Thanks to AARP Magazine, Life in the Boomer Lane is told that her wide swings between thriftiness and excess can be blamed entirely on genetics. She can now efficiently file that away in the same place that she puts her height, intelligence and boob size.
According to AARP, our genetics and brain wiring predisposes us to be either thrifty or extravagant, “long before we have money to spend.” LBL has always been fascinated by the idea of thrifty vs extravagant, since she considers herself fully capable of either extreme, depending on the item and the circumstances. Of course, she has her limits. No clothing item, no matter how fabulous, is worth much more than $200. Beyond that point, she begins to envision small children holding tin bowls, asking her if the $225 she is considering spending on a pair of jeans might better be spent to help keep them alive. (To be entirely honest, LBL will now admit that when she decides not to purchase the jeans for that reason, she doesn’t then go home and send the children with the tin bowls a check for $225.)
Her willingness to part with her money for non-essential goods is, instead, determined less by how attractive those goods are or by what a bargain they are, than they are to how much they contribute to her fantasy life. Goods that strongly support her fantasy life are real winners. Those that support her actual life are only purchased when they are serious bargains.
Workout wear: Working out is part of LBL’s actual life. LBL has been going to the gym for 42 years. With all due respect to Lululemon and all the other outrageously expensive gym duds, in LBL’s 42-year gym attendance, her attitude hasn’t improved one iota. Wearing expensive, cute clothes while she is doing whatever it is she is forced to do in the gym, only adds insult to injury. Her gym wardrobe is old, from Marshalls or TJ Maxx. The bottoms of her gym pants are now scissored off, due to her shrinking stature.
Tableware: Unlike workout wear, tableware is part of LBL’s fantasy life. She envisions spectacular dinner parties of close friends, wine and cheese get-togethers before dining out, elaborate brunches when family and out-of-towners come to visit.expensive ceramic dishes from new Zealand, and fabulous serving spoons and salad tongs. The truth is that dinners are ultra-casual affairs, in which Now Husband cooks and then puts the pots directly on the table. Or, fish is grilled outside and everyone gathers around the table, eats, and swats mosquitoes away.
Cookware and food storage is a subset of tableware. No expense is too much for great-looking cookware and food storage. Although LBL rarely cooks, she has all items on display. The pots and pans hang from a rack, the ceramic pie pans on a wire shelf, next to the refrigerator. The pantry is an open space, filled with shelves of wire racks, bins, and hand-picked storage jars, all filled with ingredients. All items have been arranged in the most efficient way possible, ready to leap into action, at a moment’s notice. For years, they have been mostly relaxing.
LBL’s ultimate fantasy is to have guests see a line of mugs, ceramic creamers and sugar, tiny spoons, and lovely napkins, all laid out next to the coffee maker. For that reason, she has a collection of handmade artisan coffee mugs, a ceramic creamer from Japan, and a collection of tiny iron and metal spoons. The reality is that when guests wake up, LBL tells them to grab a mug and root through the kitchen to find whatever they want to put into their coffee.
Clothing is often a part of LBL’s fantasy life, especially clothing she envisions wearing at some lovely warm-weather setting. If she can wear it while sitting on a terrace, with a view of the ocean, she will spring for the item. This has resulted in her purchasing gauzy, diaphanous tops that look terrible while shopping at Safeway, and numerous summer wraps that don’t work in DC’s sticky, humid summer weather.
LBL is also a sucker for clothing that can’t actually be worn in any known climate. She loves the look of women she sees in catalogs, wearing summer clothing with scarves, slouchy, off-the-shoulders sweaters, and thin-knit long coats. The reality is that, if it’s warm enough for summer clothing, a scarf is suffocating. If it’s cold enough for a sweater, why wouldn’t she want her shoulders to be warm? And thin long, coats don’t fit any season she is aware of. None of these clothes belong anywhere on earth, except for between the covers of the catalogs.
Tee shirts and jeans are, like workout wear, part of LBL’s real life. For that reason, her jeans cost $25 and her tees are from a variety of stores like H&M, Marshalls, TJ Maxx. No fantasy, here. This is a life defined by the supermarket, bank, library, post office drug store, and cleaners, in an endless, mind-numbing loop. Half the time, she simply wears her workout clothes all day, whether she actually makes it to the gym or not.
There you have it. With all due respect to her parents, LBL prefers to purchase this way: If it’s part of her real life, she buys it on the cheap. If it’s part of her fantasy life, she springs for the money. She thinks this might be sort of backward thinking, but fantasies die hard. And they are a lot more fun to think about than that next trip to the supermarket/post office/bank/library/drug store/cleaners.