I've never bought my own handbag. For years, I was afraid to buy my own clothes. For years, I didn't need to buy my own clothes. Because my mother bought them all for me.

Growing up as an only child gave my mother a privileged existence. Unencumbered by siblings, her parents spent freely on her, so she did the same. Once she married my father, she transferred spending on herself to spending on me and my sister. I would come home to find a large stack of clothes piled high on my bed. She would smile, look both ways down the hall, and shoo me into my room. Then she'd lower her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and say what became her mantra: "Don't tell your father!"

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