I’m often called a shopaholic – a compulsive shopper – because of how much I shop. I shop weekly, at the very least. But the thing is, I’ve seldom felt like I belong. Everything I had, and everything I wore was never good enough. I often found myself metaphorically out of breath as I ran to catch up to the steady pace of life that everyone else had established. And the further behind I fell, the more out of touch I felt, and the more I shopped.
For me, there’s always been a glass pane separating me from the world I live in yet never seem to quite fit in. There’s an internal void, which I fill with clothes because clothes numb the metaphorical pain, and block out the reality – at least for a little while. They flatter, appreciate and love you in the way that people never can. And most importantly, clothes will never, ever let you down. As Rebecca Bloomwood from Confessions of a Shopaholic, the ultimate autobiographical movie for the shopping enthusiasts, once said: “When I shop, the world gets better. And the world is better. But then it’s not, and I need to do it again.”
Odd one out was my middle name, and I realised this when I was 10. My class were to go on a trip to Llandudno, in Wales, and got into groups for rooms. My friends – there were five of us – paired up without me. Stunned, I struggled to find another group. But nobody wanted the girl in the glasses and the frilly socks. I still remember their condescending gazes. “You want to be in our group? Not with that hair, not in those specs and definitely not in those socks,” they screeched at me inside my head. They then linked arms with their other best friends – the ones with the blonde curly hair and the much-coveted sterling silver earrings with the dangly star-shaped diamonds from Claire’s Accessories.
My early teens were difficult. They mainly consisted of hesitant words. I was a shy girl. I and regularly made fashion blunders as I tried to fit in and discover myself at the same time. I still remember the rocker phase. When I was 14, I used to play the Lostprophets and My Chemical Romance at top volume. I was in love with bright hoodies, heavy kohl-rimmed eyes and coloured skinny jeans. It drove my parents out of their minds, but I didn’t care. It was what everyone else was doing, and I just wanted to fit in. It was either that, or risk losing my friends. To my wildly hormonal and moody adolescent self, fitting in was the most important thing.
Then came college – the time when all my classmates began the long, dedicated weekly routine of underage partying. I wasn’t cool enough to be ever be personally invited, but even when I tagged along, I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe it was my disposition – back then, I was a much chubbier and more emotionally insecure size 12 who was a fan of shockingly short skirts – or because of the fact that I’m mildly intolerant to alcohol, but I found the whole partying scene alienating and downright unnervingly awkward. And yet, I continued to party because everyone else was.
I’m 20 now, and I still sometimes feel like the unnecessary spare part. I’ve grown up as peers shunned me, and friends ditched me in favour of cooler, prettier people. To me, shopping and clothes are a reminder that people change and they leave, but fashion will always be there for you.