I was tempted to title this post 'Why all the crap?' but it sounded quite crude! But it's been brought to my attention lately that this year I've really indulged in frivolous things. I'm starting to get really nervous about packing all my things up as I'm sure I'll be over the flight weight limit. Weight isn't even the worry, it's fitting everything into two suitcases! I'm not sure that's accomplishable right now and I won't be able to take home the mementos I've collected or any beauty products that could be re-bought. What a waste! But with each time I came back to Sweden, my tables and shelves got heavier.
If I compared my spending to last year, my second year in Manchester, I spent more on clothes from the high street, mainly from H&M or on bigger shopping trips, I went out more, ate out more, maybe bought a newspaper or magazine on the weekend, I went home often so bought presents and went on those nights out. Generally they were lifestyle spends. But this year things are different because there are price shifts. I feel bad every time I food shop because things are insanely expensive, so that feels like an overspend each time I eat! It was the same in the first term when I had to buy a hairdryer and pens and hairspray and found there was no choice, and what was on offer was really pricey. I spent £15 on hair serum once?! So I can narrow down my purchases to food, going to the one club maybe once a month now (almost every week last term), and then that one trip to Gothenburg I had this term. There's no worse feeling than when you have money worries and I'm determined not to fall into that, so I've been watching what I spend carefully this term and it struck me how most of my outside purchases have been on random, almost useless things. By these I mean cute things. If you've read here for a while, have you noticed this? An influx of cuteness in recent months?
This is slightly planned because a while ago I made a vow to have a better life. A better aesthetic life. I have gossip threads on Facebook with my friend abroad and at one point we joked that we'd just forget our life dramas and concentrate on achieving the perfect hairstyle. Have you seen sometimes on blogs there are 'what's in your bag' posts, and the blogger always has a cute little mirror and maybe a designer purse and a nicely patterned umbrella and a few choice, expensive items in a cute little makeup bag? Does it make you think of your bag with your three year old purse stuffed with receipts, a mangled bus pass lurking at the bottom, half a munched cereal bar, and maybe a Superdrug £3 umbrella a few spikes short of shelter? Well I know I thought of the latter! It felt like I always had a boring biro in lectures and made do with a Sainsbury's own body lotion. Boring!
So I made a little vow to start thinking about purchases more and investing in something more memorable. I found that if I ever plumped for a high street mascara, for example, that I'd always go back to the amazing designer one, even though it was £15 more and eyelashes are such a small part of yourself! Surely if you have nicer things, you look after them more and they last longer anyway? And also doesn't it make you feel that bit better when you buy a really cute revision notebook? Don't you feel that little bit more inclined to revise?
I've also developed a love of Tumblrs after finding out you can subscribe on Google Reader. There's a constant pop up of high quality, bright photographs of makeup, accessories, nails, or bedrooms that just fill you with the need to have sparkly, special things in your life. I've always almost prided myself on the fact that I love fashion but everything else I'm not really material about. I didn't need a cool phone or suitcase or bedroom. I gave my brother my old basement bedroom and spent last year in the brown and green spare room, but I'm returning now to a pink room, woohoo! I've been onto my Mom for ages to paint the room because it just seems life is better when you surround yourself with an excess of adorable things in a nice environment. But is it?
Last year I did develop a sudden love of everything pink and girly, but that was mainly clothes. Remember I bought girly shoes and pink trousers? And coming to Sweden was a real chance to nurture that. If I'd gone to a lecture in Manchester with 200 cool, young women, wearing heart print tights and a Hello Kitty hair clip, well, subconsciously I don't think I ever even would have! There's a pressure to look more sophisticated than that. But here there are people from all over the world and an absence of strong Western, or at least British, culture. I was entering a place, or an entirely different country, where no one knew me, so it was freedom to wear what I liked and be who I liked. Yes there were many English girls last term, but we were all from different places and studying different things too. I had all my Taiwanese friends too who were extra cute, so it was quite natural to embrace this side of my likes and be extra girly.
But I started to wonder if I'd just replaced my normal purchases that I would make in England, with anything cute available. For example, last week I had an awful lecture day which involved a 'factory' using lego bricks, where the class was in two teams and had to change up the logistics and supply chain to produce lego cars faster. Sure I get the message but at this age and stage in my education, I'd rather read about techniques in a journal or something! And people in my class were very, veeery enthusiastic and thirsty to win. I think I let my team down with my unenthusiastic attitude five hours into our game but really it was painful! So if I were in Manchester (not that we would do that at Manchester!), I probably would have hit the high street for a relaxing browse at all the new things (not necessarily buying) or maybe picked up something nice for dinner or a magazine. But on the bus home from class here in Sweden I thought argh hated today, hmmm do I need any food? And I realised how I had to use buying food as a possible treat to brighten up the day. Not necessarily to eat (although I have consumed a worrying amount of biscuits recently), but just to buy something. A purchase almost means a new things to enrich your life with, a new thing that belongs to you and you use for enjoyment or fulfillment or improvement. Some nice new food would mean something tasty and a fuller fridge so more options the next day and generally picking familiar brands and treats that were an out-of-the-ordinary purchase.
I think everyone uses food as treats, but if I wasn't buying food, here in Sweden I've cultivated a new comfort area. I've made my bedroom here, my one place in the whole country that's my own and safe and has access to my family and friends at home, into a cave of cute. Each time I went home I brought back more eyelashes and nail varnish with me, almost to make my life a little more colourful and glamourous over here. On my first few days of this term when I came back after the lovely Christmas holidays, I went to see what was new in the shops and bought a hair bow, kid's Hello Kitty hair clips, and some overly frilly knickers. I also went into the Make Up Store and bought a glitter eyeliner. There was absolutely no need for it because I own a perfectly good glitter liner from Urban Decay that I barely use, there are a million other products that I could have bought and had more use out of, I have an excess of makeup, and, also, I didn't even know if the glitter suited me and hadn't got a night out planned to wear it anyway!! But the glitter was so shimmery and lovely, just the right kind of hologram glitter that reflects a rainbow of colours, that I just bought it for about £14. £14 on glitter?
I walked out the shop and thought why the hell did I just buy that, but maybe it was the ultimate hit. A cute, glamourous little thing that wasn't scary and was guaranteed to make you feel prettier and your makeup collection look nicer. But I didn't need it, I could function and survive without it. Well, we only need water and air right? So maybe in Sweden all these cute things are just comfort. It's my way of showing there's fun and glamour in my life, as Sweden can be pretty calm and dull, or especially where I live can . I wanted to order some heart print tights from ASOS and ended up throwing in some sale lip glosses, a bath set, the heart bag from a few posts down, and some leopard print courts into the basket, although they sadly didn't fit (boo!). Collecting the package was quite distressing and the content possibly didn't cancel that out as I had to trek across snow and ice to a post office two miles away and then carry a typically huuuuge ASOS box all the way back, but ordering new, pink things all contributed to making my life a bit sweeter.
Then again, aren't we all after things like this? We buy nice things not because we need them, but because they make our lives that little bit better, or at least we feel they do for some time period. I mentioned before that in London I met a girl who was on the programme Snog, Marry, Avoid, and if you're not British, that's a programme that 'make-under's (instead of a make-over) girls who wear an insane, and sometimes disgusting, amount of makeup, fake lashes, fake hair, fake nails, and go out in thongs and bras. One girl wrapped a bit of black duct tape around her boobs as a top! Haha you can find it on Youtube. But my friend's housemate's friend who was on the show was a stripper (no judgment here) so she has a lot of money to spend on the finer things. Hats off to her, she had an insane saving account too, but her and her stripper friend had incredible LV and YSL clutches and amazing clothes and phones covered in Swarovski crystals. They'd almost perfected every part of their life, or at least their aesthetic life, and made everything that bit more fabulous. They were totally the inspiration when I covered my new phone in Paperchase stickers!
Does it make you seem more interesting if you own interesting things? For instance the international students on my floor say I wear 'party clothes' all the time. In fact the other day one girl said 'why are you wearing these clothes, they're so big!?!' I was like whaaat? Have all these biscuits made a difference?! But she said 'your clothes is sooo big, you should wear something to show your figure!'. She is Thai and maybe that's an example of the difference between manners in cultures as I would never pick out someone else's clothes, not that she meant it in a mean way at all, but she said it because I was wearing my oversized Monki dress, which I happen to love! But did it make it wrong that I wasn't all dressed up in my usual tights and flirty skirt combo? Was I a worse version of myself? That's also an example of why I'm getting a bit exasperated with not being able to get just some toast in peace without running into a nice Spaniard (while being makeup-less and having just woke up, eek!) or another exchange student picking out what you're cooking, what you're wearing, what time you woke up. I swear one Indonesian girl yesterday was like 'Oooh Selina, did you just wake up?? Or are you sick?? You look sick! Yes your eyes look sick, are you sick??' in front of everyone, I was like argh, I just woke up, I just want to get a drink, can I do that without the third degree! Haha at 20 years old, I can't live in student accommodation anymore I swear!
But back to the topic at hand, does buying an excess of 'things' mean you have an underlying addiction or insecurity, or you just want to invest in better things? Maybe a casing point is when I was about to get the first flight to Germany when I came back to Sweden a couple of weeks ago after fashion week. I knew I had a long, boring and tiring day ahead, I really wasn't keen to come back to nothing but work and snow, and I was thinking about missing my friends and guys and I'd had a great week with my Mom and brothers. So is there a reason that I hit the Claire's Accessories concession in duty free and bought a Coca-Cola flavoured lip balm, some heart print leggings, Hello Kitty false nails, and a Hello Kitty bag destined to house my phone. One sort of practical purchase, the rest totally random.
Marie Antoinette had a fine life; was she just making up for her Queenly loneliness with pretty things? It's not a secret that this term in Sweden has been boring and uneventful, but just looking at my fake lashes and extensive Dazzle Dust collection reminds me that I have had fabulous times before and I do have plenty of friends and amazing nights out ahead.
So next year in Manchester when I return to finish my degree, will I continue buying hair bows and glitter? Or will I most likely be buying more sophisticated things for the 21 year old woman that I will be? Maybe all this cuteness just an aversion to a static environment or mood. Do you buy cute things? And is it because you want a cute life or your life is cute?