Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The quest for self-mastery of the 'fashionable' kind

Today I got the shock of my life when, upon remembering that I had bought a bottle of Denenes cologne (that brand totally big in the '80s), I scanned the receipt to see how much it cost. Rarely do I make a purchase without first checking the price tag; this time, though, I was making my way around the toiletries section of a department store, looking for some everyday cologne to splash on every few hours or so just to get some reprieve from the summer heat. My last resort was Johnson's Baby Cologne, that which every other girl uses. Nothing wrong with that, but I didn't feel like smelling like every other girl.

So along with about five different scents of Johnson's cologne were other little (and mid-size) bottles of your typical inexpensive splash-on colognes whose scent would be gone probably in an hour or so. Baby Bench and some other brands I can't recall (Baby's Breath and Baby's Giggles weren't part of the lot, though) were in there. Then in between the bottles I saw Denenes, and I was instantly transported back to decades ago. Funny how a scent can have that ability to awaken in one images and even sentiments from another era.

I opened the cap -- it still smelled the same. Oooh, I'd choose this over Johnson's and Baby Bench any day! And that's what I did, chucking the 125ml bottle in the cart that already carried some other items.

Since I assumed that being in the inexpensive section meant being of the same price range, imagine my shock (okay, so it wasn't really shock, but I was motionless for a few moments later at home when I realized that the wee bottle of the big-in-the-'80s fragrance cost me P179). I mean, it's a European brand and all, but hey, if I ran a full marathon at the height of summer, I would probably use up the entire bottle if I splashed on some fragrance before I started running, midway through the run (you'll never know how olfactory stimulation can boost a wannabe-runner on the verge of giving up!), and after crossing the finish line (anytime is a good time to smell nice, especially the times when one is bound to sweat buckets amid the smog in Manila on a summer day). And did I mention it's a small bottle? All 125ml of it?

Nevertheless, I have taken a whiff of the cologne about 10 times already since buying it six hours ago. It is heavenly. And so reminiscent of simpler days. So, I shall forget the shocker P179 price tag and charge it to experience. The lesson remains: never assume the price -- always check the price tag before making a purchase.

Now that photo up there doesn't seem to go well with what I had just related, the latter being all about a P179-bottle of gone-in-an-hour cologne. Hardly opulence, whereas the image above spells sheer luxury. Well, as I had told Petrufied a while back, acquiring fashionable non-essentials can have such a strong pull on some of us (me, to name one), and it's to such people that images like the one above would appeal the most. It's amazing how contentment in a simple life -- one focused on doing good, being faithful to one's calling as an ordinary citizen, and basically making one's way through life while working to know more about the Author of Life -- can be thrown into a whirl, albeit temporarily, by the most superficial things.

Take my case -- several weeks ago, the window display of some French store caught my eye that I ventured further and explored the store. The clothes and bags were interesting, but it was the accessories that threw me off track. They beckoned to me, not because spending money was my obsession (it's not) but because the items looked funky. Some of them were just pretty -- nothing awesome or suggestive of the next "it" accessory that fashion plates will be drooling over -- and would give a plain outfit some punch.

Before I end up launching into a moment-by-moment account of what transpires when an appreciative shopper is contemplating a possible "glamour purchase," let me just say that it takes sheer will power and a sporting spirit to let go of an intensely desired acquisition and to walk out the store. Doing the same when you have enough money with you indicates an even stronger will power and sporting spirit.

In that French store whose name I cannot recall (the label is French and so are the raw materials but the products are manufactured in Portugal, I was told by the salesperson), I admired two bracelets for around five minutes. One had a big silver flower metal adorning a navy blue cotton-like fabric woven like a rope, which could be adjusted according to the wearer's preference and wrist size. I was torn between that and a bunch of thin blue and white elastic bands with little metal nautical symbols like an anchor and a ship's wheel attached to them.

I tried them on. I listened to the salesperson's opinion. I held them up in the mirror. Took them off and walked around the store, admiring the other accessories, before heading back to where the bracelets were. I compared prices. I mentally reviewed my wardrobe. Would it be practical? Should I buy both to suit more of my outfits? Should I buy anything? Do I need it? Would my money be better off being spent on other, more important things?

The moment I decided against making the purchase, frankly I felt better -- relieved even. "Here are more things that I don't need," I remembered a philospher's words when he allegedly found himself surrounded by attractive material goods for sale. And with that, I walked out the store, pleased with my decision and thankful for the divine prompting to set my sights on the essentials of a simple and meaningful life.

About a week after that episode, I found myself walking on the same floor of the mall. Well, what do you know? I came face to face with the French store again. I'm not sure of my reasons for doing it, but I walked in and headed for the spot where the to-buy-or-not-to-buy-contemplation took place. The nautical piece was nowhere in sight (Yes! Someone bought it, thank God!), and there was the rope bracelet hanging from one of the steel bars. It didn't look that appealing to me anymore, though, and that was good. However, I could still feel the tug of making it (or some other funky accessory for that matter) mine. What a mystery.

Dealing with this is probably somewhat like how John Nash eventually dealt with and conquered the imaginary people he could see around him (I learned about his story through A Beautiful Mind) -- he could still see them but he disciplined himself to ignore them. It seems that conquering the urge to buy is like that, too. You just learn not to pay attention to it.

As I told Petrufied, saying no to a superfluous purchase always gives me a sense of victory. A picture like the one above -- soft, fluffy collar, eye-candy shade of blue with white, glimmering cuff and all -- will just simply have to be admired. To acquire such luxury is... well, out of the picture.


petrufied said...

Oh i get into situations like this too!!! And it is SUCH a relief nga when I finally decide that I don't need the coveted thing.

Good thing you don't remember the store name. So I can't visit it hahahaha. I think it also helps to choose a "shopping month" so that if it's not a shopping month, your resolve not to buy anything related to fashion becomes stronger. :)

sunnyday said...

I can't remember what floor the store is on either, hehe!

It's always good to know that one is not alone in experiencing certain dilemmas :-)

I'll try that "shopping month" strategy sometime. Right now kasi I have essentials (read: needs) on my list that, if I happen to come across them somewhere and if they're within my budget, I will buy them. Kapag wants lang, ah forget it!

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