So, here we are again. Together we stand on the cusp of Christmas party season, facing bravely into the bitter wind that is trying to find the perfect party dress in a world that is jaded and blind to our sequin-wearing ways.
One of the things that pains me most at the moment is Party Dress Guilt, in which you go to find the perfect shiny/sparkly attire and find yourself buying nothing because it just so happens that clothes cost money, and money is something that you feel you should be spending on something more worthwhile than clothes. Like the electricity bill. Or gin.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re rich or poor, whether the party dress is Penneys or Proenza. The festive season has always had the tendency to remind the more neurotic people amongst us that the time period from early December to January is based on spending money on the Worst Thing Ever. Fun.
You go home, and you don’t buy the dress, and still you feel bad for even thinking about buying the dress, because there are people suffering in other places. Your best friend lost her job, your brother’s dole was cut, you’ve lost your medical card and there’s a new government levy on wine. It doesn’t matter that you give money to charity. It doesn’t matter that you can easily afford the dress (or in my case, a sequinned, on-sale pair of Topshop jeans), what matters is the frivolity. Frivolity is bad. Enjoying yourself? BAD.
I never really understood Catholic guilt until my first financially independent Christmas. You feel absolutely terrible for buying a crushed velvet minidress with a ridiculously low cost-per-wear when you’ve only budgeted ten euro for family gifts. Maybe you settle, and buy something cheap and cheerful and wearable. Then, you are subtly shamed when the family member with the good job buys you a present at five times your budget. Christmas is a minefield littered with good intentions and expensive eyeshadow palettes.
We feel like this for a good reason. We should feel a bit guilty. Christmas and the New Year is the time period for conspicuous consumption. Whether that consumption takes the form of food or clothing or slightly more illicit substances, it doesn’t really matter. It all boils down to money anyway. At least the clothes consumption won’t give you a heart attack, but ask me that again when I get my next credit card bill.
On the flip side, we need to slough some of the guilt off. If, like me, you’re feeling guilty despite not actually buying anything, a reality check might be in order. Can you afford it? Good for you. Maybe you should buy what you want without feeling bad. Your money is yours. However you decide to spread it around , at least make sure that this Christmas it’s money well spent.