Perhaps it was inevitable that almost everyone would take the piss.
It’s what we do isn’t it? Twitter is a little bit like a comedy club with everyone vying to be the funniest standup. Who actually believes that Orlando was asked to put the Papaya down? It sounds like a carefully crafted line to me, as do most of the other responses, which made me laugh. Did anyone at all give a serious reply?
I do actually shop at Waitrose sometimes. There’s no getting away from the fact that Waitrose is nicer than the other supermarkets, as supermarkets go. The aisles are wider, the lighting slightly less gloomily industrial, the products generally arranged attractively. Taking prices out of the equation, actually taking everything out of the equation, I’d choose it over Tescos any day. But then I’d also choose shopping at our local market over any supermarket, and that’s definitely not a cheap choice.
So why didn’t I say any of those things in response to their tweet? Because I didn’t want to be laughed at. Waitrose is very safe, very middle England, very middle class, and for some reason that’s not a good thing. Despite the beautiful glossy adverts, it’s a bit Hyacinth Bouquet.
It’s not the done thing to talk about money in this country. Especially having it. There’s a sort of inverse snobbery; It’s OK to talk about being strapped for cash and shopping at Lidl, but not quite as OK to talk about having enough to be profligate. And during a recession, shopping at Waitrose counts as profligacy.
It’s not the done thing to be flashy either, to show off what you’ve got, not that Waitrose could ever be described as flashy, but I guess it could be described as aspirational. I hate that word, I think it has negative connotations, as if wanting more or better is a bad thing. And I know that stuff doesn’t make you happy, but let’s leave that aside for now and admit that all humans want more.
I think it’s a class thing. I know we’re not supposed to take any notice of these things any more, but they’re still there, somewhere. An old, deep seated suspicion of anyone who wants to move outside the strict band proscribed by centuries of village life. The world is entirely different now to the days when you could or couldn’t read, had your own strip of land or didn’t. But there’s something that lingers in our DNA, that makes us aware of it like an itch on our skin. If you get more, then show it off, you’re a traitor. If you always had more, and you lord it over us, then we hate you. If you never had enough, you’re one of us. We all want to be one of us, whether we are or not.
So we poke fun at things that don’t fit into the one of us image. We feel uncomfortable identifying with something that markets itself as aspirational. Maybe that makes us kind people, who are deeply aware of the feelings of others. Or maybe we’re just scared of being laughed at.