October 19, 2011

1789 Redux

Marie Antoinette and Her Children
As a responsible parent, I naturally feel that it is my obligation to caution my offspring on the hazards of certain activities that might possibly cause a person to lose their head. Literally. Lopped right off. Clean from the shoulders. Chop, thunk, gone. This I see as the reasonable duty of any modern parent in possession of a caring constitution.

So…this is a candid note from the Recent Paterfamilias to his infant offspring on: Conspicuous Consumption.

History, that cruel mistress, will teach us that some people in this world are just begging to have their heads cut off.

But please, allow me to explain.

In France, there were the French. And these French people had multiple so-called “estates.” And a couple of these so-called estates were what we will label as “showy.” Overly showy. Ostentatiously showy. And then, in this same France, there were the newly moneyed, the so-called Nouveau Riche. And these Nouveau Riche were even more showy than the aforementioned, plain-old riche. And then this led to that, and that led to this, and one thing led to another, and then there was the general failure, or refusal, to adopt the common potato as a practical food source, and then, before anybody knew it, people were storming the streets and marching down the cobblestones and log jamming the Champ de Mars, and then they started lopping off rich, showy little heads. Some (not the headless, obviously) would even bring picnic lunches out to the fairgrounds so they might have a proper repast while watching the heads roll down the hill.

So…recently, my wife, my daughter, and I, for reasons which I am still a trifle unclear, frequented a…how shall I say it?…a superstore on 5th Avenue that caters to the über rich.

While transferring from one up escalator to another on the shoe floor, my daughter, who has lately become…how shall I say it?...well…rather grabby, reached out from the chest-born carrier in which she was riding and grabbed a shoe from a display.

Audible gasps were heard from all around, from salespersons and clientele alike.
It was a ballet flat. Encrusted in crystals. With a red sole. The price tag on the bottom, it must be assumed, covered the cost of the pair (for what is one shoe without another?). $2,300. I replaced the ballet flat back upon its table and we continued upstairs.

Ultimately, for reasons unknown (as has been mentioned previously), we found ourselves browsing on the Children’s floor.

One article stuck out from all the rest. I had to go and investigate.
It was a coat. In size 3T. In rabbit fur. From Gucci. In Italy. For four thousand dollars.

I had to admit—it seemed a little much.

We then continued our browsing.

There were little black dresses, for infants, for 425. Blouses for 250. Scarves for a grand-and-a-half (although, it should be noted, they were made from chinchilla, and, as everybody knows, chinchilla happens to be one of the harder rodents to come by on earth, unlike, say, rats).
At the time, I made an internal note to remind myself to mention to my daughter at some point in the future that this manner of ostentatious consumption is the kind of thing that ends up getting people’s heads lopped off, and therefore, in an act of self-preservation, should be avoided at all costs if encountered during acts of retail purchasing.

The lesson here should be clear: Showiness will ultimately culminate in a modern-day Reign of Terror, complete with whores and urchins and Jean Valjeans coursing up 5th Avenue on foot and via public transportation, wielding pitchforks and barstools and skinny jeans, out on the hunt for toddlers in rabbit hide fur coats.

One would assume that the modern parent would easily be able to express the hazards of wanting, and owning, a size 3T $4,000 rabbit fur coat. One would also think that such a conversation shouldn’t even be necessary. One would think that other people (those people who design kids’ coats), after briefly considering the idea of an authentic rabbit fur kid’s coat, for those children living outside of inhospitable environments (like Siberia or Iceland or the North Pole), would consequently reject the fur coat idea with a chuckle and a shrug and a “Wouldn’t that be quaint, or ironic, or a disregarding of good taste,” after which, the fur coat idea finds itself sent right down the metaphorical toilet, and off they, the idea makers, go, in search of a new idea Like how to design and manufacture a kid’s hat that doesn’t spin around on a kid’s head, cover her eyes, get caught in the her mouths and consequently drive certain unnamable long-suffering parents up the proverbial wall.

Not that the Recent Paterfamilias has any feelings one way or the other on kids’ stupid little hats. Or common public uprisings spurned by socioeconomic factors which he, admittedly, can’t entirely fathom.
Suri Cruise in her fur coat!


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