‘Men grow cold as girls grow old,
And we all lose our charms in the end,
But square cut or pear shape these rocks don’t lose their shape,
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,’
Am I shallow? Of course I am, because I know Marilyn was right: every girl, including me, does love a diamond (or three). But I’m worried. Something has shifted in me, and it’s either a sign that I’m shaking off superficiality or that I’m growing old and boring. With the dawning of the New Year there has been a dawning for me: that I prefer browsing through Jenners’ bed linen department to pining after pendants and pearls sparkling in Laings’ window. Is it a downward spiral, signalling that next year I’ll be in Marks and Spencer buying footgloves? Never!
Maybe it’s a good thing that my bar has been lowered in terms of worldly goods, as I’m quite certain that diamonds (not that I possess a haul of them) bring only fleeting happiness. I thought of this as I stroked swathes of sheets on Jenners’ top floor, thinking I was going up in the world by purchasing 400 thread count only to discover there is such a thing as 1,200 thread count (with the price increasing in proportion, equal to the cost – almost – of a small diamond). “It refers to the number of threads per square inch. The higher the number, the smoother the feel, the deeper the sleep. Like sleeping on a cloud,” the lady told me, “and the pillows never leave a mark on your face.” She was reeling me in, but I was slipping off the hook. Besides the price putting me off I was afraid to buy on the basis of, what will there to be to aspire to after having slept on them? As the old song goes, “How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris?” R. used to quote the line to me. It’s about the troops returning from World War One to isolated farms in, say, rural Indiana or Ohio, and it points out the very real truth that once we get a taste for something, it can be hard to un-whet one’s appetite. Step away from the bed linen – I tell myself.
I turned to the towels, a slightly less expensive habit to nurture. Back in my student days E. used to have a ‘towel thing’. She simply loved quality towels, couldn’t stop buying them. E. knew her waffle weave from her zero twist pile at a time when I still believed what my dad had told me as a child – that a wet towel dries you better. I know, it’s ridiculous, how could I have fallen for it? But if something is told to you often enough – propagated, composted and mulched until it takes root – it becomes an indisputable truth; one that was only to be wrenched from me aged 40 by my husband who said he found my gullibility endearing. I bet E. has moved onto collecting fabulous bed linen these days.
I left Jenners without having made a purchase (this time) and pondering how we feed our fantasies; how we tell ourselves that better sheets (insert whatever your fairly meaningless fixation is) will lead to a better quality of life. I’m never going to accumulate lots of carats so I’ll leave it at 1-carat and replace a girl’s best friend with an ambition for high thread count cotton instead – but it’s still a form of pointless striving. What is your empty aspiration? You’ll have one. Trainers: that’s a big one these days for the young ones, wanting more pairs than they can ever wear. Expensive push bikes with fifty gears and related paraphernalia seems to be the latest craze for middle-aged men. Or maybe you can’t pass a beauty counter, though you already have enough anti-ageing products to last you until you’re 168 years old – good luck with that. As for me, I’m still hankering after those life-enhancing sheets. Maybe they’ll be reduced further at the weekend, and my life will be complete when I’m wrapped in satin-wave, ultra fine Portuguese cotton. I’ll keep you posted.