Yesterday, while flipping through an issue of Departures as I enjoyed a pumpkin cupcake, I ran across the magazine's "Necessary Luxuries" column, in which various celebrated people confess what they couldn't live without. Most of them listed very high-minded stuff like family heirlooms, but it got me thinkin': in these straitened times of conspicuous asceticism, what are the non-essentials that are essential to our happiness? I mean, I'm ready to cut out restaurant meals, movies, nice tissues, cheap tissues, cable, or pro haircuts, but don't touch my expensive tampons.Obviously, this is an oxymoron; a "luxury" is nonessential. But the concept does raise ideas about what special things make the difference between treating yourself and being sensible. It's a fine line, too: even someone who hasn't denied himself much can probably find that he does without 90% of those pleasures he considered "essential" before. But it's pretty well-documented that overdoing it — like crash dieting — can be a false economy. As we all look at what we need, and don't, it's interesting to see what we decide makes us happy — and putting a price tag on it. Anna, for her part, budgets for daily lattes and one nice dinner a month. Megan will skimp on everything but highlighting her hair, pasta with a low glycemic index, and good wine. Jessica hangs onto her car (a luxury in New York). Dodai's glamorous luxuries are the three C's: cashmere, cocktails and cabs. As to me, besides Pearl tampons, I've found I'm willing to cut out a lot to hold onto the expensive curly-haired non-shampoo that keeps my hair manageable, whole-milk yogurt, and name-brand meds. One person's luxury is not another's. This can of course get touchy when your "essential luxuries" don't mesh with those of someone with whom you share a budget — not, I guess, as much of an issue for the celebs in the magazine — but in general, one small up-side to any financial trouble is re-learning to appreciate. When times were leaner growing up, I remember that my mom made a point of always getting fresh juice oranges. My grandmother tells me that during the depression, she and her siblings would save to buy their mother some of her favorite candy, to keep up morale and a sense of normalcy. Even thinking about "essential luxuries" is of course one of the greatest luxury of all — and maybe one of the essentials? Necessary Luxuries [Departures]
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