Thursday, October 20, 2005

Margaritaville: A High Priced Town

My first date with my husband was dinner in a Mexican restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue. I was late. Thankfully, he waited, and we had a great dinner with excellent conversation and yummy margaritas.

Many years, one new kitchen and several furniture purchases later, he likes to comment on how that margarita has turned out to be the most expensive cocktail ever purchased in the world. I contend that it could be worse; he should think about what Ari Onassis served up to Jackie on their first date. But I digress.

My husband and I certainly have different comfort levels with spending. He hails from a North London family with a father who unplugs things when they've finished charging, not because he wants to protect the battery, but because he would rather not pay the .0000001 cents per day it takes in electricity to keep it plugged in. In London, the average house is relatively the size of the desk I'm sitting in front of. Not counting the chair. And it costs nine million pounds. Everything here, therefore, is pretty much an exercise in excess in comparison.

I certainly don't come from spendthrifts, but my parents bought things. New cars every four years or so. Fur coats and hats and other things that churchgoing women needed to possess in order to show face on Sunday morning. We weren't caviar dreams but we weren't hotdog money either. We were a decent cut of steak.

Merging our two spending philosophies has been interesting. I am a person who would just really rather pay someone else to do just about anything. My husband believes that we might as well empty buckets of cash into the Potomac than live by that creed.

Our shopping generally goes something like this: We decide we need something (read - either I frown for enough consecutive days that he comes around, or the thing in question that we already own breaks. And I mean BREAKS. As in, dead, unrecoverable, unable to be resuscitated by duct tape).

Let's say the item we need is a stove. I immediately jump to the highest end possible, as if shopping is an Olympic sport and I am trying to medal. I present a ten thousand dollar monstrosity that wouldn't even fit in our kitchen. "This is the best," I'll say, and point out the thirteen burners and all sorts of interesting knobs.

My husband asks if it comes with a chef to do the cooking. I answer no. He vetoes the ten thousand dollar stove. He hovers near the $250 two burner stoves and talks to himself. He writes down serial numbers and consults Consumer Reports. He reviews my facial expressions for clues. Deep frown when he's standing near the two burner thing meant for installation in a double wide. Slightly less frowning as he moves toward four burner models. Bright smile as he approaches the GE line. We buy.

I think we've perfected the dance. He's accepted that I will always look at the most unrealistic thing because it bears the shiny name tag which appeals to me (this is all because of high school. I swear).

I've accepted the fact that while he might not really buy it, he will at least consider having just an open fire pit in the kitchen and surviving on a diet of roasted hot dogs and smores. We meet somewhere in the middle, and the middle ground works: we're neither broke nor uncomfortable.

Even if he is still paying dearly for that margarita.

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