Friday, December 31, 2010

All is (Not) Quiet on New Year's Day

The lot at our neighborhood Goodwill is a bottleneck of cars queued up to donate holiday gift castoffs, some still in boxes with “To/From” tags still affixed; coffee machines, mixers, and televisions replaced by gifted upgrades; and other purged during the last minutes of 2010 to snag the documentation for a tax write off come April, 2011. (Mr. Golightly does the taxes and gives the skinny on tending to those in his post "Thrifty tax time".)

Straggler donations will continue to filter in through January when "organizing stores" urge Americans to dig through their closets and purge by offering annual sales on closet shelving and storage bins. Which begs the question - do we need more bins or less stuff?

This makes January an exceptional month in thrift stores. One can score a two-year old TV for a tiny fraction of the original price. Wary that it might not work? Find an outlet in the store and plug it in. Also, Goodwill (and the other giants of thrift) have return policies, so just ask. It amazes me how Americans are so quick to rush out and purchase the newest generation of an electronic product that rapidly depreciates in value - and the next generation of this very same products is being produced in factories and will be available as soon at it can be shipped across the Pacific, clear customs and get trucked off to the discount retailer.

It is also the start of men’s suit season when gentlemen clean out their closets to forgo what no longer fits. Some gentlemen finally come clean and admit they're never going to have that size 32 waist ever again. I believe there was a Seinfeld dedicated to Jerry marking his Levis the size he used to be.

Today I scouted in my routine ten minute surgical strike:

New toys and games still in the plastic wrap. One that caught my eye was a plastic case ten plush animals for baby all neatly arranged with the FAO Schwarz tags dangling from the handle. A gift tag on the bottom read "For Ben" from an undecipherable signature. Why Ben’s parents didn’t want these animals, I know not. Perhaps Ben’s nursery is already full. Goodwill priced it at $5.99. Too bad I don’t have any infants in my life. There were Barbies and tea sets and no doubt more is to arrive.

An unopened hefty plastic casing container displaying a SiPix Stylecam Blink II Digital Camera for $5.99. Amazon has this camera discounted from $139.99 to $118.20, I don’t believe that includes shipping. For an original sale price of $140, I must say that the original packaging looks like hell anyway. Despite it being new, I’ll repackage it to make it look more enchanting.

A darling set of spring green new childrens wooden lawn furniture: a love seat; an Adirondack chair; and a picnic table for $34.99.

In addition, new kitchen electronics like a tea steeper - it looks like a coffee maker for tea. But, I love my vintage British Simplex whistling copper pot found for $6. It’s a classic design, Simplex still makes it today. Click here to see it, it’s the first model. I never knew of Simplex tea kettles until I started thrift shopping. Shopping thrift has provided me a very in depth product education. Probably one that most retailers don't want me to have.

More, you say? Many new clothes with tags still dangling and a few vintage coats that I adored. But, I already have more gorgeous vintage coats and capes than I can wear in a week. It’s a weakness of mine. Fortunately the cost I paid for my entire cashmere blend collection doesn’t even come close to the cost of something similar from a department store. And, I must come clean, I love the compliments. The mean part of me loves telling people it’s a one of a kind vintage I found for $15. Sorry, it’s fun to accept a compliment on something that other people can’t rush out and buy at the local mall. In a wicked sort of way it makes it MINE!

Here’s where this gets really interesting, tomorrow when my neighborhood Goodwill opens it’s doors at 8AM, most everything in that store will be 50% off. Same goes for all the Goodwill stores in the Denver metro area.

I am not a person who gets up at 3AM to stand in line to go shopping, but tomorrow is another day. 8AM? That’s not so bad considering it only takes me five minutes to get to the store and I can slap my black beret over my bed head. Or, maybe I’ll wait until the early evening when the crowd has died down and the stock room continues to roll out the dress racks and the gray bins because the New Year's Day re-stocking process never ends at the thrift store. They're getting swamped with donations and want to keep the mill moving.

If you have young children, you might enjoy taking up the tradition of A Letter From Baby New Year, a post from our sister blog Mommy Golightly.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Holidays on a $1 a day! Start now!

I’ve finally hobbled down the stairs this morning. I realized I'm packaged in my favorite vintage $3 mohair wrap from Neiman’s, handmade sheep-skin lined and hand painted mukluks from Black Dog Rise (bought new for $10 retailing $350), along with several vintage hankies in hand - all from Goodwill. Down with the flu for three days, I’ve been scheming. Time to lay down the gauntlet. Ready?

I challenge readers to spend NO MORE than $365 on the holidays in 2011. Celebrate the holidays for a dollar a day. Consider this a new holiday diet, a consumer diet.

For some this challenge might be an insult because it’s so easy. But I’ll bet for majority of Americans, taking on Everest blindfolded in thigh-high platform stiletto boots seems more likely.

It seems to me no one really knows how much the average American spends on the holidays. Many of us would rather stick our heads in the sand than face the hard sting of holiday expenses. Ever get hit with a snowball in the ear or face? Yikes. A cold, seasonally appropriate dope slap.

I've read figures from $600 to as high as $900, most of which is is slapped on mounting credit card debt. But, I suspect it's more than we think, especially when people are giving pricey electronic gadgets. $900 barely covers the cost of a state of the art television or laptop. Are we to assume the average American gives one gift?

Most of us have good intentions of starting out with a small budget. But the "unexpected" and last minute guilt of not giving enough gifts inevitably invites the credit card danger zone. Toss in the sleight-of-hand retail tricks retailers conjure with “buy three get the fourth 50% off” or purchases made because the shopper is just plain sick of shopping and will buy anything to end the suffering of listening to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” played to a beat that might be more appropriate at a rave. (I think that song that has the most annoying renditions. Well, that and the “Little Drummer Boy”.)

Do such figures include decorating, additional grocery expenses, packaging, and mailing fees aside from the standard gift cost? They certainly count, and it all adds up. Does the average American factor in the purchase of a holiday tree? Some trees easily sell for over $100. How about the cookie press we had to buy to make those classroom cookies? Oops! Did we bust up another mixer trying to slog through 10 pounds of cookie dough? A cookie or two on the sheet happens.

Weigh in the full cost of the holidays, and it’s no nickel and dime affair.

The sad thing about American holidays is that it’s so closely tied to the economy. Shopping figures become nightly news. Retailers plan out their year on a gland slam in the ninth. C’mon! Is that really smart? Put all your bets into just a month or two of the year?

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we invested a little more time in slowly stocking up? Wouldn’t that help build more anticipation? Would having more time to shop make for wiser purchases and result in fewer returns? Wouldn't purchases, spread throughout the year be more sustainable, both to merchants and buyers?

It’s disturbing how returning items has become accepted holiday ritual. Isn't this like re-gifting a retail item back to a store because it's nothing we want or need, especially if so little thought was put into the giving anyway?

We are, en masse, accepting the notion of paid waste during the holidays. What? Why someone would buy a “gift” knowing that it will most likely be returned makes no sense to me. But, it’s a common retail practice and many gift recipients take no offense if they receive a gift that is so unlike them it’s going back to the retailer the next day. This is a waste of time for both giver and recipient, and often a complete waste of money and the resources both natural and unnatural to make the unwanted product.

So think about the challenge. Compare it to your usual modus operandi. If you like, please refer to one of our first posts, “The 2009 Thrifting Gift Guide, A Resolution Revolution”. Perhaps then scan through “Wow! This is so… You! What’s happened to the art of giving?

Of course it should go without saying my challenge might involve multiple treasure expeditions to thrift stores. If you need advice on converting from conventional retail to the re-use market please refer to a series of post on How to Thrift in the left column. Invest three months in a new thrifting routine, and you'll earn a pair of Snake Eyes discover your personal Flinch Point and happily say sayonara to the long lines at The Monolith Mall.

You don't need buckets of money to make the holidays enchanting. All you really need is a little shift in the way you view time, and some forethought. If you start planning for 2011 now, chances are you will spend less money and enjoy the holidays much more. If you're done before the infamous Black Friday, you'll know you've arrived, and will be much less susceptible to impulse and guilt-induced spending.

Just try think about a dollar a day holidays for now. Should you choose this economic holiday diet, you just might find it's life changing.

We'll talk logistics later.

I'll be coming up my Top Five Thrift Finds of 2010 soon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thank you

Many people are not aware most bloggers pull little income, if any. Those ads, they don't amount to much, it's more being a part of a blogging publishing community that counts.

This blog is the journal I always wanted to keep but guess I didn't just want to write to myself.

Especially after reading some of the comments in the former post, I am compelled to note that I am often humbled by the words of readers.

In the last post, Amber wrote of a meager holiday thanks to economic circumstances. But she concluded that by not subscribing to the consumer culture she wrote,"

" I still have money in my pocket and dignity in my heart."

Please read Amber's comment in the December 23rd post "Gifting Anxiety".

My wish to you all this holiday is to have what you need and keep "dignity in your heart".

Thank you to all who have written me directly. My email box is always open.

May we all grow, maintain, or restore our dignity in 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gifting anxiety

I’m no fan of staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap gifts only to have my daughters wake me up pre-dawn. I’m nearly finished, just a few more to wrap.

One would think completion of such a large task as wrapping would usher in a feeling of relief or satisfaction.

It never does.

After everything is neatly wrapped with personal tags dangling, I step back and look at the whole of my year-round efforts of thoughtfully hunting treasure for my family. Instead of thinking,” Wow! It’s beautiful!” I think, “Wow! It’s such a small pile.” It’s especially small this year.

We’re trained to think that our children will feel completely dejected if there's still standing room in our living room on Christmas morning. We believe our home should look something like the home of Herr and Frau Silberhaus in the Nutcracker mixed with an FAO Schwarz two-story display of toys; beyond enchanting.

It really gets under my skin. I fall for the illusion every year. I begin to feel like I’m a bad mommy because I didn’t scout out enough gifts. I didn’t give enough.

This tempts me to race out at the last minute and fill that void with more gifts.

The reality? I really don’t have enough time to think about what else could be truly meaningful. I’ve spent the entire year searching and thrown a lot of thought into the gifts that sit before me. To think I’m going to find the great and profound missing pieces in the last hour is a bit foolish.

If I did race out to buy more, it’ll likely be gift filler, meaningless stuff thrown in to aid in the illusion that quantity trumps thoughtfulness.

Why this feeling always overtakes me every year is a real stumper. It is far out of line from my standard shopping mentality.

Perhaps I need some sort of therapy for this. Or perhaps, we’ve been conditioned to think we will never give enough presents to our children. The latter is a horrible thought. It would be cruel if I had succumbed to this as a deliberate marketing tactic.

I need a distraction. I think hot cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles, a fire in the hearth and a family game of dominoes under the tree might do the trick.

I think that’d make more sense than racing out now to buy stuff that’s going to be massively discounted in three days (both in the stores and by the recipient?). Beware of the hypnosis of a big sale. Are you buying it because it’s on sale? Or because you need it?

If you’re feeling an urge to spend holiday cash, wait a few days and then head to the thrift. There you will find rejected gifts still in their boxes. The original recipient might not have wanted/needed the item, but one person’s trash is sometimes another's treasure. And you’ll spend about 75-80% less than the original purchase price.

Does anyone else ever have this feeling? What's your manner of coping?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My wish came true! The First Lady wears vintage!

When President Obama took office, I had sights on Michelle. Why? I truly felt she could make a difference in the world of thrift. Maybe it was her personal background. Or maybe I sensed she was not afraid to make a statement.

I made various attempts to contact her to endorse thrift shopping and join us in petitioning to honor a commemorative, American Thrift Store Month. We have a Frozen Food Month - that'd be March - so I thought it not asking too much. I've loads of schemes: grassroots designers recycling thrift sweaters and men's shirts, thrift fashion week, a parade of homes outfitted in thrift, daily tips on thrift...

But I can only imagine there are thousands of people attempting to have the First Lady endorse their cause.

Imagine my delight when the news hit the celebrity circuit that Michelle Obama wore a vintage dress to a holiday event! Some are claiming she is the first of her line to wear vintage. I'm not really certain if that could be true for it hasn't been that long ago that wearing old or reused items was considered tacky by culture at large. Think about how Coco Channel got her start.

Here is Michelle Obama is in a beautiful design circa 1950's. Bought at New York Vintage in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, co-owner Jon Schneck noted, "Other dresses from our archive have been scheduled for use by the first lady later this year". What! More vintage is to follow?

This dress is classic, posh, elegant, feminine, and full of grace and a delicious dignity! Yes! Dignity and style do not need to be enemies when it comes to womens fashion! Tears of joy are forming in my eyes! Look at her! A timeless beauty!

Thank you Mrs. Obama. I certainly am eager to see your next vintage ensemble and have no doubt you will pull it off in spectacular style.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Take away the packaging!

If you have children or if you care about how a gift if presented, take away the product packaging before giving the gift. Please.

I loathe most all manufactured packaging.

Are Santa’s elves going to craft and present a doll strapped down by 20 wire cuffs in some plastic den of hell that says “Made in China”?

Think like a kid for a moment. Santa’s elves lovingly created that doll with a specific child in mind. Then they paint a smile on it’s face only to force it into a chamber of torture where this doll will surely suffocate before the child can resuscitate it on Christmas day? If this is how you’re going to present gifts from Santa, why go to all the trouble of developing his story?

Again, think like a kid. You’ve wanted this gift for months, maybe a year. So you finally unwrap it and Daddy must whip out chainsaw or hunting knife to break through the plastic and Mommy must pull out the tweezers to undo all the knots. Then all the pointless tiny pink plastic filler is immediately lost in the new carpet of wrapping paper and everyone tries to ignore the possibility that the toddler might find the tiny plastic shoe first and possibly choke on it.

It might take an hour to liberate that doll, so your parents tell you to open more gifts as a distraction while they're all off in the corner cursing and arguing how the hell to spring the it from its plastic prison. Wow. That sounds enchanting, and so relaxing.

I wonder how many families spend Christmas day in the ER getting stitches from using a tree saw to get to those heavy duty poultry cutters cocooned in industrial plastic, the very same material used to make car bumpers.

Well, I’m not getting stitches for Christmas and neither is Mr. Golightly. If I must incur hospital stitches, I want a good story to go with them. Like I saved my family from a mother grizzly about to ruin my outdoor vacation. Or I broke through the glass of a second story window to bust up a mugging of a mother and her infant triplets (all in a row in their custom designed Italian pram). Some event that might be embellished such as to require a mask and utility belt in it's retelling. When I go to the ER or check into the hospital, I want a legend.

Let’s get one thing straight. Santa’s elves do NOT work at Mattel. I've no doubt that any true elf would ever work under these conditions. I'm also certain Santa’s elves don't manufacture petroleum-based plastic products. No doubt they are fighting oil companies this very moment from attempting to build deep-water oil rigs near the North Pole. Imagine a farm of blowout preventers, right behind Santa’s castle! Could it come to pass that we're cleaning off oil from elves?

If we're to embrace the enchantment, we must really put ourselves into the scene to get it right. Besides, it's fun scheming honest to goodness enchantment for your kids. When I'm asked if I think Santa is true, my answer is always, "Who doesn't want to believe in a person who rewards the children of this earth for good behavior for just one magical night during the dark of winter?"

My daughter asked for a bell from Santa’s sleigh a few years ago. Below is what she received; antique sleigh bells nestled in reindeer moss in a birch wood box.

Contrast this to Hallmark’s (keepsake) packaging of Santa’s Bell. Wow. I wasn't aware that Santa uses Hallmark's Trademarked sleigh bells. I figured he had elves that forged them with some magical metal unknown to the Periodic Table.

As a child, which would you believe to be the real deal from the North Pole? Uh, how many graphic designers work for Hallmark? This is what they thought kid's would believe? Or is this what they thought parent would buy?

The wasteful product packaging sitting on store shelves is not designed to be pleasing and delight the consumer. It’s designed to outshine the competition, or to not be an easy item to shoplift. So, DON’T wrap it, put it under the tree or in a stocking.

A side note on stockings: Santa does not have a contract with any candy company. His elves make the candy onsite - best to go with wax paper wrapped candy like salt water taffy. Though I do suspect that if he did go with a candy brand, it would be something that has an old world look to it like classic Mary Janes.

Ever gone to Crate and Barrel? It has a fantastic atmosphere. Why? The products on display are all removed from their packaging. A newcomer to the store is delighted by a display of pots. The customer excitedly picks just the right pot to place in their shopping basket. Stage left, enter the sales staff to kindly note that they'll pull the merchandise from the backroom. At the register, a box is presented with the manufacturer’s name plastered on nearly every surface. The pot that was so appealing is lost in a mess of cardboard, plastic and paper.

Funny story. I bought my first coffee maker at Crate and Barrel. When given the model I carefully selected now hidden in a Krups box, I was tempted to say, “Can I just have the one on the shelf?” The actual product had much more appeal without the packaging. That damn packaging took the fun out of my whole purchase experience!

Packaging often does this. It steals the fun out it all and serves as a reminder that the item was not made especially for us.

Ever buy something in a box only to bring it home and find half the contents missing? I once bought two boxes of barware only to get home and discover the items filthy from another person who bought them, used them and returned them. On that same shopping trip I scored a new, vintage-inspired jacket from Banana Republic, it’s $99.99 store tag directly contrasted to the Goodwill tag for $4.99.
So I went to the thrift store and bought new merchandise for a thrift price and went to the chain retailer and bought used merchandise for a new price.

A plus on thrift shopping, more often than not, is that I don’t need to manage excess packaging. I get to actually touch the product I buy with my very own fingers! With thrifted clothing, you are often witness to how the product washes and wears. Ever bought an expensive new sweater only to have it pill on the first wash? I have. Tell ya what, I really don't enjoy shaving my legs. How do you think I feel about shaving a $100 sweater?

So, as you wrap the gifts you have so carefully scouted out for those you love, don’t forget to take care in how the gift is presented. Take it out of the box. Get creative.

If you’re afraid to take it out of the box because you suspect the recipient might return the gift, perhaps you should return the gift yourself and think a little more about what might genuinely make those you love happy. If you’re having a hard time with ideas, read the post below. The perfect gift just might not require any shopping at all.

For those who've followed this blog, I will note that my youngest daughter, Little Pie, asked Santa for a record player, a quill pen and a plush horse. We have a family tradition to ask for three items. Anything more might appear greedy. Santa's gifts are usually not wrapped and prominently displayed for immediate use. Should you need to wrap a present from Santa, don't use regular wrapping paper. Remember, Santa is very old and resourceful. He doesn't shop for wrapping paper and pre-made bows. Use craft paper and twine or a tin. If your child asks why Santa didn't wrap his gift, tell your child, "That's only on TV".

If you're curious as to what Little Pie asked for last year, refer to the post, Santa's elves shop at thrift stores too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

When giving gets personal

Most Americans think it disgusting to give a gift from a thrift store or something used, unless it’s something huge like a car, a boat or a second home. I’ve given reused and re-purposed gifts for years and been met with gratitude, not a slap on the face. I have never been re-gifted a gift I gave - quite the tongue twister but, I’ll bet there are plenty of people who have experienced just that. Nor have I seen my gifts sitting on the thrift store shelves. Though I have put plenty there myself.

Why the common American associates thrift with old socks is a head-scratcher. Why the common person associates a gift from Wal Mart as classy, a double head-scratcher. I’ll take that vintage Nieman Marcus plaid mohair wrap for $3 over a $99 mass-produced bicycle with a planned obsolescence of approximately two years any day. Better to darn a slight moth-eaten hole than to have new bicycle breaks fail in city traffic.

This year, I’m taking gift giving a step cheaper. This recession landed on my family like Dorothy’s house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, and we’re still pinned under it. I was not able to routinely visit the thrift store to find treasures throughout the year as I have in the past. Yup, even that $10 purchase scoring me six items was too much to spend.

Like many American families, mine is geographically scattered. I am no Cyber Monday shopper. Perhaps I’m old fashioned but I like to hold and examine the sweater before purchase because brands no longer guarantee quality, only a name. This phenomenon is something that probably really grates on the few brands that still take pride in their quality. I suspect those manufacturers still exist. I hope.

Quality has become to be something akin to fairies. Something we want desperately to believe in, but reality doesn’t offer much proof. Perhaps, if enough of us clapped our hands and pleaded, “I do believe in quality. I do!” We could revive it, like when the Darling children save Barrie’s Tinkerbell.

There’s so much stuff in the American market, I’m not certain the average American knows what quality is; they’re just thrilled to buy three t-shirts for $15. Never mind the fabric is cheap, the stitching poor it and the cut out of line or that it will likely fall apart in the third wash that is if the clothes washer can make it through the third wash.

This last week, my dinning room table disappeared under boxes and re-used bubble wrap as I pulled out and wrapped gifts for those living out of state. Shopping was sparse this year. Running both hands through my hair and releasing a sigh, I realized there was so little in the gift queue. Not only am I short on time but dollars as well. Another sigh.

That’s when I decided to shop my own home. I have various rare curios, vintage cookware, hard to find books; not massed marketed stuff. If I enjoy having them, wouldn’t some one else? Is it not a symbolic gesture to give something you love that you know will be accepted with gratitude? Isn’t it the thought, not the cost that matters? We say that, but how many of us practice that?

What am I giving? A copper double boiler and strainer that I do not use nearly as much as the person I’m giving it to will. My sterling baby cup given to me by the wife of the Colonel of my father’s unit; he was at war overseas when I was born. His unit is engraved on that cup. I’m giving a hefty rock of amethyst quartz crystals I found ten years ago on a hike in the Rockies to a person who I know values unexpected treasures and the thrill of finding them. I’m giving my daughter my recorder from childhood so she need not borrow one from her school.

It disturbs me how so many Americans are in extreme economic hardship but the media doesn’t really reflect this. The holiday commercials still run on an irritating loop.

For those of you hit by these hard economic times. Please fall out of the retail hypnosis of the season and give of yourself. Think about what others might enjoy that you have and let it go. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with love?

No doubt, the market wants us to think giving used items is an insult and not considerate. A monetary transaction – one mostly on a credit card that is accruing debt – must transpire to legitimize a gift. Least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe.

The practice of giving handmade items, used or treasured has been done for hundreds of years, if not thousands. I think a new three foot tall chocolate fountain or S’more’s maker is more an insult than an old photo album or high school letter jacket; both treasures.

I’m not talking about giving stuff you have no use for. That’s no different than buying gifts people have no use for. Both are tacky, waste energy and end up in landfills or in third world countries in huts with no electricity. Who knows what these harebrained inventions are thought of there. No doubt it’s not good for foreign relations or how Americans are perceived.

I’m talking about the items your friends and family constantly note. I have an ancient Emile Henry baking dish that with crazing so intricate, it looks like it could be a map of Paris. I wrote of it in the post Haunted Cookware. I also have a friend that adores it. It cost me 99 cents. Luckily for me, she is one of the few people I was fortunate to score a gift. Lucky for her, her gift is old and French and will be welcomed, perhaps not as much as the ceramic baker would be. I’ll make a deal with myself, if 2011 is anything like 2010, 2009, and 2008, she will have it in 2011 and I will be happy to give it to her.

Call me tacky. Call me cheap. But, you can’t call me stupid for spending money I don’t have because the American retail system makes me feel obligated to buy gifts that my friends and family don’t need.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Here we go again! Faux is foe! How hard is that?

A quick visit at an import store nearly put a pie in my face. Kokeshi and Matryoshka dolls are the new black in holiday decor, stationary and cookware. What Japanese Kokeshi dolls have to do with the holidays is one big head scratch.

The sad thing is both dolls have origins in pride, originality and craftsmanship, celebrated for their unique quality. And both traditions have been around longer than anyone reading this post.

Seeing them massed produced and sold for ridiculous prices is heartbreaking. Once again a case where consumerism has made the cheap knock offs more expensive than the originals. I was about to expand on that thought but realized, I all ready have.

That original, hand-painted, bone china Wedgwood tea cup for $4 at the thrift store? It's 80 years old and has a chip! Toss it over your shoulder and buy a mass produced ceramic one instead.

Same with the Kokeshi and Matryoshka dolls. Nevermind they are a cultural tradition. There's a whole display of them at the mall - all made in China. Maybe shoppers can buy one get one free or super-size.

Faux is foe!
August 27, 2009

I encounter it all the time. Say it’s a dainty teacup with elaborate crazing and a blurred emblem with letters that look like they might be from a French restaurant long past. I think, “Why, that’s darling!” I am so enraptured by the prospect I fail to note the finish is a bit too shiny, the style too modern. I turn the teacup over to see that cursed Made in China sticker stuck to the object like a canker sore devaluing it and my confidence that I can sniff out a fake. I feel infected.

Why do we have an entire retail movement dedicated to presenting a vintage appearance to NEW products? Isn’t vintage earned? Fading and crazing often accompany use. Add a slight chip to represent honest use. Now that’s a real treasure, a piece of history. With age, don’t we chip and craze? Many cultures place a high value on scuffs and tears; signs of wisdom and experience.

I like to imagine that these items, products, have little souls. Take that fake vintage teacup I referred to and serve it at high tea. THAT teacup, with no experience, would shout, “Help! I’ve never done this before! Quick, I need Valium! Oh, I’m starting to shake and hyperventilate!” Who wants a shaking teacup? While, an old, experienced teacup would lovingly say, “How many lumps of sugar, dear? Milk? Lemon?” The aged, experienced teacup provides comfort.

The fact that manufacturers attempt to create vintage in factories in China is a complete head-scratcher. Add in that people actually buy this stuff and it gets troubling. Now, think about the prices people pay for these new, old-looking items! Is having something that looks old in pristine, new condition a sign of a refined style? I don’t think so. I've fallen prey to this before but those days are gone thanks to the thrift store.

In many ways, thrift stores are a mere reflection of the new product market but with a wonderful dash of estate goods. The fakes run out onto the field but at least there is competition from the originals. In thrift stores we have level playing field and the shopper is referee. I blew an “Out of bounds!” whistle at that fake teacup.

I’m not writing about furniture found in alleys and thrift stores brought back to life by painting and refinishing and sold in boutique home stores. That’s reuse or repurposing. It’s imaginative; art. I’m talking about massed produced furniture that is made to look like its distressed and 100 years old. Good gracious!

I guess it’s somewhat parallel to the American ideals of preserving physical youth. We can’t fight off age. So we suck in Botox and attempt to surround ourselves with objects that look old (like we are) but are new in origin (like we are not). Perhaps we are trying dictate what is agreeable and stylish when it comes to signs of age in both plastic surgery and product manufacturing. Perplexing, no?

If I could wave a magic wand on women and I'd convert crow's feet to peacock feathers. Frown lines would become endeared frauleins to keep your spirit young. Frolicking frauleins to accompany you wherever you go making you laugh and smile, getting richer with age.

How a woman ages is not based in plastic surgery, it is based on her ancestry (genetics), her choice of her lifestyle, the scars from mistakes…In the end shouldn’t our bodies be a part of the book of our lives? I agree that trauma deserves help, but everyday living should be celebrated.

Put an end to this madness! Celebrate age! Say, “No to faux! It's off to the thrift store I go!" Acquire originals and be an original.