I live a life that my mother has affectionately dubbed a “champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.” She’s not the first to throw this phrase at me, nor did she coin it. I am one of millions who probably live this way: from penny to penny, but with champagne in hand — champagne that is sometimes bought with pennies. I think the word “gluttony” also comes into play in these cases.
I would never deny the fact that I live beyond my means, that I’m spoiled or that I think it’s totally reasonable to drop several thousand dollars on a Birkin bag. Although I’ve yet to do the latter, I dream of the day that I can. It’s not a persistent dream, or one that conquers my every thought, but it’s there somewhat close to the forefront of my brain. I just know that the crutch of my arm would love to be snuggled up against the straps of an Hermès bag. I know that my arm would confirm this, if it had a mouth with which to speak.
In a world that has ingrained in our head that luxury and material objects are what we really all need and want, it’s hard to escape it. From magazine ads that show beautiful people dripping in Tiffany diamonds or traveling with every piece of Louis Vuitton luggage ever designed, it’s very easy to lose sight of reality. Our society has taught us that money can buy us whatever we want, and the more we have, the more we want, and somewhere along the line you can quell a sadness with a pair of shoes. There’s a reason why the term “retail therapy” exists.
When I returned to my apartment last week, after being in Paris for a few months, I was saddened to find that woman with whom I did the swap — or one of her friends — had stolen from me. A brand new coat from J.Crew that still had the tags on it and was in the back of the closet was gone, J.Crew shorts and skirts that also still had the tags were missing, brand new Clinique products from Christmas had been swiped and my beloved pair of pink Prada shoes, the ones I bought the first week I moved to New York City that I promised to keep until I died, had also been taken. After a long flight, lost luggage thanks to the airline, saying goodbye my love Olivier and coming home to a trashed apartment — on top of my usual fragile emotional state — I was devastated. I had been robbed by someone whom I trusted to be in my space for that amount of time, and considering how avidly she claimed her innocence, I knew I was never going to see those things again.
I had just come back from a trip that very few will get to have in their lifetime. I’m a woman who was able to drop her life in New York City to run off to a Paris to deal, or rather avoid, the emotional issues that plague me here. I have never wanted for much, I have a phenomenal group of friends who love me despite the fact that I’m a nutcase, a family who does everything for me, and yet there I was, like a brat, throwing a fit over Prada shoes and J.Crew. Yes, the shoes had a sentimental value, but as a friend pointed out to me last night, shoes don’t last forever and they would have eventually fallen apart — the same goes for the coat, the other articles of clothing, and it’s not like I wasn’t going to use that Clinique cream until every last drop was gone. None of it was going to last forever, because materialistic things don’t — that’s both their beauty and their curse.
When I pitched this topic to Ashley last week I was still fuming over what had been stolen. I was trying my best to not hold such anger in my heart after such an amazing few months, but I was losing. I was being a materialistic girl in a material world. I was Madonna sans the dress, diamonds and men. I was being an asshole.
Then the bombings in Boston happened this past Monday.
On Boylston Street, a street I’ve walked a hundred times, during a race I’ve gone to easily a dozen times in my life, two bombs went off. We all saw what happened, we all grieved (and are still grieving) the atrocity, and my Boston roots do not make my grieving anymore significant than anyone else. We are all in this together, and before we could even process what happened, there was yesterday’s tragedy in Texas.
It may be an awful way to have a realization, but it’s in moments like these, when so much devastation is happening all around us that we’re forced to realize how ridiculous we are to mourn the loss of a pair of Prada shoes, or a Birkin bag we may never have. It’s insulting to us as a species with a really large brain that should be able to discern sense from nonsense.
So, why should we stop living for materialism in a material world? Because materialism won’t love you back. Anything without a pulse, isn’t worth the time and energy as something that does have one. Stuff can be replaced; people cannot. There’s an entire warehouse of J.Crew coats exactly like the one I got for Christmas, the one I left behind to be altered upon my return to New York City, but there is only one Sam, Jennifer, Ashley and Jamie. Each person you will meet in your life will be irreplaceable, each person you lose in some petty argument will have made an impact on you in some way, just as you will have done the same to them. Your pets can’t be replaced, your memories can’t be replaced, and the time you’ve spent grieving over what you don’t have instead of immersing yourself in the what you do have is definitely a waste.
I know that sometimes it takes a national tragedy to make us understand just how precious life is, and how everything else, especially materialistic objects, should come further down on the list, but that’s just sad that this has to be the case. That says something about our culture, and what it says is that we need to have our heads checked. It’s not wrong to appreciate beautiful and lavish things, but it’s wrong to place importance on them that they don’t deserve. Even diamonds lose their luster eventually, my friends.
Simply, if something doesn’t hug you back, when you hug it, then that says everything. And if your Birkin does tell you that it loves you, too, some night when you’re cuddled up in bed, then you may need to switch your anti-psychotic drugs stat. Living for objects that don’t bleed when they fall, makes us even more heartless than they are.