Sunday, November 19, 2006

Luxury isn't all it's cracked up to be


This year, Buy Nothing Day covers the 24 busiest hours in the American shopping calender, on 24 and 25 November. I will be participating, only because I buy nothing on at least 300 out of every 365 days of the year. If everything about the nauseating excesses of Christmas consumerism makes you want to hurl, I urge you to join me.

I hardly ever use a credit or debit card. I usually don't even carry cash. I get most of my clothes on sale or at thrift stores, because I would not pay the inflated prices of new clothes even if I had money to burn, which I don't. 'Twas not always thus. Six years ago, before I had kids, I did not look at the price tag on shoes or clothes. I was seduced by the cut of a designer suit, the sheer prettiness of silk underwear, the scent of really expensive perfume. I enveloped myself in a gorgeous sensual world. I spent whatever money I earned, not only on myself, but on others. I like to think I was generous.

Sure, sometimes I do still get a thrill from a brush with luxury. Like last year, when I stayed in the Millenium Hilton in Manhattan with my French friend Brigitte. Staying there for the weekend with her did make me happy, for the first few hours, at least. For one thing, Brigitte shelled out for the hotel. For another, we were sharing a room on the 40th floor and one wall of the room was just glass, and the view of Manhattan at night was just so thrilling, it sent cold chills up my spine.

But then, after a few hours, Brigitte started to annoy me. We went out with some friends, and it was obvious she was going to go home with this guy, who, she claimed, looked like Joaquin Phoenix (I couldn't see it myself). But because she didn't feel bold enough to ask him if she could just go back to his place, I had to hang around to see if he was going to ask, which he eventually did, at 3am, when I was ready to collapse from Martini overload. So once she'd gone off with him, I excitedly went back to the hotel room, thrilled that I'd be sleeping in the king size bed on my own, rather than sharing it with her. My joy was short lived however, because she came back at eight am, and proceeded to make lots of noise showering (Why? Shouldn't she have been revelling in Joaquin's scent?). She then got into bed with me and started telling me what a fant-ast-ique lov-eeer this guy was and all about his body. And I'm like, I'm at a luxury hotel without the kids. I want to sleep. I don't particularly find it fascinating that although he is a dermatologist he has flaky skin on his back! Okay?

And then, later that day, I felt a bit like a prostitute. I felt like I had to do whatever Brigitte wanted, just because she was picking up the tab. We ended up haring all over Manhattan to find a certain design of Ralph Lauren shirt for her on-off boyfriend in London, which was very tedious. Then the second night, Brigitte slept at Joaquin's pad, so I had the bed to myself, which was sweet, but didn't compensate for the hours I'd spent in the Ralph Lauren Mansion (which I don't recommend by the way, it's peopled by extremely patronizing shop assistants with gelled back hair, who look down their noses at you). In short, the luxury of the weekend did not outweigh the human hassles of dealing with a Ralph Lauren shirt obsessed French nymphomaniac.

I should be pleased I am no longer the victim of marketing, but it is funny to think that nothing material makes me happy any more. It's good to be so free, but at the same time, so lost. Still looking for that thing that will give me contentment. At the moment only booze, sleep, writing fiction and funnily enough, exercising, make me feel upbeat. Which leads me to the question, what non-material things gives you the greatest happiness?

14 comments:

CrankMama said...

Dear Em,
Now if you come visit, I'll make sure not to pay for anything so you don't feel like a prostitute (KIDDING)

Seriously, my list (minus the exercise) is like yours.. except I'd add orgasms (masturbatory ones -- I know, TMI), laughing my ass off at my funny younger brother, reading a wonderfully written book, and having quiet time ALONE in the house (like I do now).

--Rachael

Moobs said...

Easy one: Climbing into bed when I have been working late and "spooning" with P. Which is what I am going to do right now.

Sorry to hear you've given up silk underwear though.

Domestic Slackstress said...

OMG! I want to BE you! I spend no matter the form - cash, credit, a handful of quarters stolen in the night from my kids. Eeek. I spend too much on lattes, everything. And we're broke ... likely because of me. Thanks for your visit to my blog. Digging yours.

Meva said...

I like your list, too. And crankmama's idea of alone-time in the house is a REAL luxury.

Getting out of the city is a biggie with me, too. A walk in the quiet bush, where the only noise is the crunch of your boots on dried leaves and twigs, the rustle of lizards getting out of your way, and the call of a dozen different birds. All free, and really good for the soul.

Gamba said...

Ballet and breakdancing.

Fussy Bitch said...

Freshly laundered bed linen.

Getting a second glance and a smile when I'm just shopping for food.

Squishing me and all three kids on the sofa to watch a movie and knowing they each have an equal piece of me and vice versa. Double the happiness factor if they don't bicker all through the movie.

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

Hmmmm.non material things huh? That's tough, I find myself yearning for more material things than I actually need.

I'd hafta say: hugs. I need to be hugged often. It makes me happy. I hug my daughter more than she likes because I need them. My husband has learned to just hug and not ask questions. I am a hugger.

Emma Kaufmann said...

Crankmama...oh yeah, I forgot masturbation, that's always good as a non addictive mood altering drug...although come to think of it I haven't even done much of that lately. Yeah, and reading, I am totally addicted to novels, always have one on the go.

Moobs...Your marriage sounds so blissful, you are lucky to have found P. And she is lucky to have found you!

Actually my husband does buy me a lot of silk underwear so I don't go short!

domestic slackstress...The only reason I got any kind of control over my spending was because for a while I handed over all my cards to my husband, because I could not control myself. And now the impulse has left me. Wierd.

meva...yeah holidays are always fun, but not with kids. I just mean, with kids they are not relaxing.

gamba...wow, you can spin on your head?

fussy bitch...Yeah I can relate to the freshly laundered bed linen, only I'm usually too lazy to change it more than about one a fortnight cos i'm a slob.

Janet...you are absolutely right. A hug from my daughters invariably gives me a lift.

Gamba said...

No, but the Breakdancer makes my head spin.

Kristin said...

The non material things that give me the greatest happiness - well, my family is the obvious answer, (even though I have to bribe the children from time to time)... and I love the smell of saltwater in my hair.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

doing my art (painting) and watching my Tivo shows. :)

meno said...

i love the story about the temporary roommate. Sounds like the kind of crap that happened in college. At least she didn't bring him back to the room.

I will append your list with cats and tea.

Viscountess of Funk said...

Dear Emma:
I really like this post. It's completely disengenuous when a person who has NEVER loved luxury says she shuns materialistism, quite another when a person says, "been there done that" as you have so well.

I could go on and on about my family and kids, but that is probably an obvious response to "what non-material thing gives you the most happiness?" Less obvious answers: Smiling at a frowning stranger and seeing him or her eventually smile back; the way the sky in Seattle looks on a clear winter day; writing; the feeling I get when my basement is clean; a really good juicy orange; reading about history. Thanks for the post.

Baja Babe said...

Lovely post...My answers:
- reading and writing
- looking into my boyfriend's eyes
- playing fetch with my dog
- cooking for friends