I was the lumpy kid at school who got punched in the stomach for their Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups. At the time, the mid-1980's, Betty Crocker's Fruit Roll-Ups were the pinnacle of schoolyard luxury and I had the genuine article not the faux, generic ones, pathetically named something like Frutti Blankets. My Mom, I remember, went to a lot of trouble to stretch our grocery budget in order to ensure I had the "right" ones.
Looking back I wonder if this is where my taste for luxury came from?
I know in my twenties, single and living in Vancouver, I would often - and happily - sacrifice nutrition to purchase anything from Diesel jeans to a Calvin Klein bra. Sitting cross-legged on my futon, dining on a can of tuna and a Beefeater gin cocktail, I would stare dreamily into my closet and imagine the possibilities of a life clothed in designer denim and shod in Italian shoes.
And then I went to Paris for the first time. Paris with a backpack and a budget of 100 Canadian dollars a day. The most luxurious item I purchased on my first trip was a pastel, polka-dotted Princesse Tam-Tam thong on sale at Galeries Lafayette. After a week spent watching Parisians casually strolling the streets in their been-in-their-family-for-three-generations Chanel jackets or letting their vintage Birkins rest on damp cobblestones while they consumed a mid-afternoon cafe creme, I developed an insatiable desire for their effortless luxury.
I believe people who disapprove of my appetite, people who believe that they are of higher moral standards because they buy their jeans at Costco, are people who have never been teased for not wearing the right thing. These are people that never were not invited to a party because their shoes were not Nike's or not asked on a date because their dress came from Zellers and not from Benetton.
A couple of weeks ago, while organizing the top shelf of my closet that is devoted to my "A-list" bags, I came across the dark brown box that my first LV came in. The box is still in pristine condition and when I opened it I found the subtly monogrammed tissue paper and the leather string that was used to wrap my precious parcel. Instantly I was transported back to my Parisian honeymoon and all of the romanticism and the joy of my first trip to Paris with my husband.
More than vacant, monogrammed vessels of shallowness, my luxury items are my memories. They remind me of specific, important moments in my life; moments of happiness, moments of independence, moments of frivolity, and moments of love.
To an outsider, Parisians seem to have a way of wearing their luxury that seems less vulgar and less obvious than North Americans. Perhaps it's because it is so abundant and so ingrained in their culture. I think it's because they already have what we all want. A chicness, a Frenchess, a lifestyle that comes from ancient parfumeries, vintage vins, silk scarves, full cream and afternoon naps.
I want it.