10 September 2007

Pearls of great price

I read this LA Times article about teens who are into luxury brands yesterday and I can't get it out of my head. Consider this quote from a 15-year-old girl:
"Chanel is definitely my favorite designer," she says, emerging from the dressing room, unvictorious. She adds that her most prized purse is a black Yves Saint Laurent Muse bag, which sells for about $1,200. Her best friend, 14-year-old Jennifer Hourani, prefers her ChloƩ Paddington bag. But today, Jennifer is carrying a pristine white leather Dolce & Gabbana tote (it was shelved after Labor Day).
As an old hippie, hearing this made me want to tear off my fringed suede vest and whip someone with it.

Don't get me wrong. I understand teen object lust. When I was that age, I was dying for a wide skateboard with Sims Pure Juice wheels and Bennett trucks and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, for no reason beyond that my junior crush, the totally rad and awesome Van Lanning had them.

When my mom misunderstood my VERY clear instructions and got me a plastic skateboard and an Eagles t-shirt instead, I couldn't believe my misfortune. I barely survived the shame.

But it has gotten SO much worse, hasn't it? And somebody has to tell kids these days the truth. It might as well be cranky old Aunt Suebob on her blog, right?

Let's go:

1. There is nothing wrong with owning nice stuff. If you find a handbag that is made by hand by an Italian craftsman who has been studying handbag making for 40 years and who finds a quality piece of leather that comes along maybe once a year and he spends months carefully constructing the most precisely made handbag you have ever seen, feel free to pay $10k for it, if you have the cash. If it is that amazing, it is worth it. What ISN'T worth it is paying $10k for something that you could get for $500 - just because it has a brand name that other people drool over.

2. Materialism is a losing game. There's never enough stuff to satisfy the beast within. It's always something else that you truly want, need, desire.

3. Sacrificing one minute of love and laughter for stuff isn't worth it, IMO.

4. If you have the kind of friends who put you down because you don't own the right brands, you don't have friends. You have that bitch Stacy from "What Not to Wear."

5. If you get addicted to luxury brands when someone else is paying for them, how are you gonna feed your habit when you grow up? Keep depending on the folks?

Or will you find someone else to pay the bills - a spouse or spouse substitute. Is it them, or is it their money you love? If they are paying, you have to dance to their tune. Are you ok with that?

Or you can support your own habit. You may have to take a job you don't like as much as your dream job. You may have to do things you don't like doing. You may have to work long hours, move to somewhere you don't want to live - all so you can keep yourself in $1,200 purses. How far are you willing to go?

Thanks to credit cards, you can always go into debt. I know several people who were bankrupt by age 30 because they needed nice stuff. Is that what you want?

Or maybe you will get lucky. You will get the the perfect job, the perfect soulmate who happens to make a pile of money, and you will always have more than you could ever desire, effortlessly. Good luck with that.

6. If you judge your worth by the brands you wear, what does that say about you? Is there something empty inside you that you are slapping a brand logo over? Just asking.

7. Personally, I think that living within your means feels so good that there is little that could tempt me out of it. But I've been down, way down, so I know how it feels to have bills you can't pay and bill collectors calling you. Trust me, you're not gonna like it.

8. In a world where half the people live on less than $1 PER DAY, can you really justify your $1,200 purse? Wouldn't you rather provide six families with home lighting, so they can change their lives than carry a $1,200 purse? Or you could get a $200 purse and supply five families. When your stuck-up friends ask "What is with that purse?" you can show them photos of those smiling people who have lights to work and socialize and study by and say "I truly made life better for these five families. What have YOU done lately?"

9. If my child thought that her beauty, her value, her worth, came from wearing the right brands, I would be heartbroken. As a parent, isn't one of your jobs to let your children know that their value comes from within?

Ok, that's my lecture. Do you have any stories of silly things you have done for material goods?


Anonymous said...

Why must you pick on Stacy ? You know I love her !!!

- Angel Apologist

Average Jane said...

As someone who's almost always lived from paycheck to paycheck, I have a fundamental inability to understand why anyone would think that paying a premium for *anything* is a good idea. My idea of splurging is buying three Threadless t-shirts when they have their $10 sale. It would never involve a multi-thousand dollar purse, no matter how much money I had.

Assertagirl said...

That quoted material reminded me of an episode of Sex and the City...what does that say about me?!

super des said...

I have a friend who works for Jimmy Choo. She get something like one purse and 3 pairs of shoes a year for free. That's easily $10,000.

I have never owned anything even remotely that expensive. I will buy something if it's quality, but I do try to get the ones that don't have a big logo on them.

I read some weirdo's blog post about how "it's stupid to buy the knockoff purses, because people can tell and you just look like a fool trying to be something you're not." I was like, no it makes me look like I have better things to spend my money on, like rent and food and bills.

If my kid ever turned out like that I would cry and cry. And wonder where she got it from.

Grace said...

I audibly cheered while reading this post.

There are definitely things I will spend a lot on. Handmade things, things from indie businesses, sometimes antiques. But spending a lot on something based on its designer label makes no sense and sets you up for all kinds of failure, just as you described, Suebob. Too bad there is no way in hell those girls are listening.

BOSSY said...

Thankfully Bossy lives in a neighborhood where the kids are not label conscious. As for Bossy, she's an equal opportunity shopper -- if it's in the local Goodwill, Bossy will buy it.

Mir said...


I do worry about what happens to those girls when they grow up. Or don't, as the case may be.

My daughter will sneak into my bathroom and finger my Superhero necklace (where it hangs on my jewelry rack). She probably thinks it cost a million dollars, after hearing how I waited over a year to buy it and saved up and finally got it and love it because of the story behind it.

There's nothing wrong with the occasional splurge (within reason), but the whole name-brand culture coupled with spending beyond means really frightens me.

Andrea said...

That reminds me of an Oprah episode where the parents thought they were teaching their kids to be responsible with money by giving them a credit card they didn't have to pay the balance on every month. So they just charged to their hearts' content and mommy and daddy paid for everything. The cars, the Gucci bags, the Prada clothes. It was sick and the kids were snobs.

I'm in the middle of your number seven right now. It doesn't feel very good, especially knowing I have kid #2 making an appearance in about 4 months. Talk about pressure. So yeah, that blithe attitude about a $1200 purse makes me hurt more than a little bit. Hey, Girl 15, I'll be one of your five families to be helped! It could mean the difference between a 6 week maternity leave and a 2 week one.

Amanda said...

Average Jane already used the phrase I was thinking: "no matter how much money I had."

For me it comes down to always being able to find something much MUCH better to spend my money on than a stupid designer name. I would rather by the knock-off and then pad my IRA with the difference.

The financial planner in me gets SO PISSED OFF at what these parents are teaching their kids about money. "Just ask Daddy" is about the worst financial plan I can think of.

Chase said...

Oh, amen, sistah.

I think you hit the nail on the head with your last statement about the parents. It IS their job to teach their kids the value (or lack thereof) of things. Those 13-year-olds buying $1200 purses are getting money from somewhere...and it ain't a job they're working!

I'm watching people right now in the wedding industry blow TONS of money that I just can't fathom. A ten-thousand-dollar dress? Come ON! I bought the perfect dress for $89 on eBay, for god's sake. Thirty and fourty thousand dollar weddings...for average people?!

NO thanks. I have much better things to spend money on than that.

Blackbeltmama said...

The most expensive purse I have EVER owned is $88 and I thought that was insanity!

I'll spend money on a great vacation with the family, and I'll spend a little more money on a great pair of jeans (but only if they fit me awesome-not because they're made by so-and-so.) I think those girls are in for a very rude awakening, but that's what happens when parents indulge, indulge, indulge. You get Paris Hilton's walking around with no hotel to back them.

Anonymous said...

A close friend is several thousand dollars in debt (for other reasons, not purchases) but spends 'gift' money on these sorts of purses whenever she gets a chance... Basically I've told her not to discuss with me these items, or to discuss how much she's in debt. It really irks me.

lziriz said...

This is the money for me:

"Personally, I think that living within your means feels so good that there is little that could tempt me out of it. But I've been down, way down, so I know how it feels to have bills you can't pay and bill collectors calling you. Trust me, you're not gonna like it."

Amen, sister!

Julie said...

Ahh, the future of America, our youth. I've been known to get rather addicted to some reality TV, but there are two shows I cannot stomcah for the reasons you mention here: Sweet 16 on MTV, rich brats trying to one up each other with coming out parties, and The Real Housewives of the OC. The people on these shows actually think they are watched because America "admires" them. They are even too stupid to realize that most people just enjoy a good trainwreck.

BetteJo said...

OMG. As a teenager my daughter went through a phase where she did not want to buy clothing anywhere outside the mall.

Oh I had some long talks with her, like - how much money mom doesn't make, etc.

Now that she is 21 and paying her own way through college - she went to a bunch of garage sales before she left this year and came home bragging about the 5 dollar TV she found!

Thank God she got past the 'gotta have the good stuff' phase.

gorillabuns said...

when i was their age, i was lucky to have two pairs of shoes. really....

now that i'm older, i'm still okay with a few pairs. sometimes, less is more.

Suzanne said...

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I wanted a pair of Guess jeans more than anything, but they were way to expensive for my family. Then a few years later we were shopping at the discount shop and I nearly fell down when I saw that they had last season's Guess jeans for about 1/2 the price. Even though $27 was still pretty pricey for a pair of jeans, I begged and begged, and my mom caved. I loved those things and once even said that I was cool because I wore Guess. After that horrifying statement came out of my mouth, I realized what a schmuck I was. I went back to mocking the rich kids' Z. Cavaricci's.

minnie said...

When i was 12 i had a friend who loved.. man i can barely remember.. i think liz claibourne purses. so i begged for one and eventually had like 3. one day i realized that they were totally freaking ugly and how stupid the whole thing was.

also, once i slept with my ex-boyfriend for a box of chocolates. i think that makes me stupid AND a low class whore. go me!

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