gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

The Ages of Stuff

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What is the thing in the world that you can’t have too many of? I’m not talking abstract things like love or peace or even sex; I’m talking stuff.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I might have said earrings. I had my ears pierced when I was 13, and became known for my quirky taste in earrings – the tone set by my first pair which were small wooden red and white parrots. I would have told you then that I could NEVER have too many earrings. And I would have been wrong – in my greed I had a second hole pierced in my left ear by some charlatan who misjudged the operation. The second hole was so close to the first that I became obsessed with the idea that my ear would tear. After a few years of constant fear, I gave up earrings for good.

After that, I would have told you that it was all about shoes. My first boss used to laugh at me as I tottered off to court in my ridiculously high heels, walking so slowly that we probably missed a few filing deadlines thanks to my tortured feet. When I started lecturing in my mid-twenties, the high heels had to go, so I became obsessed with handbags – with an especial fondness for small, impractical bags that now form the backbone of my three year old daughter’s dressing up box.

The bulk of my thirties were hard years of fertility battles, babies and loss. I would probably have spent most of them choosing books as my “can’t have too many”, a principle that I remain true to. However, I now own and love – no, adore – a kindle. I read the latest books as soon as they come out and it’s cheaper and doesn’t take up any space. So nowadays, I would rather you didn’t give me books, because if I haven’t read it already, it’s probably because I don’t want to.

So, as I turned 40 this week, I wondered what I could tell people I wanted as a gift – something that wouldn’t upset me if I got hundreds. And the answers are just too depressing for words. Top of the list is pretty dishcloths. I love having pink and floral and funkily striped dishcloths. It makes me feel in control because a woman who has beautiful dishcloths is surely a woman in control of the details? Next is pretty paper serviettes. I fancy the idea of having a drawer that I can go to where I can find the perfect colour and vibe for any occasion. (Incidentally, the same drawer will have an endless supply of batteries and double adapters. If that doesn’t resonate with you, you are probably not really a grown up.)

Only one friend has asked what I would like for my birthday (my party is still coming up). “Dishcloths,” I said happily. “Beautiful dishcloths please.”
“I am not,” she said, in a most strict tone, “Buying you dishcloths for your birthday.”
“Please,” I ventured.
“I just will not,” she said. “So you’d better think of something else.”
But I can’t. I just want those damn dishcloths.

What is it that you want – that you couldn’t have too many of?

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