Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Regrets, I've worn a few

I spent a good hour engrossed by the comments for the New York Times e-article, "What You Wouldn't Do If You Could Do it Again", which asked readers to contribute their response to the question, If you could undo one bad choice and get the money back, what would it be?

Shoulda, woulda, coulda
Over a month later, responses are still rolling in steadily. There are themes: loans to friends, selling Apple stock, too-costly houses, youthful excess. 

But what surprised and moved me were the posts that had no evident financial repercussions, like "I would have kissed her."

And if someone longs for a child, it is not about the money.

My response is that I would not have bought heaps of wildly expensive designer clothes in my single-girl thirties. I don't necessarily wish I'd invested the money; travel, art, philanthropy or even a piano would have given me more joy and edification than a Gaultier suit. What a dumb, well-dressed Dora!

Mr. Right said all wrong
Those clothes didn't make me any happier or more successful than say, bridge lines, or beam Mr. Right onto my path. Le Duc in fact came along (25 years ago this month) when I was wearing a voluminous Rei Kawakubo coat that he told me he hated pretty early on.

Not only did he introduce true love, he ended my over-the-top spending not by requesting me to forsake Ferragamo and Gaultier, but by creating other priorities.

What about you?

25 comments:

Toby Wollin said...

Worst use of clothing money ever: I had a wedding to go to and was on unemployment. Not wanting to look 'poor', I bought a dress (that I had to starve myself to get into)that was gorgeous and got...to...wear...once.

Susan said...

Duchesse, This is a very thought provoking question and I've been wracking my brain for an answer.

I don't have any financial regrets. Until quite recently (the last five years or so), I spent very very little on myself in terms of clothing, jewelry, or any personal items.

I bought a sofa once which I hated--and gave it away a year later as a temporary piece of furniture to our son and his wife. They gave it away two years later. It wasn't a bad sofa, but was upholstered in a chenille I did not like (have NEVER liked chenille) and had a very uninspired and ungraceful shape. As a result of that debacle, I am so careful when it comes to furnishings and never make quick decisions (which can irritate my husband).

Sometimes I have a twinge of regret over not going to law school ( I was amused to read the comments in the NY Times of so many who regret GOING to law school).

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I had a perm on my already curly locks shortly after my marriage...it was a tight Afro...honestly the worst money ever spent and I had to live for months walking around looking horrible until it grew out....:(

s. said...

Financial: Letting my broker talk me out of buying AMAZON.COM stock when it was going public.

Non Financial: Allowing myself to dive into overeating when a series of tragedies hit in my early 30s. Many years later, never been able to lose that weight.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment to say that what you're thinking was too-pricey designers clothes for you was maybe in fact part of a "learning" process, so now you can delight us with your fine taste and expert knowledge as well as giving us the best advices... Maybe it's a case of your lost, our gain ;-)

Belle de Ville said...

Regrets, oh the list is so long on the financial side.
Sartorally, I wish that I still had the clothes and shoes that I bought at Celine and Hermes in the late 1970s. I would be wearing them today.
Finally, I wish that in my younger days I had invested in jewelry instead of horses. I would have had a nice collection with value today instead of memories, many of which are unhappy.

Staircase Witch said...

I've often chosen practicality over beauty in the past...wedding dress (you only wear it once, after all!), house (who has time to maintain an historic building when tenure is all-important?), china and silver (needs to be dishwasher-safe and portable and go with everything, good looks be damned). When I was younger, I thought that aesthetic concerns were frivolous and superficial. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to listen to my heart: if it wanted something and couldn't let it go, I stopped trying to talk myself out of it.

LPC said...

Regret is perhaps the most narrative emotion we have. Because it's so subjunctive. Ah, what could have been is a de facto story. That said, I suppose because I am genetically cheerful, I regret very little. Every bad choice brought something useful, or dearly loved, one way or another. Life is all you get and then you die, so what you have is what you have and should be cherished. Sorry to be all sunbeams and light. But even the blood taste of regret reminds me I'm alive, so I can't mind it too much.

Duchesse said...

Toby: Oh no! Live and learn, right?

Susan: The classic advice- to live in a house a year before buying anything major= was hard to follow. Nothing was right. But it worked well for us as newlyweds. As years pass I am guessing you have built your eye!

hostess: Sounds like the pain of growing it out was worse than the cost.

Anonymous: There is always a lesson, at least if one stops to reflect.

Belle: Woman after my heart! But if I had my clothes of the '70s, I couldn't fit into them now!

s.: Not to band-aid your regret, but you are beautiful as you are. Perhaps somewhat different than your early 30s, which is the case for many women.

LPC: Before I plowed through those posts, I thought "I don't have any regrets". Then I realized just because they don't weigh me down, there are choices that I wish I'd made differently.

Susan said...

Duchesse, The sad thing is that I had already developed my home furnishing eye when I bought the sofa in question. But, I let my husband rush me into getting SOMETHING for our gameroom. I knew immediately when it was delivered that it was wrong, wrong, wrong. We had lived in our house for quite a while at that time, but were refurnishing the gameroom for us after the boys had gone to college.

Fortunately, I was able to buy another sofa---attractive and deep and with a tasteful linen slipcover. But, the experience has made me gunshy when making major purchases unless I have an interior designer who taste I trust to be much like my own.

Like LPC, I have very few regrets. If anything, I wish I had dressed BETTER as a young woman. It wasn't until our children had left the nest that I allowed myself to spend any money on myself. So--I've come to knowledge about fashion very very late--one of the reasons I read this blog and others.

Demi-pointe said...

Maybe my regret is comprised of the "too much factor". Caring about what my clothes said about me too much; or caring too much about appearing that I didn't care. I even took care of my clothes too much! - saving and tending to some of them so that they lasted and still looked too new when I moved on. Sometimes getting swept up in the too much of an "it" item. And now maybe focusing too much on regrets. But aware enough to not add that one to the soon to be tossed list.

Duchesse said...

susan: I feel a rue unlike any other when I make a choice that deep down I "know" is not right immediately after.

Demi-pointe: Your remarks lead to an insight for me, those clothes armoured me after a painful divorce. (I had them b/f the split, so they became part of "not losing everything".) I call the state of buying and then taking too good care, thus not really wearing the item, "curatorial shopping".

materfamilias said...

I made one very big mistake in my youth, with potentially very lonog-resonating consequences (as much as I will say about that). I suppose I do regret that and yet . . . truly, one thing does lead to another, and although my "year of confusion" led me off the path, I soon afterwards met my husband. We married early (21), had kids early (first at 23), bought a house early (24), and in the years since then I first completed a conservatory diploma (piano) and then my BA, MA, Phd. So I might,in some ways, regret not having had more time to play. Yet I can't do that, not only because my life is so rich, but also because one quickly learns that those who were playing have their own regrets. . .
Thought-provoking post and the ensuing conversation is sure to be lively and interesting. Couldn't resist commenting despite just announcing I'd be holding back . . .

crunchycon said...

I'm torn about this one; my big regret was that I married (poorly)on the rebound instead of getting back with my college sweetheart when he came knocking.

But then I wouldn't be happily married to DH2, so....

Reflections and a Latte said...

My biggest regret is getting sexually involved with my history instructor as a college freshman. It ended badly (how could it not have) with me falling into a deep depression and failing out of school. It shaped my life for many years after.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: Grateful that you did comment, especially about those "long knells" that resound down the years. It is something I try to discuss with my sons, that every choice holds both anticipated and unanticipated outcomes.

crunchycon: In the NYT lots of people regretted marriages, the repercussions both financial and psychological. (Strange. I do not regret a former one very much, only that it took so long to fall apart.)

Reflections: I hope we can all forgive ourselves for youthful mistakes- well, for any mistakes. Eons ago (I was single) was considering 'getting involved' with a married man, and a friend told me, "One thing is sure, you will suffer." Right.

rb said...

OH, there are so many choices. the little ones are things I bought because they were on sale and I never wore them, or things I got pushed into buying because of the people shopping with me.

But honestly, in terms of bang for the buck, I wish I hadn't bought a big, 100 year old fixer-upper house. I love my house, I love my neighborhood, but ... you know that movie, The Money Pit, from the '80s? I can relate.

rb said...

p.s. because I know you can relate, I thought I should mention that I DO NOT regret buying any of my pearls! :) Even the ones that were (quite expensive) impulse buys.

Duchesse said...

rb: Friends! We all mean well but that can happen. (I can tune out a salesperson but not a friend.)

We don't regret one single pearl!

Hope for a happy ending for the house investment, one day. Charming old houses are catnip to buyers.

Susan said...

Ok, I have made some mistakes buying clothing---with a friend shopping with me. I just took one of them to the consignment shop this fall---a really lovely beaded black skirt. Too short for me---and a slim size--because I was very slim at the time I purchased it. I'm not even sure it looked good on me when I was slim. Hopefully, the shop has sold it and I have a credit. I didn't see the skirt last time I was in the shop.

Deja Pseu said...

My biggest clothing regrets center on "buying around" the item that I *really* wanted because I decided it was either too extravagant or was afraid of what someone else would say. I'd wind up buying several poor substitues that never satisfied, and probably spending as much as I would have had I bought the original object of desire. OTOH, I've never regretted buying items that are classics.

Non clothing regrets: settling for a college that really wasn't the right environment for me, not having more confidence in my own skills, abilities and worth. Allowing le monsieur to pick light beige carpeting for the hallway and bedrooms (impossible to keep clean).

Duchesse said...

Pseu: So many emotions around buying, beyond cost. Am I worth this? Will it change me for the good? Will my friends approve? Does this make me look (fill in the blank)? As we grow more mature we learn to let go of those criteria- or most of the time.

Deja Pseu said...

Duchesse - so true. I've gone through many phases of looking for approval by having the "right" things (which can vary widely depending on who comprises the jury). I think a lot of this was my mother's legacy...but these days I try to let only one emotion guide my purchases - do I love it? (Empirical factors such as budget also considered, of course.)

Karen said...

Wouldn't have become a lawyer!

Duchesse said...

Karen: The Times' comments contain more remarks from malcontent lawyers than any other occupational group, as well as retorts from happy ones. I wondered if this was a selection bias (is readership composed of a disproportionate number of lawyers) or a reflection of the realities and stresses of the profession?