Ode to the Low

We’re all living in an age of luxury. People like artisan cheeses, micro-brewed beers and high-end denim. In Vermont: heated seats in the car and state of the art technical clothing. Elsewhere: imported leather shoes and really, really nice handbags.

Maybe it’s just a different time and place than the one that I grew up in, but I feel like it’s bigger than that. It seems like our expectations have been raised as a society somehow, and it’s hard to imagine going back.

I want to give a little bit of a salute to the low brow — the other end of the spectrum.

With regard to food, for example. I do like really good Mexican food. I went to Mexique in Chicago with my cousins not too long ago, and it was a meal I’d eat once a week if I could. But I also like bad Mexican food. I like a crunchy taco with just the basics, which I can get anywhere. I’m equally happy with either.

Another one: candy. Middlebury Chocolates and Daily Chocolate are delicious. Absolutely. When I get my hands on some, I eat it slowly to make it last as long as possible. On the other hand, sometimes I want M&Ms. That was my favorite candy when I was 12, but my cravings are not just nostalgia. M&Ms are good.

Let me out myself in a few other areas as well.

I like either cheap or really old towels. The new, soft, luxurious, plush ones don’t dry you off. They just push the water around.

I drink out of jelly jar glasses before any of the grown up glasses in our house. They’re the right size and for whatever reason: always the ones I reach for first.

I use drug store lipstick. I lose those kinds of things constantly, and I can’t see where it makes sense to pay $30 for Chanel, or whatever. I’m sure it’s lovely, but it doesn’t make sense for me.

Good wine is good. Cheap wine (within reason) also good. I’m not saying that we’re serving Mad Dog 20/20 with dinner tonight, but there are plenty of bottles of grocery store wine that will suit me fine on a Tuesday. (Or Wednesday, or Thursday…)

There, now I’ve said it. I like some things that don’t fit the mold of what we’re all supposed to be aspiring to.

I’m guilty of my own indulgences, of course. I like books in hardback and small batch bourbon. I’d get a spa pedicure every week if I could. Treats are treats, and life would be dull without them.

But what bothers me is a sense of pressure to go as far as you can in the direction of luxury or excess. I feel somewhat removed from this personally, because I’m in a community that doesn’t seem to measure or judge in the same way, but I think about it a lot when I travel. Everyone seems to be marching, determinedly and self-consciously, in that one direction.

The way I see it, you should choose the things to indulge in that make you happy and enrich your life in some way. Treat yourself to the degree that makes sense for you. But at the same time, acknowledge that it’s not always necessary. Don’t be afraid (or ashamed) to hang onto the other sorts of things that may be just right in the end.

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