I hop-jiggle into a pair of stone-grey skinny overalls, unaware that this will be one of the worst decisions I will have made in my short, twenty years. Worse than loving Nickleback for those two weeks in freshman year of high school. Worse than drunk-texting that boy—still sorry about that. Worse than having that third slice of chocolate cake.
I snap the buckles on the shoulder straps and look in the mirror. Without the mental separation of a shirt and trousers, my body has become one long denim string bean. The bib narrows as it climbs up my torso, giving the illusion that my hips are the widest part of my body. All in all, I look like an overgrown toddler with a moose-knuckle.
Fuck my goddamn life. This might be a small thing, but I just want a pair of cool overalls to throw over a chunky-knit sweater, but my body rejects it with fashion antibodies.
I unfurl myself from the overalls, breaking free like a moth out of a chrysalis. The pantless, slightly panting—I’m not fit—reflection of me in the blackened mirror of the Zara changing room has a dangerous glint in his eye. It’s one that I know well.
I used to shop so much, and so badly. Like, it was tragic. It’s like that quote from Batman where the butler says, “Some men just want to see the world burn.” And I know that seems like a random quote, but please hop off my jock for a second. What I mean is that sometimes the end justifies the mean, and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. If I was spending a shit ton of money and getting amazing stuff, then it might be excusable. But I was literally doing the sartorial equivalent of burning villages just for kicks, by running through my meager supply of money to get graphic sweaters and patterned socks.
I haven’t really shopped—like major overhaul shopping—in a few years, because in freshman year I blew through $1500 in a semester by buying horrifying clothing. It was not my best moment. It slightly trumps me being a jean lima bean.
And for having a large supply of clothing, I still somehow manage to rotate through the same six flannels and alternate between my one—but now two!—pair of jeans and my one brown pair of chinos, since I got too fat for my gray chinos. That’s a chi-no-no. Also, I used to dress like the crack-whore version of Ronald McDonald, and now I favor earth tones and simple patterns, so a lot of my clothing is irrelevant.
I got an extremely nice, extremely undeserved gift card from my boss at the end of my internship for Zara—which is the upscale sister who always has the exact sweater you’ve been trying to find for six months—and I wept inside. So I—along with my friend Jenna—made a total shopping day out of it. We stopped at Liberty—a classy department store with a Tudor finish and is slightly too good for me to feel comfortable in—and got Christmas ornaments.
Then, high on the dream, I went to Primark and got Christmas sweaters. at first, I was going to get this red sweater with Santa’s beard in silky white fur on the front, but it made me look thick and not in a good way. Thick is my favorite new way to say “fat” because it’s usually chicer than “fat” but still has that chunky phonetic aesthetic. So after realizing I hadn’t gained ten pounds in two hours, I decided that sweater wasn’t for me, and then it was just the question of which singing jumper to purchase.
After we went to Zara and at first I tried on the overalls—which overall were a mistake—and then I tried on these really cute moto jeans and I bought them, which ups my number of jeans to two. I used to have a lot, but I got fatter and taller and also bored so I cut a bunch of them into jorts. And I also got a blanket scarf, which at first I was like,
Me: Oh, hon. Hon. Hon.
I: What? It’s kind of chic. I’ll look thin.
Me: You’ll look like an Olsen.
I: Why is that a bad thing?
I: Babe. Babe, stop.
Me: You’re acting like Paris Hilton right now, and I can’t deal.
I: You’re such a bitch. You’re such a Nicole Richie.
Me: Fine. Get the scarf. Muzzle yourself.
I don’t have the healthiest self-dialogue, but Lorde knows who does! So I got the blanket scarf, which is gay and at first I was like “Oh that’s too gay” and then I realized that I was accidentally stepping on Internalized Homophobia’s toe and I moved off and realized that I liked dudes in a non-bro—but actually tbh—way and that’s the definition of “gay” so I bought the scarf and I haven’t looked back since.
Walking back with my hands full of swinging bags, I rationalized my spending. “I, like, haven’t spent anything on myself for so long. I’ve been really good with my money,” and went on like until I realized Jenna wasn’t even listening and I was just talking to my reflection in the tube window.
The problem with a relapse into shopping is that it usually takes a few weeks to exorcise the demon back into the ether. So, the next week, I “decided” to just have a “browse” through Oxford Street. It started with a trip to Topshop, and that trip to Topshop ended with me—panicked, anxious and near freakout—as I wandered amongst the thousand-thousand reflections and crop tops because I was lost and couldn’t find the exit. After realizing that the reason I couldn’t find the ground floor exit was because I was belowground in the basement level, I cleansed my chakra and got on the escalator and bolted out of Topshop with a fire under my ass.
I was about to pop down the stairs to the tube when the glimmering lights of that plasticky bitch H&M called their siren song out to me. I meandered amongst the racks of clothing before trying on a nebby-black-and-white sweater and a mohair-y gray sweater. The gray sweater looks like a bear-pelt condom onto me, and I make it a general rule not to look like an actual human leg, so I axed that sweater. The other one was cute and very not “me” but in a good way, so the small monster curled in the crook of my collarbone, using my credit card as a nail filer, purred, “Omg, babe, get that; that’s so cute.”
“You think?” I looked over my shoulder, practicing my “affable, cute boy” non-teeth smiles—I fucking despise teeth smiles—and flicked my hair into more a swoop and less of a swish.
“Yes,” it confirmed. “So glam.”
“It’s £20,” I’m still unsure. “That’s a lot of experience.”
The monster scrapes my credit card against its perfectly manicured—in a soft pearl-grey shellack—hands and says those damning words: “It’s an experience.”
“Omg, you’re so right. I totally need something to remember London by”—as if, somehow, the entire city of London will escape both my memory and the human race’s collective memory—“and I, like, never spend money on myself.”
Twenty minutes later, I’m holding the plastic bag containing the last dregs of the monster mingling with that nebby sweater. It’s fucking cute, but still. I roll my shoulders as I feel the demon being exorcised from me. It briefly reappears when I’m trying to convince someone to convince me that I need another Christmas sweater, but the bait isn’t bitten and I don’t buy the sweater.
Still I lack the nail strength and willpower to do some hardcore thrift-store digging, I’ll probably be poor and a slave to the high-and-mighty fashion brands—I mean, the medium-and-mighty fashion brands—which is fine. I’ll make do. Like I said, I literally wear maybe six variations on the same outfits, and that’s year-round.
But, like, tell me about your favorite Christmas sweaters! On me. Not in general. On me.
Also I officially have as many Christmas sweaters as I have AP credits on my transcript. They’re not technically officially related, but I feel like it’s very representative of the State of my Union.