Becoming poor and menial

The descent of a fashion-conscious middle-class woman into shabby poverty, all at the behest of another woman, fifteen years her junior.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A charity case

Yesterday I went to the charity shop. I was carrying my second favourite dress – my favourite had already been cut into pieces – and it was neatly folded up in the bag I normally take it in to the drycleaner’s. But this time, when I dropped it off, I wouldn’t be picking it up. Before putting it in the bag, I had looked at where it hung in the wardrobe – and known that this was the last time I would ever see it there. Walking down the high street, my heart was pounding – with a sense of humiliation, which was pleasurable, but also of my own stupidity and follly, which was not. When I walked into the shop and smelt that musty stench of worn clothes, I thought my legs had turned to water. Something in my head kept telling myself that it would be ok, I would walk out of the shop, I would take the dress back – but I didn’t. I handed it over. The shop girl took it, and didn’t seem unduly fazed. I guess she didn’t appreciate how much the dress had cost, what its value still might be. As I handed it over, I looked at the dresses hanging drably from their thin wire hangers and thought of what my mistress had said, that from now on the only clothes I would be permitted to buy would be second-hand. But strangely, I almost felt more upset for my dress – anthropomorphising it – and imbuing it with my own snobbery – feeling desperately sorry for it, to be left in such company. I turned – I left the shop. And I somehow felt naked – thinking of the two dressses I had lost – because clothes, after all, as well as signifying us, veil us – and I felt, having lost them, that I was both more and less myself. Yes, I feel naked – naked and vulnerable – my heart beats – my blood feels vibrant with gold – and I know myself to be poorer, drabber, and more of a slave.


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