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Archive for July 15th, 2010

It’s a very sad day when one of Ireland’s finest independent record stores, Road Records, announces it is to close down, its valiant fight against the recession and digital music sadly having come to an end.

And it’s also sad (but in a rather different way) when some of its own customers use a post on The Irish Time’s On The Record blog about the demise of the much-loved shop to comment about the fact they “never saw any girls in there”.

“There are always as many under 20s flipping thru the vinyls down the back as there are older beardy blokes. road, unfortunately, wasn’t as enticing for the non-beardy, huggy student types. or girls. only girls i ever saw in road were julie and my girlfriend who stood at the door looking bored on record store day.” – Peter

“Peter – have to agree to an extent with you, I think Julie was the only woman I ever saw in Road Records and my wife for example loves music but hates record shops.” – part time punk

Road Records was a welcoming place to men, women and children – any Saturday I ventured in there I’d see at least one parent with a cute sticky-fingered child in tow – and it was never a shop that made you feel you were ‘just a girl’ when buying records.

But this sad and sexist attitude that some of the commenters on On The Record hold about Road, and the apparent lack of female customers it (and other record stores) attracted, is thankfully an outdated one.

I’m a woman – I don’t think I can call myself a girl now that I’m inching closer to 30, can I ‘boys’? – who, like many of you reading this, has been ‘properly’ shopping in record stores since I was a teen. When I first started buying in Plugd in Cork, I used to get nervous before I’d go in, a little worried about my purchase, wanting to look ‘cool’. A positive comment from one of the staff members would have made my day. I knew as a girl I was in a minority there, but I was never made to feel like I was ‘just a girl’, or that girls were not welcome. As I got older, and as Plugd’s Jim and Albert became friends, I’d ask them for recommendations and go to the shop to meet other friends and see what they were buying. When Plugd closed last year, Cork lost a little bit of its soul.

I worked in Redlight Records in Galway for a little while and got to see things from the other side of the counter – and loved getting to recommend albums to people.  I loved even more having albums recommended to me. Because that’s what independent record stores are for – they’re for learning about music and salivating over new finds, badgering the staff for recommendations and teasing your friends about their choices.

But there are some people who may feel a little intimidated going into independent record stores – especially when they’re young and don’t feel they know much about music. And this attitude that ‘women don’t go to record shops’, even if held by a small minority, needs to be quashed – because it certainly doesn’t encourage more young women (and yes, girls) to go to them.

It ties into the patronising, sexist assumption that women just don’t know enough about music, that we’re not interested in back catalogues or rare records, that we’d rather listen to Lady Gaga than Throbbing Gristle (hell, some even listen to both), and that we’re more interested in being groupies than listeners.

But the truth is,  we’re just as devastated to see another independent record store go – and wondering what can be done about it.  So why not silence those who assume women didn’t shop in Road and add your voice here?

(And as for sleeping with a band member? Some of us would rather rifle through his record collection.)

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If romance has ruined real life for us women, it’s done something much worse for the menfolk: it’s given them false ideas about how we want to be treated. While I dream of the day I go back in time, become 16 again and fall in love with the most handsome boy in school who just so happens to be a vampire, men seem to think I dream of bumping into a man in a bookshop, while both reaching for the same book (I like when you have different interests to me; life ain’t going to be no fun if you’ve read everything I have), and then live out our lives in coffee shops and karaoke bars, a la (500) Days of Summer. Similarly, don’t assume that my number one aim in life is to get married, and hint about wedding dresses and how I’ve probably thought about it since I was 10. I haven’t, and now I definitely never will, at least not with you in the same fantasy.

So I propose a list of things that are guaranteed to kill any affection I might feel for you. Feel free to disagree; one woman’s bonerkiller is, after all, another woman’s catnip. To whit:

  1. Don’t call me “gorgeous”. You can say I’m gorgeous, but it should be an adjective, not a nickname. “You look gorgeous” is fine, for example. It might even be appreciated, depending on how gorgeous I think I’m looking (if you’re telling me I look gorgeous at 8am after a night of drinking, dancing and debauchery, no matter how much fun we had, you are now in the “liar” category). But “goodnight, gorgeous” is guaranteed only to make me think of (a) Matthew McConnaughey and (b) an escape plan.
  2. If I’m able to do things for myself, let me do ’em – but don’t let this get in the way of your chivalry. I like that you open doors for me, for example, not because I’m a woman and you’re a man, but because it shows that you’re thoughtful. (I open doors for people all the time, but when they ignore me, I have been known to shout “you’re welcome!” at their departing backs.) Just don’t get carried away. I can, you see, put on my own jacket. I can carry my own shopping bags, and if someone is rude to me, I can defend myself. See above “you’re welcome!” screams.
  3. I don’t need to be psycho-analysed, and I don’t want you to psycho-analyse yourself. “I’ve always been the kind of person to do xxx” screams “self-obsession”, followed closely by “let’s get the bill, shall we?” Similarly, “have you always torn up your bus receipts like that?” means you’re thinking too much about me in a hypothetical way, rather than the normal way, where you should be going “that’s odd but kind of adorable” while trying not to look at my mouth.
  4. Don’t assume that “things you know about women” are true. We’re not all looking for “the one”; we don’t all spend hours sitting around the water cooler discussing the unromantic things you’ve done; we don’t all wonder why our relationships aren’t successful (unless you’re married, you’ve never been successful in a relationship, but that don’t mean you’re not a good dater); we don’t all wish you’d just tell us you love us and get it over with. We’re humans, just like you, and we’re nuanced, and sometimes difficult, but not in a Drew Barrymore kinda way.
  5. Finally (and ain’t five just the perfect number – enough to be substantial, not enough to make me seem like a crank?), don’t try to make a moment happen. “Moments” only happen in movies. In real life, shit happens. People interrupt your train of thought; a friend comes over and introduces herself, mid-sentence. What’s worse than trying to make a moment happen, though, is waiting for it to happen. Ignore the moments and go with the seconds, the minutes, the hours. Spend time with us. Don’t think about your end game because, despite what the movies tell you, most of us aren’t thinking about ours.

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Justify My Shopping

I don’t like shopping.

Okay, that’s a total lie. I love shopping for books. I love shopping for art, knitting and sewing supplies. I also, strangely enough, love shopping for make-up. I just don’t like shopping for clothes. I like having lovely new clothes; I just hate the actual process of acquiring them.

Yes, I bought it! You can't judge me more harshly than I judge myself.

I hate queuing up for changing rooms with my arms full of garments in different sizes (because these days no shop seems to have any sort of consistency in their sizing policy) and then trying them on under unflattering lights while my face gets redder and redder and my hair gets messier and messier.

And I really hate having to wrestle with my conscience. It’s not that I regularly go on shopping sprees; my fear of consumer debt and my desire to buy stuff that wasn’t definitely made in a sweat shop, combined with my hatred of changing room cubicles, have saved me from that bad habit. I genuinely don’t go clothes shopping very often, I don’t shop casually, and I only buy stuff if I actually have the money in the bank to pay for it.

And therein lies the problem. I have what could be described as mildly extravagant tastes. I don’t seriously crave things that are clearly insanely priced. I can lust after the new Miu Miu collection (and I do – oh, it’s so pretty), but I can accept that these garments are completely and utterly beyond my price range. I know there is no way on earth I can ever afford them, and I have no desire to get into debt in order to buy them. That would be crazy. I also think it’s essentially wrong to spend £3,000 on one skirt. If you have a spare three grand lying around, there’s got to be something more productive you could do with it. And anyway, not being able to afford these lovely things doesn’t bother me, just as not being able to fly doesn’t bother me. There’s no way on earth I’d ever be able to do it, so why waste time wishing?

My problem is my yearning for the stuff that is expensive, but not totally and utterly out of my grasp. It’s the stuff I could technically buy and still have money in my bank account to buy food and pay rent. I crave clothes from labels like A.P.C. and Built By Wendy, the sort of brands whose garments, when their sales are on at least, are usually under €150. I don’t give a shit about Creme de la Mer or that Sisley moisturiser that costs about 200 quid, but I do like Origins and Nars. I can buy these things every so often and stay out of debt, and I’d rather do that than buy lots of cheap shit. But should I really be buying anything at all, even in the Built By Wendy sale? I mean, it’s not as though I’ve literally got nothing to wear otherwise, much as it might feel like that when I’m flinging things all over my room in an attempt to get dressed to my own satisfaction.

These are the thoughts that plague me on my way to the cash register, or at least haunt me on my way back from it. Take my most recent purchases. Two weeks ago I was passing by Harlequin, the well-known vintage clothes shop on Dublin’s Castle Market, when I saw a flash of a gorgeous ’50s floral print. I ran over to behold a perfect ’50s cotton day dress whose price-tag revealed that it was – oh, what a miracle – a size 8. I love cotton frocks from the 1950s and ’60s and have quite a lot of them – they’re pretty, flattering and incredibly easy to wear. Alas, they are also very hard to find, let alone in sizes that fit someone unwilling to wear an authentic ’50s-esque padded bra, so whenever I see one I leap on it like a lioness who’s just caught sight of a particularly lazy antelope. And so I grabbed this dress and ran for the changing room, hoping that the tag (which was an estimation) was actually right.

It was. The dress fit perfectly. It was beautiful. It was an amazing pattern in flattering colours. I had to buy it. When would I find another dress like this? It was about three years since I’d last found a decent ’50s frock, and that was in Paris. However, that Parisian dress, I recalled, had cost me about 25 quid. This dress was €85.

Now, that isn’t an insane amount of money, at least if you have a job. I mean, high street stores sell dresses for that price. It is, however, more than I can just throw away on a whim on something I don’t technically need. If I was a bit richer, maybe I could spend that much on fripperies every week. However, I am a freelance journalist, and so every time I spend that amount of money on one thing I have to ask myself two questions. One is, “Can I afford it?” And the other is “Do I actually need to have it?”

This would be sensible if I answered those questions, well, sensibly. But I don’t. When trying to justify buying a Chanel lipstick (Rouge Coco in Mademoiselle! Most flattering colour ever!) or yet another hipster craft book I won’t make anything out of, I’ve developed a ridiculous habit of telling myself things like “well, if you still smoked regularly, you’d spend this much every week on cigarettes.” I tend to forget that the most I ever smoked was about 4 a day, and that if I had continued in this vein I would spend, at most, about 15 quid a week on fags, which wouldn’t even buy one Chanel Rouge Coco lipstick. Then I expand it beyond my own personal history and think things like, “well, plenty of people smoke 60 cigarettes a day. My dad used to smoke about 40 a day! Look how much I’m saving by not being an emphysemic chain smoker!”

As well as fags, here are some of the other things I don’t do that I’ve used to justify spending money on stuff I don’t need:

“I know people who get taxis everywhere. I always get the bus and I only ever get taxis home if it’s really late. I’m saving loads of money! I can easily afford this over-priced moisturiser!”

“I never go on fancy holidays. At most we go for a few days via Ryanair to a European city where we rent an apartment and eat lovely cheapo cheese and wine in a tiny kitchen instead of eating out every day. We even did this for our honeymoon. Other people, and not just billionaires, go and stay in hotels in the south of France. I never do anything like that! I’m saving a freaking fortune.”

“I don’t drink very much. There are people who drink, like, ten pints whenever they go out. On an average night out I drink three, max. I’m saving loads of money! Give me those jeans.”

“If I was a drug addict, I’d spend this much every day on crack. This is NOTHING.”

It has dawned on me that regularly justifying my expenditure by comparing myself to drug addicts and shameless spendthrifts is probably not a good idea. I never ask myself whether chainsmokers and drug addicts can actually afford to fuel their addictions (I suspect in many cases the answer is no). I should ask myself whether I, based on exactly what I earned last month, can afford to buy this and still have money in my savings account so that I don’t end up as a bag lady in my old age (my pension currently looks as though I’ve been throwing money into a black hole every month for five years).

Anyway, I bought the dress. Come on, when was I going to find another one? And then last week I bought a pair of Acne jeans. They were even more expensive than the dress, although they are gorgeous and well-cut and also fit ridiculously well, so technically they should last me for years and years, unlike cheapo jeans which start sagging around the arse after one wash. But that’s it. I’m not buying any more clothes for the rest of the summer. I can’t afford it, for one. Although….. I do work from home, so I’m saving an awful lot of money on lunches and bus fares and that sort of thing. If you put it all together it really does add up. Doesn’t it?

Doesn’t it?

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