Buying a life

This time of year is one of my favorite’s mail-wise. As a hangover from an era where I was a near-19th-century level letter writer, I love getting the mail. It is exceedingly rare, however, for the mail to now contain a thick letter full of news. It is surpassingly rare for said thick letter to be from a guy I have a crush on. Ah, the tragedy of a happily married 33 year old! But this time of year does bring something to look forward to. The Christmas catalogs have begun arriving.

While wandering in Ashland this summer, feeling all arty and erudite, I pondered the identity on sale there. Ashland is particularly well suited to my desired persona. Many of the boutiques sold the idea of a tea-drinking, poetry-reading, Shakespeare-literate woman of leisure and humor, who possibly also gardens and cooks in her copious spare time. I’m so into that identity. There as stationery for the bit of me that pretends I still write letters. There were whimsical pieces of art for the aspect of me that has a lovely, decorated home that only needs whimsical pieces of art to be complete. There were books I should read and funky vintage clothes and singing oriental water bowls. I was tempted by historically inspired perfumes (appallingly expensive), hand-crafted pottery (succumbed – I really do use pie plates!), small batch teas and celtic-knotwork embossed leather wallets.

That’s probably the lifestyle sales pitch that most appeals to me – and is why I should not go shopping in Ashland often.

These catalogs sell entirely different lifestyles. For example:

Grandin Road: This is the magazine for the McMansion owner with a very large pool who throws away everything they own annually in order to buy whole new ones. The average Grandin Road customer possesses a second house where they store all the decorations and furniture for the holiday not currently in progress. It remains a mystery how Grandin Road customers have enough money for all their decorations, since completely re-doing their decor every two months in their 22 room mansions is time consuming. Whatever time is not spent redecorating is spent: in the pool, at cocktail/dinner parties with 6 childless friends or making exotic mixed drinks.

What I actually bought there: An inflatable bed for the guest room.

It folds up!
It folds up!

LL Bean: The LL Bean catalog is intended for the independently wealthy outdoorsy type who can spend more money on flannel than I spent on my very best interviewing suit. The average LL Bean customer lives on a lake, spends weekends hiking and never, ever wears anything but solids or stripes. LL Bean customers have two children and a dog. Their children never lose their coats or mittens. LL Bean customers may have a job, but it does not involve anything more fancy than business casual.

What I actually bought there: The most expensive shoes I own

Last year I bought black. This year I'm totally getting brown. They never did go on sale.
Last year I bought black. This year I'm totally getting brown. They never did go on sale.

Oriental Trading Company: Customers at the Oriental see roughly 50 kids a day, and must fend all of them off with presents. At least 50% of those customers run a Vacation Bible School, or are looking for ways to have a Christian Halloween party. The walls of a Oriental Trading customer are completely plastered with bedazzled art projects featuring foam monkeys, they sell glow-in-the-dark paraphernalia under the table during 4th of July celebrations, and their 12 children are dressed entirely in tie-dye and fabric painted t-shirts.

What I actually bought there: Turns out I’m a Sunday School teacher with kids – aka their target demographic

But I was still only crazy enough to do an all church Easter Egg hunt once.
But I was still only crazy enough to do an all church Easter Egg hunt once.

My final analysis of the day is for a lifestyle sale that I absolutely DO NOT WANT. At the hair salon the other day (I KNOW!) I was flipping through one of those style magazines. UGH. None of the clothes looked like they could be washed. None of the people looked happy. Heck most of the models were downright unattractive. I read an article about a woman who was addicted to chemically peeling her face off regularly and was forced (?!?!) to go cold turkey because she’d damaged it so badly. I’ve made progress in the last decade. I dress not badly. I wear jewelry and makeup on a regular basis. Heck, I go to a hair salon instead of cutting my own locks in the kitchen. But pffft. It stops there, man. I want no part of your designed, druggie, unhappy, how-ugly-can-you-get-and-still-be-pretty, high maintenance, high drama lifestyles!

Beautiful people don't smile
Beautiful people don't smile

How about you? Which lifestyle sales speak to who you wish you were? Which ones turn you off? Which do you find downright inexplicable?

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

4 thoughts on “Buying a life”

  1. Ah, the Grandin Road catalog. Home to the Most Expensive Patio Furniture on the planet, if I’m not mistaken. I will always remember that day when I opened it, spotted a devastatingly gorgeous outdoor chaise, and then fainted dead away at the price. Something like that sticks with you, you know.

    I too think that many of this season’s fashions are appalling. Of course, I was the one who got on the skinny jeans bus loooong after it had left the station and now flare jeans are back in style and MAKE IT STOP. Also, make me skinnier.

    I still have a soft spot for Uncommon Goods.

    Been reading your updates. Thinking of you, on your up-and-down road to full recovery. You are a much stronger person than I. This too shall pass…


    1. I refuse to spend more on patio furniture than dining room furniture! And the only thing I like about this season’s fashion is that orangey/salmon color.

      Today was my first day when I felt normalish. I was wandering around with a brace, but I was wandering. I finally cleaned the house, which was sorely and desperately needed after a fortnight of neglect and decay. And now I’m using my need to ice my knee as an excuse to watch another inning or two of baseball!


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