Shopping is addictive. Thank God I'm a man

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The Independent Online

Here's a message for all those miserable old men you see every Saturday, patiently plodding after their wives as they journey from supermarket to supermarket in search of perfectly priced chickens, economy-sized baked beans, or cheap household cleansers: you have not saddled yourself with some mad person who's on a mission from God to check out the three pence off on this product against the four pence off on the other, and doesn't care how long it takes, nor how far she has to travel. Your wife is suffering from a medical condition. Your wife is one of the 20 per cent of women in this country who's a shopaholic.

Here's a message for all those miserable old men you see every Saturday, patiently plodding after their wives as they journey from supermarket to supermarket in search of perfectly priced chickens, economy-sized baked beans, or cheap household cleansers: you have not saddled yourself with some mad person who's on a mission from God to check out the three pence off on this product against the four pence off on the other, and doesn't care how long it takes, nor how far she has to travel. Your wife is suffering from a medical condition. Your wife is one of the 20 per cent of women in this country who's a shopaholic.

Or omniomaniac, as it's less commonly known. A condition that is, apparently, not only reaching crisis proportions, but overtaking the number of drink and drug addicts in the UK combined. That's right. For every wine-soaked crack addict in this country there's half a dozen women drooling over a shopping bag. To which I say, thank God I was born a man. Shopping's bad enough as it is, without it becoming compulsive. Shoe shops alone are enough to drive you mad. I'm a size 10, me. Not an uncommon size, you'd think. Well, it is if you run a shoe shop.

God only knows how many times I've selected an attractive pair of brown loafers, then said to the shopgirl, "Do you have these in a size 10?" before the dramatic pause as she hides in the stock room, counting slowly up to a thousand and six, before returning and stating brightly, "We've got them but not in your size." Then another pause as she allows this totally useless piece of information to sink in, before adding, "Have you tried the shoe shop across the road?" To which I give the time-honoured reply, "They sent me here."

If I had my way everybody would wear brown dungarees and big black boots, and that would be it. Take away freedom of choice and shopping addiction is a thing of the past. That and credit cards. If there's been a more evil invention in the world other than the credit card, then please don't tell me what it is. Keep it to yourself.

"Of course, I'll only use it in an emergency," I thought, as I slid the shiny piece of plastic into my wallet, feeling like a grown-up for possibly the first time in my life. The first emergency occurred when the off-licence opened. The next about half an hour later, the next half an hour after that. Then emergencies occurred with monotonous regularity until large men appeared at my front door demanding their money back.

I have been guilty of shopping madness myself. Who could resist the de luxe nostril hair trimmer, at only £9.99? A fantastic buy. True, it didn't trim any of my nostril hairs, de luxe or not, but it did make a pleasant buzzing sensation against my nose. First time I've ever used a nasal vibrator.

I'm not dumb enough to fall for the designer label trap, though. I don't see why I should fork out an extra fifteen quid on a pair of underpants just because some French bloke has written his name on them.

The more money you have, it seems to me, the madder your purchases are. Flick through any of the glossy supplements that come unwanted with your weekend newspaper, and look at the bonkers stuff that's out there, nearly all of it targeted at women. How about a pair of knickers at £69.95? Or a lace top at £650? Or (my favourite) a "Ghost House silk throw" at £1,000. Just the thing to cover that old armchair in the corner.

I'm lucky in that I'm reasonably broke and my addictions are cheap and easily catered for. There are few designer beers, as far as I'm aware. I don't have to take a black cab to Knightsbridge when I run out of cigarettes. I'm also lucky in that I can accept that my life is devoid of purpose and meaning, and no amount of Ghost House silk throws will alter that. Well, maybe just the one.

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