Yet recently I have been practising something that I understand from popular culture to be one of its tenets – turning the other cheek. I have been performing this gesture not in the face of hostility and aggression but in the face of items of clothing I cannot afford in a variety of high-street and online outlets.
Around two and half years ago, I dropped out of 'the system' – yeah, you heard me, stiffs – by giving up my middle-management job in magazine publishing. Shortly after, I turned back to 'the system' as it did pay quite well, but this time as a free agent, with my new-found sense of liberty tempered by a 30% pay cut. It's taken me about two and a half years to comprehend that this means I don't earn as much as I used to. These days I live – and this may shock some of you – on a budget.
I didn't really hit it off with that particular concept at the outset. But now we are actually becoming friends. And I believe I may now be turning not-buying into an art form. Just this afternoon I didn't buy a red cashmere cardigan on eBay. I bid (or bidded, as they don't say in America) for it, but with the serene security of knowing I would be outbid by a less zen, more profligate rival a few minutes later. I also not-bought a Whistles frock. I did then actually buy a dress in the Toast sale, but it was 70% off and what kind of chump would think it was smart not to buy that? I'm poor, not an idiot.
The mere idea that I don't have to buy absolutely everything I touch in a shop has come as something of a revelation. Apparently you're actually allowed to pick things up, then put them down again and walk away. Is this what everyone else has been doing all these years? Furthermore, I've discovered that, due to my prodigiously low boredom threshold, if I just hold something in my hand and walk around a shop for 10 to 15 minutes, by the time it comes to paying for it, I am already tired of its company and can put it back with a light heart. It's true, I live in a fashion microclimate where the seasons really do change that quickly. 'That's £45 you've saved,' I smirk to myself as I exit the shop, clad not in a costly new outfit, but the rosy glow of self-righteousness.
Not-buying also works if I technically do buy something, take it home, look at it for a while, then return it to the shop and get my money back. This actually feels to me like I'm making money. Last week, a hysterical episode induced by low blood sugar and the cancellation of all southbound Thameslink trains compelled me to comfort-buy this from New Look at Moorgate:
It is a nice dress. If you are Avril Lavigne – skinny, 23 and Canadian. I am 34 on the outside, 73 within, East Anglian and of no fixed gym routine. Therefore the dress is enjoying a mini-break only in my flat, holed up in its carrier bag, with only its receipt for company. It will return to the New Look mothership within 28 days. If I was a different person – not a Capricorn, for example, the squarest of all the signs – I could wear it out once, douse it in Fabreze, then brazenly take it back, with very light soiling, to the shop. This, however, is impossible, thanks to my uncanny ability to get jam on everything. Even if I have not eaten any jam. How does this happen? You cannot seek to explain a God-given gift.
Among the other things I am not-buying are a portfolio of property, at home and abroad, an aquarium of high-maintenance tropical fish and Cristiano Ronaldo, just to keep him locked up in a cupboard. It is surprisingly liberating. Join me.