I cannot keep my secret quiet any longer. I have suffered in silence for years. Only my closest friends know the situation and they tend to sympathise. It’s not really my fault, BUT I really hate shopping. I always have.

The problem

Let’s try to ‘unpack’ this little problem. Perhaps I had a bad experience in the past. Perhaps if I were to be given the right sort of aversion therapy (or is it the opposite?), I might learn to love shopping.

I doubt it. There is very little I could learn to like.

First and foremost, I am not very acquisitive. I don’t much like ‘things’. A new dress rarely cheers me up. Nor does finding just the right vase or tablecloth.

I might make an exception for a new book I look forward to reading, but there aren’t many such exceptions.

Secondly, I am really uncomfortable in crowds. I try to find times to shop when the crowds will be small, but it is difficult. Many shops are quiet first thing in the morning, but if it requires public transport to get there, you are stuck in any case.

As you can imagine, I would never shop in a sale – people struggling to get into the front in order to acquire that one thing specially on sale is my idea of sheer hell.

Thirdly, I can’t bear the whole process of trudging from shop to shop to find the right thing. I find it incredibly dispiriting. Leaving aside food shopping, I have never found one store – yes, even a large department store – which sold exactly what I wanted in every department.

Too much choice

And finally, I hate being given too much choice. I can stand for what feels like hours in front of a shelf full of breakfast cereals, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights.

Yes, I will often fall down this line of thought… Maybe I should try that one with the little bits of fruit, but no, would I be better off with something with bran? Does it have too much hidden sugar? Or salt? Is this one over-priced because it has a child’s gift inside?

Point a gun and tell me what to choose and I would be much happier.

I am certainly no better with house furnishings. However much I try to prepare for such decisions, I am constantly worrying that something is the wrong size or the wrong colour for everything else in that room. I have no ability to visualise it.  It makes me feel incompetent. Not recommended.

And it is much worse with clothes. I am an awkward size (too short, hips too big), but then everyone I know says they think they are an awkward size. No problem if you enjoy the process anyway, but in my case it is a nightmare.

I dislike the whole rigamarole of trying things on – not because of the slim young things in the dressing room – but simply because I have never been very good at getting dressed and undressed.

And then you are back to the problem of choice. Well, it doesn’t fit perfectly, but then nothing ever does, so do I choose the slightly tight waist or the awkward fit over the shoulders?

Do I really need this garment anyway?

Mail order

So, you might argue – if you hate shopping, why not go the mail order route? It is so easy in this day and age.

Yes, I do a lot of shopping via mail order. I have learned, over time, which companies sell trousers that actually fit and which catalogues’ pictures are reasonably accurate. Some companies have very helpful staff who will discuss details like the ‘feel’ of a garment. Much welcomed by me.

It is a bit of a nuisance when you need to send things back, but they are making the packaging much more suitable for this purpose. And at least the line in the post office is not much longer than the line in the store you would have experienced if you had bought the item in a store in the first place.

The test I can’t pass

Shopping feels like a kind of test that I am always failing. Either I come back with nothing – and everyone says “What? You couldn’t find anything you liked?” Or I come home with something and they say “What? You chose that?”

I hate shopping. I’m afraid the feeling will stay with me until the en


A version of this article has been published in my book, The Granny Who Stands on her Head: Reflections on Growing Older

This was initially published by