I did some time traveling recently and hit my first Nordstrom's Half-Yearly Sale since the recession began. It wasn't until the third well-coiffed saleswoman offered to help me in as many minutes that I realized how much I longed for this, how much I missed the pleasure of shopping surrounded with beautiful things and people who aren't my children to run and fetch them for me in a different size. Yes, I know there is probably a 12-step program for feeling like this, but I don't care. I took a mini-vacation from the economic doldrums and nobody is going to make me feel bad about it.
For the past few years, I have joined the rest of the 99 percenters in belt-tightening. I have become a connoisseur of thrift stores, I only buy what I need and I have convinced myself that shopping at Target is an honorable thing. I clip coupons along with the best of them and eating out just because I don't feel like cooking is now something we recall with fondness as we eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner on those nights.
But the truth is, frugality has left me exhausted. Minding our pennies is tedious. Living in fear of spending is no way to live. And for a boomer -- we who feel entitled to the world's harvest of riches -- living within our means has been a painful adaption. We are the generation who never learned to save and the recession's left hook got us on the chin. We were forced to learn to do what never came easily: deny ourselves what we want. So yes, I understand why I can't take three vacations a year; just please don't ask me to like it.
What I bought at Nordstrom's is less important than how just being there made me feel: I partied like it was 1999, just like the symbol formerly known as Prince sang.
Shallow? Of course. Pathetic? Perhaps. I am simply tired of not being able to step outside the shackles and cuffs of the recession. I've written extensively about how the recession made me a better person; how proud I am that my family fared so well because we held it together -- and held each other -- when I was laid off from my job several years ago. I meant it too, every word of it. Now may I please have my old life back?
Once in awhile, I just need to pretend it's like it used to be. I need to treat myself to a splurge before I crawl back to my commitment to stay out of debt and focused on the big prize -- which in my case is a retirement that doesn't involve eating cat food from a can.
As far as my splurge goes, no worries. The loveliest part of shopping at Nordstrom's is its return policy. They even make you feel good about having to do that.