Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fig #2

For this week's experience, I've chosen #51 out of 52 figs to pursue: Buy a frivolous luxury item and use it all, with abandon.

I'm fully aware this might seem strange to add to a list of experiences one may have put off in her life, but I can assure you that for me, the idea of doing this is a little overwhelming. Let me explain.........

I have a friend. We were Peace Corps site mates in China for two years together. I remember when she would get a care package. It was always very exciting to get care packages, because they usually included food items that we couldn't get in China. Erin's parents always sent stuff like Cheetos, too, which was fabulous (you have no idea how much you miss junk food until it's gone........). Anyway, I remember when she'd get her packages. We'd have to go downtown to the post office, which we would usually do by taxi instead of bus, that's how excited we were. We'd haggle through the process of trying to explain, in Chinese, that we had a package from America. Most times, we'd be at the wrong post office, so we'd flag down another taxi and go careening through the madness of a Chinese city street, our hearts pumping with the prospect of processed cheese, in a can.

Erin would get her package, and we'd flag down another taxi, and then she'd open the box - right there, in the taxi. It always amazed me. She didn't wait. She didn't gingerly finger the box, gazing at the packaging tape or run her hand across the letters of her name. No, she simply tore into it and start pulling stuff out, shrieking with delight. And she'd open a bag of Doritos right then and there, offering some to me, and that's how we'd make it back to our campus, our fingers encrusted in Doritos-orange goo.

I visited my friend once at her home in Colorado, and she amazed me again. She got new pants, and when we got home, she stripped off her old pants, grabbed the new ones, tore off the tag, tossed it aside and slid right into those babies. She didn't put them in her closet, to look at them later. She didn't wait until she'd taken a shower. She didn't wait for a special event. No, she put them on and then went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. I mean, those pants could have gotten dirty, for God's sake.

As you might have guessed, I am the antithesis of my friend. Before I buy an item, I agonize over it. I research it. I think about it. I discuss it ad nauseum with everyone I know. Then, I go and look it over. I might even put it into my cart. I stroll through the store and I think about it some more. Then, I look at it again. I put it back on the shelf, telling myself I don't need it. I go back to it. I do this over and over again, until I either put it back for good or finally buy it. Then, I get it home and put it away, safely in the back of my closet, still in the store bag, tags secure. About 70% of the time, I return it.

I bought Jimmy Choo shoes this summer, and I returned them. I return many of the clothing items I buy. I'm not sure why exactly I do this. I think it likely hearkens back to my childhood, when we had some lean years and money was tight and my parents told us all about it. Of course, when your mom is boiling water for baths on the stove, I guess that really does say it all.

I remember once, when I was about 10 or so, we got new shoes. They were white, and they were for church. We got them at Payless, but I didn't know at the time that Payless was cheap or discount. I only knew that I LOVED those white shoes. My mother told us to put them away until Sunday, which my sister and I did. We would take the boxes out from underneath our beds, after we'd been put down for the night, and look at our new shoes. I was afraid to wear them, afraid to spoil the newness of them, afraid that they'd become commonplace if I wore them.

I think I'm always afraid for the proverbial other-shoe to drop. I'll buy a luxury item, and if I use it then I can't return it, and we might go over our credit limit and then we'll lose our house and cars and be shuffling around from homeless shelter to homeless shelter in search of food. It's similar to the reason I never smoked pot: for fear that I'd end up in a gutter somewhere, hopelessly addicted to crack-cocaine, my teeth having rotted out.

As you can see, I take things to the extreme. I mean, we don't even carry credit card balances and invest heavily in our retirements (a point I push so hard on my husband has to remind me that we're living now, too).

There is an upside to this fear of mine, and that is that my husband never worries that I'll go out and spend us into oblivion. He always says that I'm "self regulating," and that gaining weight or spending money always bothers me much more than it bothers him, so he never has to say anything to me at all. I might come home with $500 worth of clothes, but he knows that likely $350 of those are going back to the store. And if I gain 5 lbs? He knows I'll eat salads and soups for a week to get it off.

I am, obviously, afraid that one tiny step will snowball into an avalanche of misfortune.

I am also afraid that if I use up all the good stuff in life, I'll be stuck with the leftovers - mediocrity. What happens when my fancy purse becomes commonplace? When it's not fancy anymore? What happens when I can afford to buy Jimmy Choos and there isn't the thrill of doing so? What happens when a stay at the Ritz is just a stay at the Ritz?

I'll be honest: I secretly feel sorry for rich people, because if anything could take the thrill out of life, it would be copious amounts of money. But I also kind of feel sorry for me, because the agony of all of this really takes the joy out of treating oneself, even if it's only once in a blue moon (as, really, it should be).

So, I am going to buy a luxury item, an item I've been wanting for over a year now. And I'm going to take it out of the bag, rip the tags off and use it. I'm not going to ration it out. I'm not going to take it one tiny smidgen at a time. I'm going to use it - not waste it, mind you - until it's gone. I'm going to enjoy it. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to see if it's worth it.

The item I'm going to buy is Creme de la Mer body lotion. I've wanted it for ages. I actually use (sparingly and with agony) their face cream. I love it. Well, I was given a sample of the body lotion a year ago, and I loved it too. I remember it being silky and smelling very good and feeling like I'd done something lovely to myself. But, I would never allow myself to spend the money.

The body lotion is about $200 for 10 oz.

I am going to Nordstrom this week to purchase it. I'll report back...........


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