Packs of Three

It was the biggest cock you'd ever seen,
but you've no idea where that cock has been.
You said you were careful - you never were with me.
I heard you did it four times but Johnnies come in packs of three.

Arab Strap – Packs of Three, from the album Philiophobia

Question: when was the last time you were embarrassed by buying something in a shop? The classic example of being retail-embarrassed is the “Price check on condoms!” that is the nightmare of any teenage boy finding sex for the first time. Can you still be embarrassed as an adult when buying goods from a shop?

Let’s be honest here – I’ve never been embarassed about buying condoms from a supermarket. Not even in Morrisons where they are secured behind a plastic sheath (pun intended) that has to be unlocked by a security tag Alan key… nope, there is no shame I buying condoms what so ever. The only shame that can be found is when you start to think about the person who is serving you… for example, a lovely old woman… you almost want to tell her that you’re not going to be using them for their intended purpose but for filling them with water and chucking them jovially at passing scamps in the street. But you know and she knows what they are for, and the receipt which says “Chemist Goods” rather than “Durex Pleasure Max” knows too, for the façade is an untruth.

My most recent embarrassing thing to buy has been the prospect of having to get a new shaver after water broke my newest one. The reason why this is funny and slightly sympathetic is that I have a fully formed debut beard. The beard isn’t full, as it seems is my curse, but it’s enough to show that I am currently actively cultivating one from the ground up – the funny thing is that I will be walking into a shop to buy a device that allows me to get rid of it and the insinuation will be that the reason I have let it grow is because I didn’t have or couldn’t afford a new shaver.

But the oddest thing that I am slightly worried about buying in shops are the following: Wine, toilet roll and my gym membership. And shit music.

Buying wine is something that I do only when I am feeling particularly flush or feeling like I should get proper drunk and not feel like Martin Clunes in Men Behaving Badly. The wine tastes lovely with fish, as a nice white will work really well, but the fact that I know nothing about wine probably means that I’ve bought the wrong type every single time. Is there any ryhme or reason to choosing a wine? I’m not cultured enough to know if it tastes shit… I like the taste of the one I bought at the weekend for £6.49 and that’s all that matters. But I have this moment of madness when I think when the cashier is going to look at the wine, look at me, look at what I bought, and burst into a mad cackling laughter so devasting my eye balls start to shake in their sockets. Brrr.

For some mad reason I get heavily embarrassed about buying toilet roll. It’s weird. They know why I am going to use it and where it's going to be use, and on what part of my body. I suppose the thought of anyone wiping their bum with anything is quite comical and also slightly taboo, but just the fact of buying the stuff is embarassing. it's most embarassing when buying it only, as the sole purchase. I remember a game I was told people in University halls used to play - there was a kitty jar, one for beer and one for sundries. The person who used the last roll of toilet roll had to go and get it, but the challenge was to buy the oddest assortment of useable stuff with it. For example: rubber gloves, vaseline, a cucumber, two spatulas, a bike lock, a pack of eggs, forzen peas, plasters and toilet roll. I think I'd be brilliant at that game.

When signing up for the Jim this past week I got into a nervous thing about going in and asking to join. This is probably something to do with the fear of being a n00b at anything, that is to say someone who doesn't know what they are doing. Infact, my biggest fear in life is not knowing what to do at certain times. Hence my reluctance to do something totally new without a person there who already has done it. Sometimes this doesn’t matter – getting the subway in New York was something neither Steve nor I had done but we had to do it – but the gym is a place where the “new” person is always obvious by their lack of good apparel, or terrible pacing, or bemusement. If I ever feel like I look like I am out of place I feel instantly more uncomfortable, which sends me into a spiral of doom that I can get swept up in. So asking to join the Jim was scary.

Finally, buying crap music. Like the wine purchase, I am worried about what the cashier thinks. I buy good music – it’s one of my things, indeed it might be my thing. But when purchasing for people in the past I’ve had to commit the ultimate sin and buy shite. Seriously, some of the worst shite in musicdom. And, on two occasions I’ve felt it necessary to make excuses – firstly, pretending to be on the phone asking “They’ve only got this album, do you want me to get it” and the other time actually saying the immortal “it’s not for me, it’s a gift for someone else”. I felt like a left tit, with the right tit laughing at me, but I still felt more vindicated than just outright buying them without explaining I really know good music.