Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bath Cap Redux

I did take a bath last night and use my fancy bath cap. I kept it on while I snuggled into my pink jammies as well, and curled up in my Woman's Blankie, and listened to an audiobook.
I think about luxury a lot. How I have a very difficult time understanding a $300 pair of jeans or $1000 pair of shoes. How, instead, I prefer "cheap and cheerful."
We so often think of luxury as something rare or pricey, something others might covet because of its expense or exclusivity. Sure, many of those things are luxurious. But I can never really get behind that definition.
I feel like luxury is really about the things small and large that delight us without having to try. The things we gravitate to and smile secret, enigmatic smiles about. I don't even think they have to be particularly rare.
For example, I can afford to keep five kinds of chai handy for ready drinking. A cup of tea requires a choice. Every time I make a cup, especially if I've made it in the microwave and am lifting it down, I hold the cup to my nose, usually before I have even put sugar in it. Sure, I make some just about every day. But it's a luxury, nevertheless, because it will never fail to inspire a little twist of my heart, a little ritual of calm, and the luxury of decision.
Don't we, after all, overestimate what is normal? I find myself making that mistake all the time, forgetting that what I might take for granted is actually extraordinary. I remember when MSU had a bunch of fabric that was printed incorrectly. They sent it to a poor African nation to be cut up and used as blankets, as so many didn't have anything through the surprisingly cold nights. Every night, as I sink onto my mattress, enveloped in layers of sheets and blankets, I have that same little ritual of calm, that little acknowledgement of gratitude for something extra. It's a bed. Nothing could be simpler. But I treat it like a luxury and I keep it the way I like it (seldom making it, for instance) because I can.
This isn't a post about being grateful for what we have, or helping those in need. Those things are important, but this is about acknowledging that luxuries don't have to be things others would view as unreachable, or things we have to save up for. We are just as capable of making luxury as having it handed to us on golden salvers. It's nice to have nice things. It's nice to be able to afford something you usually can't, or receive something you might not buy for yourself because it is not "necessary" for life (I'm looking at you, delicious salted caramel chocolates, of which I ate two yesterday!).
But isn't it also nice, and luxurious, to put on a girly bathing cap, run a tub full of hot water with bubbles and herbs, put on an audiobook read by Rene Auberjonois, checked out from a library, and opt to just sit for a half hour? Isn't that, really, the biggest luxury of all?


Terri said...

For me, unscheduled TIME is the greatest luxury. Recently though, I bought a small bottle of Vietnamese cinnamon, reputed to be the BEST cinnamon in the world. Unlike any of my other spices, I will shake the bottle, remove the cap, and do the very same thing you describe with your tea. I'm not even sure I'll ever bake with it.

Abs said...

I have heard Vietnamese cinnamon described as such, by Penzeys. I prescribe cinnamon rolls and cinnamon shortbread, so you can fully appreciate its flavor! I know what you mean about not using it, but will it keep fresh if you can't bring yourself to?

Cloud of Secrets said...

You have very healthy views on luxury.

I can't stomach luxuries that are coveted because they are ostentatiously expensive and rare. Caviar sprinkled with gold flakes? Revolting and ridiculous, when the guy down the street doesn't have enough coin in his slush-spattered pocket to buy a McDonald's hamburger.

If you truly enjoy caviar and can afford it, more power to you. Buy it, support the workers behind it, savor it, and honor it. But don't gobble it down with gold flakes, and don't just choke it down for the sake of looking rich and confident.

I think your definition of luxury as "things small and large that delight us without having to try. The things we gravitate to and smile secret, enigmatic smiles about" is good.

I do appreciate some costly-luxurious because they are better-crafted, more potent, or will last longer and give me enjoyment longer. Cashmere. Good leather shoes. Intriguing, complex perfumes. Real jewelry. Artisan chocolate and cheese.

But I also appreciate the luxury of everyday comforts. Even if my day has been terrible, I consciously thank God and the universe for a soft, warm, clean bed to fall into at the end of it. My day was terrible but life is good because I have that bed, I can microwave some chamomile tea if I like, my belly is full of dinner, I have a lamp and books at my side. It *is* a luxury to have those options, and consciously acknowledging them as such makes them feel like special treats even when I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Funny you mention the MSU fabric. Dave was just talking last night about how sports franchises will print up clothing and souvenirs well before the outcome of an important game is known. If they're correct, they can be put up for sale immediately. If they're incorrect, the merch is supposed to be destroyed, but he says it's often shipped off to countries in need. Someone in the Third World might be wearing a Bears 2011 NFC Champions tee soon.

Abs said...

Sarah, I am totally with you on this caviar and gold issue. Also diamonds in champagne. Actually, I have a hard time going to luxury restaurants for the same reason. I mean it's art, but you're also going to eat it. It's ephemeral. That's more of a personal moral quandary for me. I remember we went to a hotel restaurant somewhere and I wasn't that hungry so I ordered yogurt. It was good yogurt, but it came in a cube and it cost rather a lot, which appalled me.
Thank goodness (and our parents) we are women who know what they like and understand that we are surrounded by comfort, even when we are feeling awful. When I was feeling awful last year I had a hard time enjoying things, and losing the ability to feel grateful was almost worse than the other feelings.
I always wondered what happened to those anticipatory gamewear items. I'm glad that there is a possibility they'd get some use. Destroying thousands of T-shirts is just wrongwrongwrong.

Colleen said...

I enjoy your blog. So unique! =)

Loads of Love,

Abs said...

Hey, Colleen! Thanks for stopping in! I'm excited to browse around your blog now!