The other day, on a whim, I decided to buy myself a fancy silver necklace. I’ve never bought myself expensive jewelry before. When it came to the good stuff, the big bling-y, sparkling stuff, that arrived as gifts from parents, boyfriends, and for the past 32 years, Handsome Hubby.
But I was in the mood for instant gratification. I wanted the necklace right then and there. I didn’t feel like “hinting” and waiting for HH. I’m a big girl – more than a big girl, I’m middle-aged and – by God, I can buy my own bling!
So, faster than you can say “discretionary spending,” off I went on my mission to find that perfect piece of jewelry. What I got was something entirely different!
I’m not sure what prompted the urgency. Wait. I do remember. It was the weather! We’re relatively new residents of California, the so-called Golden State, the land of sunshine and beaches. Sunshine and beaches. Ha! That may be true of southern California, but we moved to northern California where the words “The coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco!” ring as true now as the day Mark Twain (may or may not have) uttered them more than a century ago!
Sweaters Plus Summer
Since our move to the San Francisco Bay, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn a short-sleeve shirt. Instead, I live in a state of perpetual turtleneck sweaters. Therefore, I concluded that I deserved … indeed needed … a long decorative silver chain to liven up the endless array of wintery clothing I wear all year long.
So, I put on my coat – remember it was June – took the BART (subway) from my chilly, fogged-shrouded home in Berkeley to San Francisco and headed to the mall.
As I passed through the mall’s cavernous doors, I remembered HH telling me the story of dragging my mother through an entire shopping center in his hunt to find me the perfect necklace and bracelet combo for our first anniversary. At the time, I thought how sweet it was, the two of them shopping together; but also, how odd it was that he needed help and an entire shopping complex to make the purchase.
Yet, as I stared at the “You are here ‘X'” on the mall directory/map, I found myself wishing for a wingman or wing-woman of my own. Jewelry shopping is tough! There were so many stores! So many overzealous sales people! And so many necklace options – lengths, with jewels and without jewels, single strand, double strand, triple strand! And the prices ranged from bargains to insane!
After hours of peering into display cases in 10 different stores, I returned to Bloomingdale’s, the first stop on my tour de bling. With all the world-weariness of a warrior, I marched over to the David Yurman counter and selected, of course, the very first of the dozen or so necklaces I had tried on that day. I quickly plunked down my credit card, eager to pay and flee.
“Would you like to open a Bloomingdale’s’ card?” queried the sales lady. “You’ll save 10 percent. AND I’ll also be able to give you $225 back in Loyallista points for your next purchase.”
“OMG,” I thought, panting. “This silver necklace isn’t an indulgence. It’s a too-good-to-pass-up bargain!”
Gimme Some Credit
And so, with a few clicks of a handy counterside computer terminal, I was applying for a Bloomies’ card. Easy peasy, until I got to the “income” line. This gave me pause.
For the first time in my life, I am not working a 9 to 5 job. I do not go to an office. I do not collect a paycheck. A former journalist and non-profit executive, I now work at home, building my new career as a full-time free-lance writer. I work hard, but I don’t have a steady salary. My personal income is small.
So, this “How much do you earn?” question was dicey. It threatened to put a real dent in my self-proclaimed don’t-need-somebody-else-to-buy-me-bling shopping expedition.
Because I’m an honest person, I wrote down the true, totally unimpressive, not particularly creditworthy amount I earn. I didn’t think it mattered much. I assumed Bloomies did a full credit check before deciding whether or not to issue a card. After all, I own a home and a car, have multiple credit cards, and have never been arrested. Plus, I’m from NYC – home of the original Bloomingdale’s. And I look fantastic in that David Yurman necklace.
Seven seconds later the phone at the jewelry counter rang. The sales lady nodded her head a couple of times, cleared her throat, then handed me the phone. “Yes, my personal income is $X,” I replied. That was it. Faster than you can say “Pathetic free-lance writer,” my credit card application was denied.
Red-faced, I was tempted to flee the store. Chagrined, I considered using one of my other credit cards – one, I might add, with a very high credit limit. Irate, I considered asking to speak to the store manager. I wanted to tell him/her that I’ve worked since I was 12-years-old, have supported myself for decades, and even helped support my mother. Defensive, I considered spouting my academic and professional credentials, the foreign languages I speak, the honors I’ve received.
As I stood at the jewelry counter, the silver chain was starting to feel like a millstone around my neck. But I was determined.
Greed Uber Alles
My initial bold stroke of independence – buying an expensive piece of jewelry on my own – was now further fueled by greed. Yes, I could still buy it using another card, but then I would lose the 10 percent discount the new Bloomies’ card offered.
Pushing pride aside, I called the store credit office and amended my income statement to include HH’s salary. Faster than you can say combined household income, my new credit card was approved.
Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver. I sold out for a 10 percent discount and one silver necklace.
Silver Necklace No More
At home, I showed the necklace to my daughter. She didn’t like it. I showed it to my husband. He didn’t like it. By that time, I didn’t like it either. There had been too much drama. Too much discussion. Too much embarrassment. Too little pleasure. I had gone shopping for a bauble, but what I got instead was a lesson in greed and humility.The next day I returned the silver necklace.
A week later I visited one of my favorite funky downtown Berkeley haunts and found a handmade multicolored fabric coiled necklace. It was perfect for fighting the Berkeley summertime “winter” blahs! It was also on sale, $15. I paid cash. No credit card needed. No loyalty points were awarded. But also, no drama.
And meanwhile, I’m finally going to get a taste of true summer weather. We’re going to visit family in our hometown, Las Vegas. I’m digging out those short-sleeved shirts. Hello, hot weather! Here I come!