Subscriber OnlyPeople

Róisín Ingle: I don’t want new things any more. Everything that comes into the house now must have some history

Long live my resistance to the army of sales people desperately trying to sell me stuff

I think I know the basics of how algorithms work but I continue to be amazed by their ingenuity. Recently, I had a scratchy head and flaky scalp. I hadn’t told anybody about it, only occasionally wondered to myself whether this was yet another delightful menopause symptom and even as I had the thought, my Instagram feed was suddenly full of ads for a “purifying” shower head that the woman in the ad said was going to make my scalp feel way less itchy and sore. “It’s not you,” she reassured me. “It’s your water”. What a relief.

The water was too hard in my shower, apparently. All I needed to do was to replace my own clearly malfunctioning shower head with this purifying shower head which would eradicate the heavy metals and minerals in my water, and my scalp would be grand again. I didn’t buy the shower head. It’s not that I didn’t believe the honest-sounding woman with an improbable-sounding name (Nasturtium? Nathan?) but I’ve decided I have too much stuff already. My recent experience of buying a bed from a giant furniture retailer softened my cough. I don’t want new things any more.

Thousands of readers, well at least one – hello there Catriona Ward -, have requested an update on my bed situation. To recap: I purchased a huge pale pink velvet bed and mattress on the never-never from a British furniture company with big fancy showrooms in Ireland. It took nearly five months to arrive in several boxes and I spent hours attempting to assemble it, only to discover I’d been given the instructions and fittings for a different bed.

After many soul-sapping phone calls to customer service people across Britain some new instructions were sent by email. These turned out to be the very same wrong instructions I already had. The bits of the bed languished in the room for weeks until I sent so many stressed-out emails that eventually the giant furniture retailer got sick of me and agreed to cancel the order and take the bed (in bits) and the mattress (still in the packaging) away. They first promised they’d take it away on Good Friday, which I now see was a very good/bad joke. Nobody came. Then a couple of weeks later, after a few more emails from me crafted in a style designed to make them question my sanity, they finally took it away.


This is why I can’t have new things. The whole experience with the giant furniture retailer traumatised me so much that I’ve decided everything that comes into the house now must have some history. So the bed I’m currently propped up on is one my brother bought a few years ago when he was staying here for a while. The big mirror was salvaged from a kind neighbour. After a lifetime of coveting such a space, I now have a reading corner, the star of which is an ancient green armchair, with elegantly turned legs, stuffing slightly erupting, gifted to me by a discerning antique collecting friend. My desk is blue art deco lacquered table that had languished in the backyard for years waiting for her moment. Another friend has promised to pass on a much-loved dressing table from the 1920s she can no longer use, which will fit perfectly in an alcove.

So here I am, in my brother’s bed, surrounded by old things and valiantly rebuffing the advances of some pretty incredible sales people on Instagram who appear desperate to sell me new stuff. Most of them are women, I notice. And they all use similar language. Everything they are selling is going to change my life in some way. First it was the shower head. Then it was a woman trying to sell me a terrifying-looking LED mask that apparently would boost my collagen production and give more elasticity and moisture “without even having to leave the house!”

Another woman is trying to sell me a pair of denim leggings that “miraculously” look like jeans and a slightly older woman is begging me to please deal with my hormonal problems with some medical quick fix. “Within four days all my symptoms banished, you guys”. She went from crazed harridan on Monday to calm and rational businesswoman by Thursday. “So can you,” she reasoned. It was tempting, I can’t lie.

Many different women across a few social media platforms, not aware that I am no longer in the market for new things, have been trying to sell me the perfect jumpsuit. I never in my life wanted a jumpsuit and now I can’t stop thinking about them. The stretchy material, the pockets, the way they hang at the crotch like a sort of adult nappy. For months now, a steady procession of women with improbable names have been popping up to tell me that I’ve been relying on the “mommy wardrobe” of leggings and jumper for too long and now I must simply “let the jumpsuit do the work”.

Funnily enough, these women never mention any issues regarding getting out of said jumpsuit in the bathroom, which would be my main concern. They say the jumpsuit is “gorgeous”. It’s a “winner” and the “softest fabric ever”. And did they mention the pockets?! Pockets you say? Interesting. No! Not today. Get behind me, Nathan.

I’ve resisted them all you’ll be glad to hear. The woman selling the cropped wide-legged trousers recommended by Oprah that are so flattering “on the booty” and are “definitely not your mom’s cargo pants”. The woman selling “illuminating” shampoo that will make me go “from drab to fab”. Most difficult to resist are the women selling “miracle” shoes that you can put on without having to touch them. One of these saleswomen was scarily accurate in her algorithm-fuelled assumptions: Why yes, I am “a busy mom” and I am very much “on the go” all day so I really shouldn’t let my shoes slow me down. “Don’t you want shoes that you just step right into?” she whispered seductively. I had to hide my phone from myself for a while after that one.

In conclusion, I don’t want new things. I don’t need them either. In fact, it turned out my scratchy head problem was not caused by hard water but by a good old-fashioned dose of something I could cure with a two-year-old bottle of non-illuminating, decidedly drab shampoo at the back of the cupboard: head lice.

(That’s nits to you, Nathan.)