There are some things I do to feel more individual (the wacky clothes I wear, the choices I make, the way I pronounce “sandwich”) and there are some I do to feel more the same. I like to have an opinion on what’s in the charts, for example. It’s important to me to know what nail art Rihanna is wearing. A week that passes without a conversation about the problem with The X Factor is a week wasted. Similarly I am proud to have kept up to date with the birth, life and painful bloody deaths of words like amazeballs, totes and (RIP) meh.

This week I joined in with the masses by, at 9am on Thursday, attempting to log into the H&M site to spend some money on its Versace collection. Everything pointed to the fact that I shouldn’t bother – shoppers had camped out overnight in the rain, plus I half-wanted to buy the tropical leggings only as an in-joke with myself. “WE’RE SORRY!” the website screamed, its capitalised letters the grind of salt in an open scrape. “We are experiencing large numbers of visitors at the moment. Please try again later.” So I did. Click: “SORRY!” “Don’t worry about it, babe!” I replied internally. “Everyone wants the funny leggings, I get it!” Two minutes passed. Click: “SORRY!” “It’s fine, you’re busy, I’M sorry!” Ten minutes. Click: “SORRY!” “Are you?” I asked quietly. “Are you really?”

I am a grown-up, so I minimised the screen and did some typing work on my computer. The site teased me from my task-bar, a hidden doorway to Lycra delights and small piling debts. I kept refreshing. No change. Onwards I marched through my unsatisfied day, hours falling away behind me like a jungle bridge in an Indiana Jones film. Click. “SORRY!” I sighed so much my exhalations increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air around my desk to a solid 0.036%, probably.

Around lunchtime it became less about buying the clothes, and more a test of strength and stamina. A Crystal Maze industrial zone. The hardest zone. Only a loser would give up now. I started thinking in complicated circles – ovals, maybe. Every click of my mouse took me deeper into an existential whirlpool. I started questioning things. Fundamental things. Click. “SORRY!” Would these clothes make me happy? What compels me to buy things I don’t need? Things that at best will make me look like Donatella Versace, at worst Gianni. What pushes me to spend? Am I any less disturbed than the people who camped outside their city stores, their tents lined up like Occupy London protesters gone rogue? Who am I? What’s important to me? Click. “SORRY!” And then it happened. The web page loaded. I allowed myself a high-pitched “Eeeee!” and dived in, flicking items into my basket with a flourish of the knuckle. I called my sister at work to gloat. “I can’t talk now,” she whispered. I shouted over the office to gloat. “What?” a colleague replied. I kneeled in my swivel chair miming the act of “lassoing” the internet, and then I clicked to check out. A moment of calm. The brief stillness of a condemned skyscraper hit by a wrecking ball – perfect and strong and full of hope then, suddenly, gone. “SORRY!”

The word sorry by now had taken on new meaning. It stood in shadows – different bits were visible at different times. Occasionally it was on its knees, true regret in its binary eyes. Now it mocked me over a shoulder, spitting its faux-rue in a baby voice. Darkness fell in my mind, too. When I got back on to the site, when the “SORRY”s dissipated in the early hours of the morning (around 5pm), the items in my basket were out of stock.

There are no lessons I haven’t learned from this. Unfortunately, while rich in life lessons, I’m poor of wardrobe. I’m wise, yes, but I don’t have a thing to wear.


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