A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine started a new job. Naturally, she needed to go shopping for some new things to wear to work. And, of course, such an expedition should never be embarked on solo. So, being an excellent friend, I volunteered to brave the rails and mannequins of the retail world and accompany her on the journey. We flattened two shopping malls and came away with a single pair of shoes.
Then, not long afterwards, my mom and I spent a bit of time together one Sunday, ambling around Eastgate shopping centre, looking at shoes and clothes and homeware. We went to a whole bunch of shops I would normally just walk right past because when you’re not looking to buy, it’s easier to grab something pretty off the rail and not worry about the price tag attached.
Of course, I saw a few things during both of these excursions that spoke to my heart, which is a dangerous thing. Why is it a dangerous thing, you ask? What could possibly be the least bit threatening about being surrounded by pretty things, and singling out the ones that capture my gaze and set my imagination sizzling?
I’ll tell you why.
Because, while I traipsed dutifully alongside my friend to several stores in search of the perfect pair of work/play-suitable shoes, without clunky “granny heels” or sky-high stilettos; that aren’t flat but aren’t too high; that would allow the foot to breathe without being too “bare”; that would hug the foot and hold it in place without being too hot; while we scoured every clothing and shoe shop in our path for just such a pair of shoes, there were many, many pairs of shoes that grabbed my attention. And during this time, my mind wandered to the trusty pair of wedges that have been my go-to summer shoes for the past two years, and to the fact that one of the decorative studs on the right shoe has fallen off somewhere along the line. It reminded me that the heels of these once perfect shoes were now scuffed and ingrained with dirt.
The scuffed heels:
It caused me to reflect on how, despite the fact that I rarely walk around barefoot, the inner soles of my favourite pair had developed a black-brown imprint of my foot in each shoe, and that the inner sole was beginning to peel away at the lip of the open toes.
The imprinted inner soles:
The lifting lip:
It drew my attention to the fact that my favourite pair of dress-up/dress-down comfy shoes had probably reached retirement age, and it kindled in my weak, womanly heart that most treacherous and fickle of emotions: desire.
Because, as my mom and I oohed and aahed over blouses, dresses, jeans and jerseys; as we held up mermaid gowns and summery skirts, commenting on the colours and coolness of the fabrics, I happened upon a pair of leggings at Zara that would be the perfect replacement for my favourite black pair, which had recently met its untimely doom at the proverbial hands of a rogue nail that had found its way into my new washing machine. And it awakened in me that wicked craft that all women possess, to calculatedly manoeuvre and justify the acquisition of a coveted item of adornment, even at excessive cost.
Still, you might argue, for a woman to desire and covet something is perfectly natural, and to possess the mental alacrity to motivate for its procurement is nothing to be ashamed of. And were you to argue in this vein, my friend, you would not speak untruth.
But what if, as in the particular case of a certain mother of four, there has been an aberration at play for several years? What if this aberration were manifest in, say, the habitual abnegation of the aforementioned desire and coveting, and thereby also in the abject neglect of the accompanying craft of obtention?
I put it to you, friend, that in such an instance, disaster looms. And I do not postulate such an alarming prognosis lightly, but on the premise that the long-term suppression of a powerful force – such as the natural wile of a woman in the pursuit of her material desires – seeks to stifle and restrain something that is, in effect, uncontainable.
We’ve all studied Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, right? Exactly.
I see that questioning look you’re giving me right now. Are you asking me whether I’m comparing a woman prevented from shopping to an obscurial? Well, yes. Yes, I am.
You see, much like an obscurial, a woman who suppresses her natural urge to shop for an excessively long period of time will eventually succumb in spectacular and unstoppable fashion to the urge to buy an item whose price tag matches the magnitude of the previously suppressed urge to shop. And when this happens, the woman in question will be completely and utterly unable to do anything but submit and let her nature take its course.
There is no way of telling when this might occur, of course. I mean, some women have been known – renowned, even – for frugality in the face of retail taunting that would have most others grasping for their credit cards before you could say “Marc Jacobs/Alexander McQueen/Versace/*insert-top-fashion-label-name-here*”… But, sooner or later, some trinket or gadget or statement piece of one sort or another will cause a stirring. That stirring will soon become a murmur, building in depth and intensity until, in what seems like a moment, it has evolved into a scream – visceral, primal, and omnipotent, and it overrides all reason and any objection. It simply takes over and, before she knows it, the once-responsible woman finds herself bowing her head in shame while simultaneously sending herself Straight Home to Think About What She’s Done.
This could totally happen. As a matter of fact, I have seen it with my own eyes – just last week, actually.
I was the poor, unsuspecting woman was, wandering around Eastgate, looking for Zara so that she could purchase a particular pair of trousers and all the while keeping a keen eye out for a suitable pair of wedges to replace her trusty favourites, when I saw the perfect pair of espadrille wedges jumped into view from a shelf right at the back of the Preview shop as she passed through by a shoe shop of no particular description.
Since there’s no rule that says being frugal means you don’t get to look, she stopped and examined these paragons of perfection, and noted with delight that they were on sale before noting with just as much shock that, on sale, they were marked down to R1190*.
Naturally, she left the store then and there, and made her way to her actual target – Zara. Once there, however, she discovered to her chagrin that the longed-for leggings she’d sought to purchase were of the currently-trendy “cropped” or “ankle-grazer” style, which would not do. So,
after perusing the shelves and rails at Zara in hope of finding a suitable substitute, she walked away emptyhanded and triumphant in her saving of R500. But unbeknown to her, that stirring I mentioned earlier had already begun.
By the time
I had marched into Preview again she made her way past that store with the beautiful, expensive shoes, the stirring had blown beyond the murmur stage and the full-volume scream had calculated that her earlier saving of R500 essentially brought the price of those shoes down to R700. And for quality like that, it was a total bargain.
Even more so when, on closer inspection and after trying them on, they happened to carry the name of a certain sought-after designer. Now, normally, the sheer folly of paying the kind of prices commanded by certain names would cause this particular shopper to smirk at the pretention of those who would pay them. But at R700, the quality and the sheer perfection of these shoes was nothing to sneeze at. So, albeit not without trepidation,
I bagged those babies before I could blink she plucked up the courage along with her card and made the purchase.
*Only, it turned out that,
in my blind excitement, in her summary initial dismissal of the possibility of paying in excess of a thousand rand for a pair of summer shoes, she had misread the marked-down price, which was actually R1990. For a pair of summer sandals. At 60% off. (Yes, that’s what I said, too.)
Needless to say, it wasn’t long (less than 30 minutes) before the
buyer’s remorse gravity of her actions set in, and our friend found herself walking back into that store to return the shoes. At this time, however, she was informed that store policy prohibited the return of sale merchandise, except in cases where the merchandise was defective. However, the store manager would be in that afternoon, and she could come back then to discuss the matter with the manager if she so desired.
And that was when my good sense finally kicked in and I realised that I am actually allowed to buy myself things sometimes. So I kept the shoes, and I love them. So I’m locking that stingy bitch that lives in my head and keeps telling me I can’t have stuff, in a trunk, and slipping sedatives into the half-cup of water she gets with her daily ration of dry toast. Because I am a woman, and I choose the shoes, damn it!