After weeks of abiding by the rules, what’s wrong with a little socially distanced shopping for affordable clothes?
The pandemic has really brought out the ‘all in this together’ community spirit, with people banding together to help each other through our collective time of need. Unfortunately, it has also enhanced the relentless curtain-twitching usually preserved for judging notiony neighbours, now spreading judgment to every person and activity across the country like the woman with the shame bell in Game Of Thrones. Visiting the beach at the same time everyone else visited the beach? Shame! Not out clapping the care workers tonight? Shame! And this week, a jumbo bell-ringing sesh has been saved for anyone who dared legally buy a three-pack of knickers before 9am.
Retail stores have reopened after six long, miserable weeks, many with extended hours to cope with the numbers of people likely behind on Christmas shopping. Hundreds flocked to queue outside shops like Penneys to regain a shred of normalcy, to regain the right to peruse the pyjama section somewhere other than the corner of your sitting room where you keep your laptop.
From what we saw of the news coverage of high street D-Day, thanks to the freezing reporters who were posted up waiting for Black Friday levels of carnage, everything was civilised. Shoppers queued up in the dark before being let in in controlled numbers, emerging 20 minutes later with bulging paper bags and beaming smiles. But the way some people reacted, you’d swear they had been licking each other’s faces and shouting about a ‘Plandemic’ on the way out.
Social media – of course – was flooded with sneering remarks about the folks, mainly women, who had hit the shops in the early hours. “Going to Penneys and queuing with 50 other people, just to buy knickers and pyjamas? That is hardly a necessary journey is it?”
Well, actually, maybe it was. As it was rightfully pointed out by many, some of these people were getting much-needed clothes for their kids, who had grown out of or wrecked their old stuff, or needed warmer clothes before Christmas. Penneys is much more affordable and instant than what you can turn to online, for the most part.
But other people just wanted to buy knickers, and fluffy socks, and candles, and T-shirts with Christmas slogans on them, and that is just as valid.
This year has been a nightmare. Just as many of us started to ease back into the routine of shopping and eating out and going to the cinema, we were plunged back into a necessary lockdown to ensure public health was safeguarded, and as the days grew colder and darker, there was very little to put a smile on our faces. Now, after weeks of abiding by the rules, people want to do something that makes them happy – and what’s wrong with that?
I’m not saying people’s decisions during the pandemic are not up for criticism. I think every last person who has attended an anti-lockdown march needs a good talking to, and anyone complaining on Facebook that wearing a mask is against their human rights and sharing conspiracy theories about vaccines needs to be called out. But the people queuing outside Penneys are there legally. They are not endangering anybody, they are sticking to the laws and simply availing of a simple joy that the Government has allowed them to do so.
Maybe your idea of necessary to your happiness and normalcy isn’t buying a bargain dressing gown or stocking up on hairspray. Maybe yours is going on a day trip past 5km, or enjoying a glass of red at your favourite restaurant, or sweating in the gym. Guess what? As of Monday, you are allowed to do those things too, and while they may not be necessary in the grand scheme of things, you shouldn’t be shamed. But remember – if you think you’re a pandemic teacher’s pet for having a socially distanced restaurant dinner, but people socially distancing in Penneys is out of order, your classism is showing.