The thing about Christmas is that for most of us students it’s probably the point in the year when we’re poorest. We’ve paid larger bills to heat our homes and we’ve probably eaten more food because it’s cold and in order to have fun you have to go out because it’s no fun sitting in your garden with a beer in the rain – or if you’re like me, you’re just hopeless with money, your account is still reeling after the summer, and anyway you’ve been overdrawn since the year dot, so that’s that. Furthermore you have probably spent money on friends and relations – presents, for a start, and reunion drinks and meals with friends Back Home, and so on and so forth. You’ve just spent seemingly half your life in the shopping centre because your mother’s specifications for her new handbag are so very exact, or because your dad needs a new coat, or because your sister wants a million books for Christmas, all of them equally obscure. So: presents, drinks, meals out, travel, blah: you’re poor, and shopped out.
And then for some reason you get the January Sales. As far as I’m concerned this is highly advanced psychological torture on a number of levels. I can’t afford anything in the sales anyway, because I’m too poor. I’ve just got Christmas presents, so that means for once in my life I own jeans that fit and don’t have holes in, and I’ve just survived a term in the coldest house known to mankind, so much as I lust after a nice new long cardigan in fancy colourwork with a big sloppy collar and a belt that ties at the waist, I don’t really need any new knitwear, and if I was slightly less tired and slightly less poor I might treat myself to one anyway, but visually I have glutted on all the clothes that are now in the sales, and I can’t bring myself now to shop for things I don’t strictly and absolutely need. So far, so clever, torture-wise: I see lots of pretty things but I’m too jaded to buy any of them and too poor to quite justify the idea that I need them.
It’s not unlikely that over the next few days I’ll be back in the shops, looking through sale racks with one friend or another. It’s not unlikely that I’ll try on a rather nice fancy new dress in a shop whose threshold I can’t usually even afford to cross, let alone whose rails I can honestly browse without feeling shabby and out of place and conspicuous, as if someone will see that I’m blatantly neither classy or wealthy enough for their shop and strut over and request me politely to leave, now. But during the sales most shops become a little more democratic, so yes, I’ll be with a friend, browsing some beautiful, good quality clothes at prices I can probably just about consider, and I’ll try on the perfect dress/cardigan/boots, but because I’m so fed up of materialism and acquisition, and because I’m just not quite rich enough not to feel it if I do buy said Perfect Blah, I will walk out empty-handed and virtuous. And I can guarantee you that, within a few days or weeks, I will really regret that decision, but by then it’s almost certain to have gone out of stock in my size and anyway I can’t be bothered to plod back into town on the offchance they haven’t run out.
This happens every year; and this is why I hate the January Sales. Just wait and see… .