Friday, May 18, 2007

Well-Heeled

The Friday morning paper has a section on home design and I often take a look at it before heading off for work. Some weeks there is a feature about bright new bowls for the kitchen; other weeks we look at bed linens. This morning, there was a great big picture of a pedicure spa for the home. The paper -- tongue in cheek -- added that the pedicurist was not included. The cost of this accessory, to be installed in one's bathroom, is $14,000 (certainly not including the cost of the installation).
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The first time I ever heard the words "conspicuous consumption" they were coming from my sister. I thought it to be a terrific phrase and I have to tell you that it has come to mind more and more in recent years.
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Five or six summers ago, I spent more hours than sanity would suggest appropriate playing a computer game called The Sims. If you're unfamiliar, it is an electronic doll house where you get to design and furnish the house, personalize and outfit the dolls, and control the interactions amongst the dolls.
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Coincidentally, that was the summer we were redoing our 1950s era kitchen. So in May and June, as we were making decisions about cabinets and lighting, I was designing kitchens for my Sims, and moving them along their chosen career paths to earn enough money to make kitchens that were more and more fabulous. It was fun. It was a strange time where fantasy and reality were bumping into each other. Once Sammy and Elena had the ultimate kitchen, and continued to bring in the Simoleans, I moved on to expand their home, add additional rooms, buy them valuable antiques, and, of course, beautify their bathrooms. There were many amazing fixtures available, but no in-home pedicure spa at that time.
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But that was then, as Joey Boyle used to say, and this is now.
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Here is what I learned during the months I spent with the Sims:

(1) It was fun to expand the house. It was fun to design, to purchase lavish furnishings. The more beautiful the home, the more "mood points" the figures acquired, making them feel good. Good moods made them more likely to receive a promotion at work.

(2) The bigger the house, the more furnishings that were in it, the less efficient the figures were in their perambulations. They tended to interrupt a conversation and go upstairs to use the fancy bathroom, when there was a powder room just a few feet away. They spent more time playing with their expensive stereos and computers, and less time engaged with each other. Take note: Positive interactions with each other also provided mood points.
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I really enjoy getting a pedicure. It is nice to have my heels smooth; it is luxurious to have my feet massaged and scrubbed and buffed every month or two; in the summer I like looking down and seeing pretty nails in my sandals.
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Having a Pedicure Spa in my bathroom is something I will never be in a position to consider. But I'm glad I saw the picture this morning, because it has me thinking about things and time and relationships and the values associated with all of these. It is coincident that in these past years since the children have become adults, Joe and I cherish the increased time we have to spend together and find we are planning activities rather than acquisitions. I still look at the never-ending stream of catalogs from Pottery Barn and the like, and I still turn down the corners of pages with things that appeal. But I consider carefully: Would owning this item really enrich or would it somehow diminish the quality of our life together?

3 comments:

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I think of having a pedicure spa in my bathroom much like ordering food when dining out that I could make at home... where's the thrill in that? I enjoy my pedicure at the spa and my filet mignon and pommes frites at my favorite restaurant! What an indulgence.

Tanya said...

I've never heard of that game but I can see myself losing myself in it. I too love to look at those magazine and dream but at the same time I think about how much I DO have that others in the world don't. Why would I NEED more. Japanese homes are small and don't have the luxury items American homes have but I've lived happily without those things so far. (But I would like a dishwasher...)

atet said...

I love dreaming over many of those "fancy" magazines as well -- but you know what? Even if I could suddenly afford all of it, not sure I would want to leave my house. I like it here -- and it's mostly because of all of the memories of things we've DONE -- not what we have. Having said that -- I would like a place for my quilting other than the dining room table. ;0)