Clothes shopping is one of those activities, like partying and sex, that pretty much goes out of the window once you have a baby. In the early days you’ll make the effort, telling yourself that it can’t be that hard, and that the baby will like Topshop because it’s ‘stimulating’. So you’ll go, parking the buggy at the front of the changing room because, well, babies love mirrors, don’t they?
Behind it you’ll force yourself into something of your old size, your excitement that you can still get into it swiftly followed by the realisation that getting into something is in no way the same as looking good in it. You will curse Topshop and its warped, unrealistic view of women’s shapes, while trying to remember that article you once read about how modern shop sizes are all wrong anyway.
In any case, such thoughts will vanish as your baby starts screaming to the gods, because it’s 1,000 degrees in Topshop and he’s dressed like Prince Harry on a South Pole trek. And so you’ll pull on your clothes, stress levels skyrocketing, and manoeuvre your way through the teens in bodycon, who stare at you, openly baffled that you’d contemplate bringing a baby to Topshop.
And that’s when you’ll realise that these places, with their crowded escalators and in-house DJs, are no longer for you. Because you can’t wear a crop vest or Dr Martens or a faded Nirvana tee, as you were there the first time round, and will simply look like you haven’t changed your outfit since 1991. And it’ll become clear that there is now no turning back, for you have entered the Whistles years.
‘A leather jacket, you say? Why, I’ll take that, and some skinny jeans. And have you got any really big scarves?’
Then, if you weren’t already depressed enough, you’ll have the journey home. Perhaps on the bus, where you’ll shout random sorries as the buggy careens into people’s feet, and you and the other permitted pram-pusher tussle to fit your behemoths into a space clearly designed by someone who’s never seen a buggy before. If you’ve braved the Tube, you’ll get to teeter at the top of the stairs, hoping that someone will take pity on you and help you down with the bloody thing. Or you might be in a car, which sounds like the luxury option until you find yourself stuck in traffic, manically singing ‘the Wheels on the Bus’ at the rear-view mirror to try and curb the crying.
Whichever way, it’ll be a nightmare. One that’ll leave you thinking, ‘Thank GOD for the internet. I need never leave the house again.’ And you’ll cast a thought to your mother’s generation, who had to survive without Amazon and Asos and Ocado, and will pity them in much the same way they pitied their own mothers with their mangles and Monday wash days.
Because internet shopping is a fucking life-changer. It means you can browse handbags in bed, or while you should be making supper, or watching the kids in the playground. It means you can live in a small town and not have to shop at Joules or Fat Face. It turns the whole retail experience into something akin to Christmas… Doesn’t it?
Certainly there’s much to love. All those flash sales and voucher codes! No more mooching through the rails, or schlepping up two flights of stairs because they know men won’t bother and so put their stuff on the ground floor. Instead it’s all there, on a screen, in front of you. And you’ll gorge on it, to the point where you can reel off those three pointless digits on the back of your card without thinking, and are receiving stuff you can’t even remember ordering. Because it’s that bloody easy.
But then, as with everything good in life, there’s the comedown. Which in this case is the hour you get to spend at the post office, queuing to return something you wouldn’t have looked twice at on the rail. And as you stand there, wondering how the hell you managed to lose all the packaging it came in, and sulking at being stung (again) for postage, you’ll sigh wistfully for the real shops, with their jazzy window displays and fabrics you can actually see properly. But then a cheery email will pop into your inbox, promising you 20% off until midnight, and you’ll be back in your chair, wondering why you can’t for the life of you remember that fucking log-in.