Sunday, September 16, 2007

Buying the Best (or at Least the Better)

When I first moved away from home I survived on a small income; I lived in student housing, ate where I worked, and was unaware (sometimes knee-jerk dismissive) that the items in Maslow's hierarchy of needs could differ noticeably in quality. Isn't food just food, a car just a car? Aren't all clothes essentially the same? Does spending more for something mean you're getting something BETTER, as opposed to just putting yourself in a hoity-toity category of elites?

I have more money now, and some things that people put in a cost-hierarchy -- expensive restaurants, food, wines, and cars -- are still beyond my understanding. But friend Vanilla will sometimes hand me a piece of high-quality wool and I'll hold it and think...wow, this feels incredible! Years of buying cheap clothing in chain stores -- and having to donate it or throw it out after five or six washings -- has taught me something about...well, the life-span cheap clothing. Friend Pete bought me a shot of Grey Goose vodka a few months ago and I was forced to admit that expensive alcohol really IS better. Now I spend a lot of time in liquor stores holding my stomach and crying.

Last week I bought an expensive pen. The initial idea was that paying good money for a pen would force me to USE it, but now I find myself holding the pen and thinking, "wow, this feels really good...it's like the Grey Goose of pens!" And when my last pair of cheap boots wore out after nine months, I found myself paying a bundle for a new moderately "good pair," and when I slip them on I know they're going to last. Or they'd better.

I have a reactionary response to what I consider "gentrification," that is, the ostentatious display of "wealth" with no regard for taste, appropriateness, or functionality. But here I am with my pen and my boots and my $50 hair-care products, not to mention all the money I've spent on CoverFX foundation (right down to the $40 "goat-hair brush"), and I wonder: why the change? Am I spending more money on these things simply because I CAN (or because I want to imagine myself as the sort of person who can) or because I'm appreciating "quality" more than I used to (or because I want to be a person who appreciates "quality?") There's a big distinction between those categories.

In short, I don't know. But if the biggest problem in my life is that I can now afford a beautiful pen, I suppose I'm doing pretty good for myself.

2 comments:

VanillaJ said...

I was wondering the exact same thing on the weekend. Ages ago I owned a single Esprit white cotton T-shirt and thought, "wow, this is luxury". It fit right, the cut was elegant, and the cotton held up to many, many washes without loosing shape. But recently I went into an Esprit store looking for another plain cotton T-shirt, and I was thoroughly unimpressed with every thing I saw there. Just shit. Same with the "Jacob" store! At one time, these stores were seemingly expensive, high end retailers when I was a young(er) woman. Now I'm grappling with the notion that they never where that shit-hot to begin with, or, perhaps they've re-evaluated their business model and are catering to a less discerning target market. I dunno!

Anyway, I was in Toronto on the weekend and I walked past this "Specchio" (sp?) shoe store in Yorkville. I accidently fell in love with the most beautiful boots I saw in the window. The brand was "Ixos", and I can find any information on the internet, but they are no doubt Italian & expensive ($400+). Now, all I do is dream about owing these boots, which I don't NEED, only WANT. A little bit of money is poison, man, and all I can do is burn with the possibility of possessing them. Wah! Fruit of Knowledge, and all that shit!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I just assumed you had ALWAYS been aware of thread-count!

I think these places have never been very sh*t hot, since they are ultimately catering to trends, and trends move on faster than their clothes disintegrate. Why pay more for a well-manufactured pair of sweatpants with "Juicy" on the butt, when next year nobody will be wearing them (except when they're doing their laundry)?

Fruit of knowledge, root of all evil...