Friday, February 09, 2007

Material girls

I just got a confirmation email: the dress I tried on at Denis Gagnon in Montreal last summer, could not afford at the time, could afford but not track down later in the year, a photo of which eventually made it to the designer's website, leading me to contact the store, only to find out that they were out of this dress till the end of January, is at last on its way. The dress is in the range of 300 Canadian dollars. That strikes me as a lot, but it's also the best dress ever, best-fitting, best style, fantastic, I will be thrilled to finally get it. I don't know Denis Gagnon from Adam, but his boutique in Montreal is an aesthetic mix of minimalist and fabulous that I cannot describe, the sort of place that would convince you a t-shirt it sold was the best ever made. But the dress was something else. I like it so much that I can think of no better way to rationalize this purchase than to say that I wanted it enough to pay what I consider a sort of embarassing amount for it.

Because I am a humongous dork, I just took a break from reading criticism of Proust in preparation for the upcoming paper-writing extravaganza, not to strut around Bobst in leggings, but to read some blogs I hadn't looked at in a while. On Crescat Sententia, Raffi Melkonian defends Amber Taylor's decision to spend over $1,000 on a bag, because quality matters. Both Amber and Raffi admit that they are rationalizing indulgence.

Rationalizing indulgence is, after drinking and complaining, the official sport of graduate school. No one has any money, yet as NYU students, we are amidst beautiful things in the boutiques of Nolita and Tribeca, the high-end chains of Soho, the little temptations of Sephora, the cheezy shoe stores of 8th Street... The most common phrase uttered to rationalize indulgence is, "It was on sale, so..." When we all know that means nothing, everything in this city is "on sale," year-round, obscuring what anything might "really" be worth. I've rationalized in this way, but more recently, upon buying a pair of winter boots at Camper (which were, incidentally, on sale), I told my boyfriend that I will surely wear these boots for years. He found this quite amusing--apparently this is a classic thing women say about shoes we buy. So a few weeks later, when I tried on a pair of overpriced, impractical vintage shoes, Missoni or Moschino or something, shiny, high-heeled, the right size but ill-fitting, Jo made reference to how I would, of course, wear them for years. Point taken. I didn't get the shoes, but this was mainly because I'm still waiting for the dress, and nothing else could possibly be as good.

As women, we need to stand behind our silly purchases, since, as Amber noted, men buy silly things unapologetically. It would also be a better world if, as part of our own rationalization, we did not judge others' comparable indulgences. Amber attributes her feeling that it's OK to buy a $1,000+ bag but not a $100,000 car to having grown up without much money. It doesn't quite add up--if the car could have been a house, couldn't the bag have been 500 meals? (Where I grew up--and still live-- houses are far more than $100,000, but a car, any car, is seen as a needless luxury, so I'll have to plead ignorance of all that relates to American car culture. Houses, as in, one-family buildings, are luxuries beyond comprehension in Manhattan. It's just a different world.) The part of adulthood during which you do not have to support anyone but yourself, that first moment when you do not have to ask anyone's permission to buy anything, is perhaps the moment not to rationalize, but, with a reasonable amount of consideration of what you can actually afford, get yourself something nice.