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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hard Knocks and Nissans

I'm sitting in a car, sobbing. I am crying big fat tears all over the car's nice leather interior and all over my friend's mother, who is probably regretting having offered me a lift home. I have nine euros in my bank account. All I have to eat at home is one single solitary Petit Filous. I have hit the place just directly above Rock Bottom, because, as my dear departed granny used to say, there's always someone worse off than you.

Maybe I should rewind and give you a bit of perspective. People of my generation were born into a recession but grew up in a time of economic prosperity, therefore it's all we've really known. We lived in the shadow of the magnificent roaring Celtic Tiger, which as of last year had decided that it was a bit tired and didn't feel like propping up the construction industry anymore and went for a very inconvenient nap. So far, so formulaic.

When this all started and recession was a word only whispered about in speculative terms like Lord Voldemort in a Hogworts bathroom, my friends and I had no worries. We were in our last year of college. Surely this recession malarkey would all be over by then and we would emerge from a third-level education fug, Arts Degrees in hand, greedily grasping for manna and cushy jobs in the Land of Plenty, right? Actually, no.

And that is how I ended up crying in a Nissan Primera. Needless to say, my financial situation wasn't at it's healthiest. The cupboard was bare in every sense of the term. The rent was due, my credit card was maxed out. I had no money and was frantically scrabbling around for any semblance of paying work. My friend's mother put her arm around me and let me vent. After a few minutes of panic there was a distinct calm - the kind of resigned calm that comes over a person when you know that there's nothing you can do to change your situation.

I wasn't where I wanted to be by a long shot. However, I got the feeling that I was where I was supposed to be. It's a bitter pill for the children of the WAG generation to swallow, but it's foolish for us to assume that employment will fall in our laps and that we're entitled to the kind of lifestyles that our parents worked so hard to have through the mire of (yet another) recession. They had to earn it. And we do too.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Split Personalities...

It’s an often expounded theory that times of stress will either bring out the best in people or expose underlying problems in all kinds of horrible and embarrassing ways. If anything the recession has revealed that people of my generation (that’s anyone under thirty, thanks for asking) suffer from Acute Fiscal Split Personality Disorder, which the yet-to-be-published Sarah Waldron Dictionary defines as ‘a personality disorder that exposes a disproportionate spending habit. Symptoms include mania, hysteria-related hair loss and simultaneously bulk buying tinned food from Lidl while making an appointment with your personal shopper. There is no cure’.

I am an AFSPD sufferer. There, I admit it. On the behalf of myself and all of my female friends I would like to bring this terrible affliction out into the open. We are all intelligent, grounded women. We are good people. However, we are terrible shoppers and this is the very root of AFSPD. We have double personalities; we don’t eat so we can afford clothes, we take cheap holidays but blow the pedalo and sunhat budget on booze, we congratulate ourselves on finding a bargain, no matter how impractical or superfluous to our daily lives (“I’ve always wanted a masticating juicer/ski boots/blue lipstick/koi carp pond!”).

Take my friend L, for instance. L and I had a leisurely breakfast before work this week and strolled down to Recessionista Heaven, aka Penneys for a quick look at their new winter party dresses and jackets. Both of us have no intention of buying anything as I’m cleaned out after an exceptionally tasty Eggs Benedict and L had fulfilled her daily shopping requirements by purchasing a wig for an upcoming fancy dress party.

After a few minutes I sidle up to her and notice an ever-growing pile of clothes in her arms. She turns to me and says “Which blazer do you prefer? I’m going as Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction”. “Never mind that – what’s all this?” I say pointing to the polycotton heap. She defensively recoils as if I’m Rumpelstiltskin coming for her first born. “Long sleeve shirts. I need them”. “L”, I patronisingly tell her, “You don’t need them. No-one needs that many. I would certainly never, ever be that impractical. I only ever buy things I really need”.

We proceed to the checkouts, a distinctly frosty atmosphere developing. I turn around to L. “I saw a pair of PVC trousers in Topshop – what do you think?” She gives me The Look. “What?” I practically shriek. “I need them!”