You know the drill. Read or listen to me read it to you through some wired Apple headphones, half asleep from writing entirely too late. :) Special shout out to the new faces here. I don’t really know how you found me, but I hope you’ll stick around.
I’ve recently gotten into nighttime tea. Something about a hot beverage in low lighting is universally pacifying and so who am I, human Pop Rocks, to resist ritualized come-down?
Last night’s selection was honey vanilla chamomile. Lodged in the very back of the tea shelf, which is already the very top shelf, I had to bust out my step stool *and* crawl onto the counter to snag it. (Proof that some of us are so high-strung, we’ll risk it all for relaxation.)
As I wiggled and scooched, I was scandalized by my countertop: a shoddily arranged display of chrome-trimmed Target appliances. The rice cooker is beside the coffee maker is beside the electric tea kettle is beside the espresso machine is beside the air fryer is beside the food processor and there I was, dangling before it all, concerned with the aesthetic when I’m about to bust my fucking ankle for some tea.
When I climbed down, it took all of me not to Amazon Prime a storage cabinet. For $147, I could resemble a person who has their life together. Or at least the kitchen in their rental apartment. But like so many prior instances of searching such cabinets, I opted out, and felt a familiar, sad wave of what could be.
Incidentally, two days ago, a small, white cabinet on wheels arrived, which Andrew promptly assembled. My beauty cart (as I’m calling it) stores my headbands and headscarves. My sheet masks. Ouai perfume in “Melrose Place” and Chanel body lotions. All of the steadily acquired potions, tools, and adornments that make me feel like a Real Girl.
The beauty cart has shared utility. It frees up space in our microscopic bathroom so Andrew can get ready without knocking 40 of my products off the sink. It was justified. But when I search for justification for all the shit that it holds (e.g., that Ouai perfume, which I just bought last week after smelling it on a friend), I come up short. And therein lies the real problem. The same problem that demands a free-standing pantry.
Yesterday afternoon, my friend Cass asked if I wanted to go on a trip over Presidents’ Day. Something about “a 10-day trip will only use four days of PTO” was all it took. Mystified by the Caucasus, we’d been scheming on Georgia and Armenia for a while. But the call to Petra was too loud and now we have a spreadsheet of flights to Amman.
Do you know what it’s like to stare down a $1600 price tag for a non-essential flight, right after Christmas? It is a privileged terror. But more terrifying, to me, is missing a dream trip during the few years I have left before motherhood—a stage of my life that I anticipate settling into for a bit before seeing any more of the world.
I started thinking about how I’m going to afford the trip…
Consider the pantry forgone.
I’ll uh… stay in? A lot?
Let’s cancel those StockX bids before we even place them.
… or, I could sell my Balenciaga stuff! Yes! I paid pennies for it when a friend worked there so it’s PRACTICALLY all profit! Wouldn’t that be both genius *and* ethical after that pedophiliac campaign? The shoes do make my ankles bleed, after all.
Cardi B once said “Balenciaga mama, I know you heard about her.” And from my first unboxing, I decided that was me. That I am her. Almost immediately I grew queasy at the thought of parting with my ballerina pink leather purse, fuchsia sling-backs, and the black silk slip skirt that fits so perfectly and goes with everything. Like, please, God, I see what you’ve done for others; don’t make me replace that skirt with some H&M bullshit.
I began mourning lost looks, all the perfect topknots and baggy jeans and gold jewelry that’d never hit the same again without pops of luxury.
Looking back on my marathon in November and the preceding months of training, I bought more gear in those 16 weeks than I did in 10+ years running. Every other day I was chopping it up with the staff at Philadelphia Runner, comparing hydration vests, swapping stories of chafing nightmares over a selection of Body Glide.
I’d eventually reached a low point where I was consuming so much sneaker literature that I felt like if I didn’t try the Nike Alphafly, I would perish. That shoe retails for $275. Luckily I found them half off, but that was just days after buying a brand new pair of Hoka Arahis.
I kept telling myself the Alphaflys were for “speedwork” and “to play with,” and on what planet does one need a whole other pair of running sneakers to “play with?” Certainly not the one I’d occupied the last decade. Still, I became enraptured by my Alphaflys. I shoved my Hokas in the closet and declared myself Queen of the Schuylkill River Trail.
A queen needs her regalia.
The side of me that has a physical response to stuff feels foreign, like a parasite I can’t kill. One that crawled into my psyche when I started affording my bills and said “we live like this now.” She loves faux fur and Italian leather and sipping espresso on her shitty direct-to-consumer couch. She likes to mingle with the jeweler whenever she’s “in the neighborhood.” Use an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and a MacBook at the same. damn. time.
She is someone I love and appreciate for her playful vacuity. A world without Bimbo Diva Spend Freaks loses its hot pink veneer.
But she is someone I loathe for thwarting my evolution toward wanting less, owning less, being less.
In Game of Thrones, our young heroine Arya Stark meets Jaqen H’Gar, a Faceless Man from Braavos. The Faceless Men are assassins in service of the Many-Faced God. Though their role in the series stands unclear and debated, the Faceless Men honor death as the only truth. And in Arya’s pursuit of joining them, H’Gar teaches her how to “become no one.” To become no one is to lose one’s identity entirely. To be a blank slate for higher purpose, however mysterious or evil.
The loss of self, both material and immaterial, shows up throughout GoT. When the queen, Cersei Lannister is forced to atone for her various crimes upon rise of the Faith Militant, she is “stripped of her finery”: short-haired, disrobed, and dragged through the streets for the people to see her for who she really is. (Unrelated, ‘twas a great scene in television for sexy villains.)
Sometimes I want to become no one. To be stripped of my finery. But then I blink and another package lands on the stoop.
Certain stuff, like running gear and kitchen appliances (and the cabinet that could hold them), makes me wonder: are we afforded grace when we purchase instruments of passion, especially those as sacred as cooking or exercise? Habits that undoubtedly raise our collective consciousness when nurtured?
Or do we bastardize our passions with each unnecessary gadget claimed to “enhance the experience?”
Sometimes I feel like the more tools I acquire to run or to cook, the more I betray exactly what I love about running and cooking: their simplicity. I could make magic with one decent pan and someone’s gently used Asics and yet! I’m sitting pretty, wanting for nothing. Credit card balance on Mount Everest.
And as for my Balenciaga meltdown, how far does self-expression go in justifying material attachment? Why is material attachment such a moral failure anyway if it doesn’t impede one’s love for others? I don’t have the answers and neither do you. But at least asking helps me sleep at night.
I’ve recently revisited the idea of getting a therapist. One of the issues I plan to tackle is the PTSD of growing up poor. It’s something I’ve explored in writing, but I’m at a place in my life where I think, to find that coveted middle ground on the spectrum of materialism, and to heal my financial anxiety, will require digging deeper.
Nonetheless, I don’t need a therapist to tell me that formative memories of shame and isolation fuel both the cope of excessive spending, and the longing for abandonment of all possessions. You reject the thing that separated you from your peers. And yet you want to out-fucking-earn your peers (will never happen, but imagine!)
Every day under the big C word presents a new opportunity to consult my own Faceless Man on the path to enlightenment. I may not want to become no one. In fact, I may want to be a loud, colorful, luxurious someone. But I’d like that someone to master restraint like a French omelette. Store the pan in a cheap, new cabinet.
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“A world without Bimbo Diva Spend Freaks loses its hot pink veneer.” A bar 😮💨
You know my heart. 😩
I have some stability myself now and it has become very easy to activate that Apple Pay for some of those tiny luxuries I swear I deserve. I bought a few cashmere sweaters (but they were on sale!) and look at winter with a twinge of thrill instead of dread. I bought sexy earplugs but I’m not even sure I need them but I might travel more this year soooo...
As always, loved this. We are vibing. Shoutout to the Schuylkill track. I hardly new ye.