“I could just do with…” That, right there, fellow retail addicts, is the most fatal phrase in the world. Since home is the back end of beyond for me, where the most outrageous purchase is a box of muesli from the Spar shop, my consumerist streak (which I pretend to be ashamed of) positively beamed when I realised I could make it from college to Topshop in two minutes flat.
Pythagoras and Descartes would scoff in despair at my sums. I can see my A-Level maths teacher in my head right this minute, banging on about probabilities and Normal distributions and other junk. The maths I can remember is a touch distorted, I’ll admit. I call it Shopping Logic. I resisted those luscious suede booties in Reiss; therefore, I have saved £195. Excellent. Miraculously, I now have £195 to spend.
I’m not suggesting that country bumpkins have no self-restraint, once met with even Oxford’s mediocre retail outlets. Debt is neither admirable nor advisable, and I’m well aware that tuition fees, and vast expenditure on four years’ worth of weighty tomes, means I’ll have it by the bucketload by the time I graduate. What proximity to various emporia does imply is a constant test of will-power, if, like me, pretty windows and dangerous e-mail updates have you trapped in the vicious cycles of consumerism.
Like anyone verging on the edge of (admittedly much more serious) addictions, the best coping strategies begin with identifying one’s triggers. Public Enemy Number One, infamous and omnipresent? The post-tute splurge. Unfortunately, the return from a weekly class leads me past, in order, Toast, LK Bennett, Reiss and Whistles. You’ve been unable to sustain an hour of neoclassical literature, the finer points of Feudalism, or, with bitter irony, Cartesian dualism. In a flash, floral culottes seem like the perfect antidote to a tutor’s acerbic remarks; you could always do with more underwear, and, since gladiator sandals are a perennial, you might as well pick up some of those too. Oh, and they do a student discount, so it must be OK. Such is the double-edged sword of the tutorial system. Not only do you leave with you self-confidence in tatters: the student loan is shredded too.
It isn’t just clothes that cause this dilemma. Boots is awful: armed with a basket and an Advantage Card, hair mask and foundation primer are suddenly indispensable. I tell myself I “could just do with” a bright blue eyeliner. And the tactile goodies on offer in Blackwell Art and Poster have me in fits: I could leaf through the paper, cards and stacks of coffee-table books, resplendent with glossy photos and jazzy prints, for hours on end.
Perhaps what I need is some cerebral distraction: the most Oxonian of alternatives. Next time I’m tempted to wander up The High, perhaps I’ll take the route past the Rad Cam instead. I might make it there, providing I can get past Blackwell Art and Poster on the way.