I picked up the phone—my landline—to make the call, but then hung up. I picked up the phone again, and hung it up again. I held the phone close to my chest, closed my eyes and sighed. Then I dialed the number for Cox Communications. After having had a landline my entire life, I was about to go cold turkey with nothing more than my cell phone.
Still, I was deeply attached. There’s something reassuring in knowing the phone is there, that it won’t go missing if I forget to charge it, that I’ll be able to connect to the Police Department—and not the Highway Patrol—in an emergency.
But like many families experiencing stagnant wages and increasing costs, we’re feeling an economic pinch. Cutbacks are necessary. And aside from my irrational attachment to a rotary dial phone, ditching the old-fashioned phone seemed a rational place to begin.
So. Goodbye landline. And accompanying long distance. And HBO. The tiny amount of television we watch trumped our love for Treme (we’re keeping our Netflix membership, so we’ll catch it later). The shadow of the Belfer guillotine is looming over our Sparkletts account, too, among other creature comforts.
These first cuts saved us roughly $60 a month.
Not huge, but not bad either, I thought as I soaped my body in the shower later that night. And then, while soaping: Jeeze, I really need a bikini wax. Hello, priorities!
According to a September article in The New York Times, “[c]onsumers at all income levels have been splurging on indulgences while paring many humdrum household expenses.” The article goes on to state that austerity only goes so far before a consumer loses control and binge shops at barneys.
Not only am I not the only person forced into some tough decisions these days; I’m also not the only person pitching stuff traditionally considered mandatory (“basics like diapers, socks and vacuum bags”) while still splurging on stuff we’ve now been convinced is mandatory (“fripperies like purses and perfumes are best sellers”).
Fripperies. What a fantastic word.
Now, praise Jesus, I no longer need diapers. I practically live in flip-flops and I have hardwood floors. And don’t be ridiculous: I’m not quitting perfume. I am, in fact, the demographic in the Times story. I’m guilty of bucking basics for Balmain.
Not all indulgences are expensive, the Times points out. “But they could be on a party-supply list: premixed cocktails and coolers, cheesecake, cosmetics and wine.”
Cheesecake saw a 22-percent sales increase in the last year. People: There’s been a run on cheese cake! Who would have thunk it?
Certainly I wasn’t thinking about cheesecake there in the shower. I was thinking of Ginger, my esthetician, to whom I feel a special allegiance. I feel responsible for my part in the success of her independent business. But I also know the money I spend on depilatory practices each month could be money that goes to my child’s struggling school. Or perfume.
Put in perspective, the decision was a no-brainer. Ginger often belts out Johnny Cash tunes while ripping those natural but unwanted hairs from my labia; I will miss her, if not that.
As I lathered up and began to tend to my unruly nether region like I did way back in the day, before I became convinced that it was somehow passé, vintage and unsightly to look like a grown woman, I actually found a new appreciation for pubic hair. Specifically my own, but really, for all pubic hair. I am vintage! Cue Helen Reddy.
I thought it was fun to spruce up my marital sex life with a “landing strip,” or a neatly defined triangle, or a craftily carved “G” (for the Green Bay Packers). But my mother was nonplussed. “It sounds really painful,” she once said. “And if women want to look like Barbie Dolls down there, they need only wait until menopause when it falls out all by itself.” So true.
How women became convinced that it’s necessary to look like porn stars—or worse, like our prepubescent daughters—is beyond me, except to say that I think it’s the same sort of hypnotism used by some seriously ingenious marketers.
Lululemon has a bajillion people utterly incapable of experiencing Savasana without a pair of $98 yoga pants made with their signature luon®. And the late Steve Jobs continues to wield power, convincing the masses that we must have the iPhone 4S even though we already have a perfectly good iPhone. And iPad. And MacBook Pro. And 27-inch iMac.
Bikini waxes and couture yoga attire and too many electronics—fripperies all.
Or—are they? Luon® is pretty soft, after all. And this column was composed on my beloved Mac- Book Pro. Ours is a consumer culture, and items like these, while splurge-y, can make a person feel good and capable. A self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps. Or maybe a life-is-short attitude combating the more depressing realities inherent in downer items like thermometers, flashlights, fertilizer and batteries, the sales of which have taken a plunge lately.
I’ve already made my choices. Anyone know where I can get a good piece of cheesecake?