Archive | May, 2013

In Pursuit of Stuff

15 May


The first time my mother pulled out food stamps in our local supermarket, I was confused. She had just bought me a new Kate Spade bag – a gateway purse  for any girl growing up in a wealthy enclave of Long Island. Could we really not afford cheese?

I had all the trappings of a middle class teen – Hard Tail pants that sagged ever-so-grandly in the derrière, Juicy Couture velour, and enough Abercrombie billboard apparel to wear to every gym class. While this could hardly compete with my peers who held their books in Prada backpacks and owned a Fendi bag in every make of  animal, I was content. I never coveted what they had. I understood that  excessive tokens were bestowed on these 16-year-olds on no merit of their own. Their mothers simply wanted them to be able to keep up with the over-Keratin’ed class.

We weren’t quite poor, at least not in the traditional sense. My one bedroom apartment was modest compared to my besties’ estates. Instead of a housekeeper to make me grilled cheese after school, I packed a snack and nibbled in the lunch room of my mom’s hair salon. I did all of the vacuuming.

My mom raised me by herself, with some weekend help from my Bronx-bred dad who considered brands like Express high-fashion. He owned a t-shirt company and couldn’t understand why I’d ever want to purchase pants with someone else’s name on it when I had a perfectly good arsenal of tie-dyed hoodies waiting for me at his warehouse. Despite occasionally admiring quilted clutches with signature c’s, I had enough confidence on my own that I didn’t need a $4,000 shield against the cruel kids.

While my brethren were in class plotting who was going to use their fake ID to buy Smirnoff that weekend, I was spending sick days on the welfare line with my mother, getting a humbling portrait of humanity that the kids in bio class had only seen in Spike Lee films.

This duality gave me a solid comprehension of dollar value and a nearly holy knowledge at an impressionable age that having “stuff” doesn’t make you better.

Being at peace with my outlook on pricey goods has been almost entirely compromised since I started planning my wedding. I always knew I wasn’t going to spend an inordinate amount on my gown (and by that I mean, I’d keep it under 3K) but what I didn’t realize is how many other props need to be purchased to accompany your “big day,” or in my case, my big week.

I chose to have a tropical destination wedding for two reasons. Firstly (and most importantly) I wanted to kidnap guests for a few days to have one extended party where they were all laughably drunk for 48 hours with no car access. Secondly, I didn’t want to be tempted to fixate on details like linens and votive count. Currently, my wedding is in the hands of Mayte, a bohemian Argenintine who runs the remote beach restaurant we’ll be wed at in the Dominican Republic. Her average response rate between emails runs about three weeks but she closes our exchanges with “un abrazo” (Spanish for “a hug”) so I feel more at ease. There are entire bridal forums dedicated to this woman and the neurosis she stirs in Type A brides who nightly fret that they won’t see their centerpieces until two days before their reception. For me, this is perfect. I’m entirely too indecisive to control the outcome of my decorations. Instead, I sent my Pinterest board off to Mayte to give her a sense of just how many twinkle lights I desire, dappled with a few photos of peonies. Presto. Wedding planning done, right? So very wrong.

In an unforeseeable circumstance, I have found myself unemployed in the months leading up to my wedding. A note to brides everywhere: this may seem like a fantasy. It is not. Too many hours logged on Style Me Pretty will make you feel utterly inadequate. These virtual bride-to-be’s transformed from my inspiration to my nemeses who did everything better.

To fill my free time, I use task lists to feel productive. Things like “find best ever monogrammed tumblers,” and “research tankinis with complementary swim skirts” have become full day affairs and sources of stress. Even after ticking off jobs, I’m left wondering if I did in fact get the perfect robe for my bridesmaids. Perhaps they’d prefer boxers, or tanks or ironic headbands. How do you pick one item that expresses proper gratitude to your outstanding friends? I know! A chevron makeup case with their initials on it definitely says, “I appreciate you.” There’s no harm in the occasional procrastination when you’re on the clock, but when finding these items is your only occupation, absolute bride-sanity ensues.

One of the simultaneously best and worst things to happen to news media was the creation of 24/7 coverage. I can say this with complete authority because I spent a fortune on a masters in journalism and once met Ted Turner. This is how I feel about the bridal publishing market. It’s so over saturated that every website is just trying to make some noise. This creates major anxiety in otherwise normal girls. I’ve been able to tune most of the chaos out over the course of my nearly three year engagement. But now, with two months to go before my wedding, I’m beginning to worry that I didn’t study enough for the exam. Did I get enough facials? Some blogs say you should be going every month. Should I have stopped eating salt / white bread / white chocolate / brown soda / tequila by now? I’ve never even had an acai berry! Which of the 700 workouts on Pinterest will actually give me the best bridal booty in 7 days? And where do I get a trousseau? Does that come with the cake?

Every time I pass a shop window, I feel a strong pull to go inside – maybe within lies the one purchase that will give me composure before I make his life change. Maybe, just this once, the high end outpost will have the answer.

Like my grade school peers in Prada, my constant pursuit of items that I hope will make me my best self the week I get married has made me lose sight of what really matters. While I may not be secure in my choice of flip flops, cover-ups or crystalline sash, I am confident in my choice of who I’m marrying, even if I really need to work harder on finding him a proper swimsuit. That’s on next week’s to-do list.