What we bought in lockdown, and what it says about us

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When Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown on 23rd March, many of us did what we do best to cope with any situation presenting change and uncertainty: we bought a lot of things online. Though there were countless critics who said that internet shopping wasn’t helping anyone and was unnecessarily spreading the coronavirus among delivery drivers and warehouse workers, the British public told themselves they were helping retailers stay afloat in these trying times and just carried on buying.

[blockquote author=”” ]this vision of lockdown as a blessing in disguise and a time that we would remember fondly has dissolved[/blockquote]

What is clear is that back in March, many of us saw lockdown as an opportunity to improve ourselves and our homes; we were all going to emerge after a few weeks with the body of a 90s supermodel and with the culinary skill of Jamie Oliver. Exercise equipment such as treadmills, bikes and yoga mats have consistently been the most purchased items in the UK during lockdown, which is unsurprising as many gym bunnies adjust to working out at home. But this tells us that a lot of people who did not previously squeeze themselves into Lycra sportswear are now becoming more active, and as lockdown has unfolded, are embracing exercise in a way that works for them. Working from home as given many of us the time to invest in exercising in the comfort of our own homes and surroundings, which is undoubtedly a positive purchasing trend.

The sales of hair clippers and makeup have also soared. With videoconferencing and FaceTime now the norm, more of us care about looking ‘camera-ready,’ and presenting to our colleagues and friends the best-looking version of ourselves. On a deeper level, this taps into our pride, which comes from not letting others think that we have surrendered to a world of no makeup and constant snacking in lockdown. For a lot of us, working to keep our pre-lockdown appearance and personality will eventually take its toll on our mental health and bank account, but there will always be that pressure as long as your friends seem to look effortlessly glamorous.

It’s safe to say that this vision of lockdown as a blessing in disguise and a time that we would remember fondly has dissolved. Where people started by perfecting their sourdough bread, they have ended with riots to defund the police force. The most purchased books at the beginning of lockdown were described as ‘uplifting’ reads through which ‘you escape somewhere else entirely.’ The British public embraced more frivolous reading, as we can see from our literary habits at the start of lockdown: we were mainly buying books on self-betterment and deliciously comforting stories to distract us from not being able to leave our homes more than once a day.

[blockquote author=”” ]It is now impossible to remain ignorant to the events taking the world by storm, which are fuelled by centuries of institutionalised and systematic racism[/blockquote]

However, after the killing of George Floyd, which catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement into mainstream media like never before, the idea of ‘escaping’ reality has become something only available to those who are privileged enough to be able to switch off from the horrors of racism. The Best-Selling book on Amazon is currently ‘Why I’m no longer talking to White People about race,’ and in the site-wide top ten list, there are numerous other fiction and non-fiction reads that focus on the experiences of characters of colour or examine racial tensions in the UK. It is now impossible to remain ignorant to the events taking the world by storm, which are fuelled by centuries of institutionalised and systematic racism. Rather than denying it or simply choosing not to think about it, more and more people are actively educating themselves and coming to terms with how they have perpetuated this, because the truth is that all white people have at one time or another. This means that something very significant has been achieved in lockdown: some of us may not have mastered the perfect eyeliner flick or got a six-pack, but we all now have the time to do the uncomfortable work of examining our own prejudices and privileges.

Lockdown has made us better people, just not in the way we thought it would.

Image: Sari Montag. Available via Flickr.

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