I was adopted. For some reason, my mother had a hard time not reminding me of that in oh so many ways. She seemed upset that I like the finer things, and was bent on letting me know that was not OK with her.
When I was 16, I was out shopping in one of our Philadelphia suburban strip malls, and came upon the Bonwit Teller’s, a very fashionable department store in that decade. I went in and drooled over a $35 blouse, which, of course, I knew I could not afford. This was the ‘60s, and a $10 blouse was pushing it.
I made the mistake of telling my mom I had seen a beautiful blouse at the little shop and she literally spent about fifteen minutes telling me in no uncertain terms I was not to even imagine such a purchase from such a shop.
I guess I didn’t learn this lesson, because when my girlfriend Grace bought a beautiful cardigan from Strawbridge & Clothier for $12, I saw how good it continued to look for as many times as it was laundered. My cardigans cost around $5 and I got three for Grace’s finer Garland one.
When I told my mom I would be happy to have the better one, that didn’t “pill” after one machine wash, and that I didn’t need three that did “pill” after only one wash, she was very indignant at her recalcitrant daughter.
“We’re Sears people,” she pontificated, with the hidden, but not really well-hidden, message that if I were to be “one of them” I would stop my “highfalutin’” ways, sooner, rather than later.
My internal response was, “WELL, YOU may be a Sears person, but I am not.”
I now realize I should have agreed. “Yes, you are.” And. left it at that.
When I had a discussion with my girlfriends recently about the wisdom of paying $100 for a Coach purse, one of them responded much like I did, that her cheaper purses wore out and showed wear after a few months, where her Coach purse, which she now buys one of annually, looks great after the year.
So, now I realize, there are Sears people, and there are Strawbridge & Clothier, Bonwit Teller, Coach people.
Now I am not trying to be snobbish. I still maintain it is a matter of enjoying quality vs. quanity. Someone who buys a $15 Walmart purse three times a year, and has to throw them away after use, isn’t really saving much over the person who waits for the Coach outlet savings, and purchases a beautifully made purse for $65 that will still be in style and look good the next year. But, there really are people who pride themselves on preferring the cheaper product, and they would rather have quantity than quality.
This seems to be true in so many ways. I marvel that some people open a restaurant or a gift shop or a yogurt shop or any kind of business, and know how to make it look really “classy.” Other people seem to go out of their way to keep things as mundane and non-descript and undistinctive as possible.
When I owned and managed a Christian bookstore, I found beautiful Christmas cards from Abbey Press. They were very sophisticated, and had a clean design. I still purchased some “regular” greeting cards from American Greetings, which looked so much less attractive. Guess which ones were more popular? Right!
Is it that some people really prefer that? Or are they afraid to “look” richer? Or is it just what they are used to? Or is it a lack of a sense of value?” I really don’t know. Maybe I am a snob.
Suffice to say, I AM STILL NOT a Sears person. I almost hyperventilate just walking into Sears, reliving the humiliation of my Bonwit Teller lecture experience. I realize I am over-reacting a tad. And, I know it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ‘round. But, I ask you, wouldn’t you prefer a better, higher quality item if you could have it? And, should a girl get a lecture and feel punished for “just looking” at that better quality?
These and other things my inquiring mind wants to know.