgery on Tuesday I have been feeling a bit fragile and a little too sorry for myself. New shoes, why not? I deserve them. The idea that physical pain and tiredness can be relieved by spending money is an absurd but deeply ingrained idea in all of us. Blame capitalism. It isn’t my fault.
On both days I was also with people who were buying things. Not that there was any overt peer pressure. But my own beliefs do tend to get compromised when I am with other people who believe different things. Maybe there was an element of envy – they are treating themselves to something new, why should the existence of my social conscience make life harder for me?
One pair (or two pairs) of shoes isn’t going to make a huge difference to the world, but it would make a big difference to me. And isn’t this stand I’m taking a little too self-righteous anyway. In the words of Rebecca Solnit:
‘There’s a kind of activism that is more about bolstering identity than achieving results, one that sometimes seems to make the left the true heirs of the Puritans. Puritanical in that the point becomes the demonstration of one’s own virtue rather than the realization of results. And puritanical because the sombre pleasure of condemning things is the most enduring part of that legacy, along with the sense of personal superiority that comes from pleasure denied. The bleakness of the world is required as contrasting backdrop to the drama of their rising above.’
I don’t want to be this person. Screw you virtue, I want a killer pair of heels.
Then there is the fact that both pairs of shoes were in the Sale, and of course there’s nothing like the idea of spending slightly less money than you potentially could have spent on something you don’t need to make you spend some money on something you don’t need.
So yeah, now I have some new shoes.