Only The Best

Posted in: Thinking Big

Six hours after leaving Lil Mil with my parents, I got a facial, the first one I’ve had in over a year. As aestheticians always do, this one asked me about my skin care routine. And, as I always do, I lied.

My goal was to ward off the inevitable product peddling that happens while you’re lying on a treatment table. Sure, I could be honest about the fact that I use Method hand soap to wash my face and then just say no when the aesthetician tells me, in a very concerned voice, that my skin needs $50 cleanser. But it’s just too much effort. So, instead, no matter where I am, I tell the person making a tsk tsk tsk sound as she examines my pores that I recently started using [____] (insert the name of an overpriced product sold in her spa), and invariably, her tone will change. “I can see signs of improvement,” she’ll say in an authoritative tone. And, more often than not, the sales pitch will stop.

Yesterday was different. When A asked about my regimen, I lied, but as soon as I did, I realized I didn’t need to. She wasn’t trying to sell me on products. She was just interested. So I asked her about her own routine, and she told me that she only uses three products: a cleanser, a daytime moisturizer and a night cream. She then told me that while the cleanser and moisturizer change regularly, she’s been using the same night cream for years, and she can’t live without it. I, of course, was immediately intrigued. The woman’s skin was amazing. Whatever she used, I wanted. So I asked her the name of it, and she told me. “It’s expensive,” she said, “but I’d rather have one phenomenal product than a dozen mediocre ones. So I gave up all the other products I was using — the eye creams, the serums, the masks — just so I could afford it. And my skin is better than it’s ever been because of it.”

She then proceeded to tell me that she buys this magic night cream once a year, in a 12-month supply, for $1000.

ONE. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. For night cream.

I cannot imagine a world in which I would spend $1000 on anything I put on or in my body. And yet, if you were to add up all the money I spend on beauty-related products each year — all inexpensive, drugstore brands, some of which I toss into the trash after one use — it’d probably come close. And what do I have to show for it? A bunch of crap I don’t need and skin that’s still needy.

My beauty routine is not the only realm in which I do this. In trying to be thrifty, I am wasteful. Of time. Of money. Of calories. So determined am I not to overspend that I end up with both more and less than I need. More quantity and less quality. I don’t want to spend too much money on shoes, so instead of splurging on a designer pair that I’d wear daily, I end up with three sale (and often ill-fitting) pairs that will sit in my closet unworn. I don’t want to spend too much time blogging, so I multitask: blogging while breastfeeding while browsing clearance items at Bloomingdales.com. Fifteen minutes later, I have an unwritten blog, a baby that’s still hungry, and a shopping basket full of heavily discounted things I don’t need.

Lying on that treatment table under a mega-watt light, the truth came into sharp focus: In trying to be saavy, I settle for the unsatisfying. For the mediocre. For Less Than. And, the worst part is, I’m not saving any time or any money in the process. Plus, I’m missing out on the delicious sense of satisfaction that comes from a resource well spent.

This realization stayed with me. Over the next 12 hours, a yearning began to take root. A desire for the Best. The Best food, the Best wine, the Best chocolate. Not the most expensive but the highest quality. The purest. The freshest. The most satisfying. Things that are truly worth the money I spend on them. Because if they’re not, why am I buying them?

So, yesterday afternoon, standing in line at the coffee shop at the Ace Hotel (quite possibly the Best place in Manhattan to spend hours on one’s laptop), I spotted a stack of chocolate bars by the register. Mast Brothers Chocolate, the oh-so adorable label read. 72% cacao and fleur de sel. Made in Brooklyn. Hand cracked. Date of birth: 5/25/2010.

Without tasting it (and having no idea what the hell “hand cracked” meant), I knew: I was in the presence of a Best (ah, the power of packaging).

“And this, too,” I told the barista, holding up the chocolate bar.

“The chocolate is ten dollars,” he replied.

TEN. DOLLARS. For a chocolate bar.

“Yep!” I said, as nonchalantly as I could, handing over my money. And carefully, as if it were a bar of gold, I put the chocolate bar into my purse.

Where it’s been for the last 29 hours.

You see, that’s the problem with getting the Best things. It’s harder to consume them. The instinct (at least for me) is to preserve them. To save them for a special occasion. To use them sparingly. To make an event out of them.

But what if – WHAT IF – each of us could live a Best or Nothing life? What if we reallocated all of our resources towards the Best Things, and stopped spending time and money and calories and energy on anything Less Than? Would every glass of wine, every slice of pizza, every bar of chocolate, become a moment worth savoring?

Maybe that’s a lot to ask from a bar of chocolate (yes, but it’s “hand crafted locally with organic cacao sourced from farms in Madagascar and roasted in small batches”!), but I, for one, am ready to give it a whirl.

As soon as I can bring myself to rip this pretty packaging.

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