I was reading a well known blog today where the writer mentioned that she had a hankering for a very expensive (almost two grand!) Gucci bag. Unless you've seen the posting yourself, you cannot imagine the tidal wave of vitriolic comments that followed.
While I personally don't give a hoot whether the writer (someone I don't even know) shells out big bucks for a status purse or not, it totally reminded me of my own high-priced handbag fiasco.
A couple of years ago, I was about three months into my new work-for-myself-from-home, try-to-get-back-my-life phase. I'd quit my high-profile job with a big company and while you'd think that I'd be reveling in my time off, it was not the case. I was mired in depression and self doubt. Being blackberry and conference-call free wasn't getting me out of the hole I'd dug myself into with my workaholic ways.
And aside from spending much of my days in my PJ's and, oddly, tuning into Jerry Springer, I developed one burning obsession--the Balenciaga Le Dix handbag, preferably in a decadent, chocolaty brown leather.
I had seen it in the hands of celebs on the pages of US Weekly and People. I knew that it sold for well over $1,000 but I felt like I had to have one. Trying to find a bargain, I was tempted to go on ebay to see what was available there. And, let me tell you, there were lots to be had.
Suddenly I found myself pouring over auctions highlighted with glossy photos of the Olsen Twins casually carrying this coveted item on their Starbucks runs. I carefully checked the feedback stats of potential sellers to try and weed out the authentic bags from the knock-offs on offer. I thought about that damned bag constantly. Dreamed of how my life would be so much more glamorous if I possessed it. How I would feel different. How somehow in possessing this bag, all the pieces of my life's puzzle would suddenly fit neatly and comfortably together.
I broke down really late one night and bid on a brown one that was guaranteed authentic and won. And while I never paid four figures for it, it was and is the most expensive purse I've ever bought. Days passed as I impatiently waited for the mailman to bring me my miraculous purchase. Each day that it didn't arrive seemed painful.
Then I got it.
Actually having it in my hands was, sadly, an enormous anti-climax. It looked like the bag I committed to purchase online. It had all the tags with the right words and authentic-looking serial numbers. A little golden plate stitched inside the bag proudly proclaimed "Balenciaga." But it didn't feel right. Surely the leather of a super expensive bag would be of much nicer quality. And wouldn't it have something better than plain, old black fabric lining? I was sure I'd been duped. And to confirm my suspicions, the moment that I decided to email the seller about my dissatisfaction, he was permanently removed from ebay by ebay. No explanation was given--he was just gone. No doubt because there were other women across the country who had stared at their expensive purchases with the same misgivings. And so, I was stuck with it.
Ashamed of my idiocy, I stuck the bag straight in my closet and didn't use it for a year. Not only did the sting of being ripped off smart, but more than anything, I felt really stupid for coveting something so ridiculously expensive and giving it so much power over my thoughts and desires. It was, after all, just a stupid handbag. And since when had I ever given a flying fuck about anything that Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen had? It was completely irrational.
Last year around this time, I finally took it out of my closet and decided to use it. I couldn't return it, so I decided I might as well get some use out of it. Lots of women I knew would "ooh" and "aah" over it when they saw me carrying it. But only I knew that they were, in a small part, being as foolish as I had been. Carrying that bag didn't make me cooler or smarter or more successful. In fact, it didn't solve anything in my then-fractured life.
Given the choice again today, I would totally put the money towards the mortgage, buy some stock or just put the cash away for a future rainy day.
But all-in-all, buying the questionably-Balenciaga bag was an interesting life lesson about giving things the power they don't deserve. I realized that no fancy bag (replace "bag" with "car," "diamond, "house,"--it's all the same) can change my life or draft a better and more whole definition of who I am. Only I have the power to do that. And while making my life better was never "in the bag," the self knowledge I gained from the "Great Handbag Debacle 2005" was actually worth every penny.