Restless in the small hours and with research for a novel as my alibi, I stumbled across an internet questionnaire yesterday devised by a high-class rehabilitation facility. This residential treatment centre does not just cater for the more well known addictions (drink, drugs, gambling), it offers programmes for those who drink too many hot drinks, and those who feel compelled to help other people to their own detriment (compulsive helping dominant). The questions were manifold and diverse.
“Do you have a sense of increased tension and excitement when you see advertisements for caffeine substances?
Do you regularly give unsolicited advice to other people on how to solve their problems?
Do you only feel you become a real person when shopping?”
How interesting, I thought, ticking the boxes to some of the questions and laughing grandly at others for the assumptions they make about the way people live. “Have you ever rushed or skipped a meal in order to get straight to the coffee stage?” I just wasn't sure about a number of these questions. In the world of compulsion and denial, no behaviour is innocent.
I didn't seem to register too highly on the addictive behaviour graph. I do like to help people whether they want it or not, and am a little fonder of buns than is perhaps wise, but only within the sphere of normality, it transpires. I don't tend to get upset when someone close to me takes care of someone else, but I will confess I did feel a shimmer of jealousy yesterday when my sister described her Prada sale triumph.
She set the scene with relish: the inky fabric, double gaberdine of exquisite quality, the immaculate way the buttons were sewn, the lining which was matchless. “It's thin fabric, a party coat, really, but the mink collar makes it quite warm.”
“How brilliant,” I said. “Great. SO nice. You are clever.” I did not want to seem mean. Besides, if I can't have something new that's lovely and amazing, she would be my second choice. Party coats may seem extravagant, but they are so mood-altering.
But I have been neglecting my shopping lately. I'm not ashamed of the fact, though when your most dazzling recent acquisition is a stainless steel and emerald green plastic spatula, it's time to take stock.
This afternoon, at the Harrods sale, a polka dot Moschino evening dress caught my eye. Short sleeved, low cut, A-line and very dark navy with dark blue dots, it was extremely me. I tried it on, admired the large reduction and made the purchase. No matter that I have two Moschino polka dot dresses already; one is too small and the other turquoise and orange. The dress is comfortable and if anything a little large, which always feels good. And it's just quiet enough to wear to the seven book launches that I have pending.
Back home, suddenly I wasn't quite so sure. I might need a sign pointing out that the extra fabric is fabric, not my flesh. Still, a new dress is a new dress, so I couldn't help but feel pleased, and if I find myself giving my sister a ring later and describing it, at length, in quite some detail, it doesn't make me a bad person, does it?