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Little Indulgences.

To a person of limited means, it is only more important and obvious that one must have one's little indulgences. As long as these treats neither grow monstrous nor get squeezed into a blinking scarcity, the zest remains.

The correct financial allotment for these indulgences is, I would suggest, ever so slightly higher than is reasonable and comfortable for said person. This adds a blade's edge of excitement, subversion, and self-scuttle that makes each indulgence criminal, though faintly, and allows the "limited means individual" to savor the pleasures and anxieties of both perpetrator and victim, a real roundhouse of utility thrown in for the price. Some might say a bargain.

The very real possibility that "living above one's means" may ultimately lead to utter personal ruin adds value to the purchase of any new book, drink, private pool membership, smart sunglasses. These items take on a criminal aura, they have a little theft glow, a black market glee. But unless the individual is a masochist, he or she must keep this danger at a baseline hum, two inches off the ground, so to speak, and not, you know, "go crazy."

Little indulgences. Much of the pleasure is in the purchase. The "getting it." A drive to a clothing store. You get out of the car, flop the door shut, and squeeze the lock button on your key chain. The machine tightens behind you. You draw deep through your nostrils: the early summer air. Afternoon sun on your face, your legs strong and sure, you feel grounded. Professional.

You stroll down the sidewalk (what a stroll!) toward the store, vaguely noting the physical attractiveness of other purchasers walking by, vaguely judging the inherent "goodness" of each purchaser's heart and long-term intent. Often some personal misstep is made. You trip on a crack in the concrete, you push on the door of the store instead of pulling. But in your indulgent mind, these mistakes are doubly charming, for the endgame is not in doubt! Today you will make a purchase, perhaps several, and the edgy, outlandish calm you feel will not be pricked by any crackerjack development, short of a mass public shooting.

So when the door to the store doesn't open to the push, you bellow with laughter. Oops! It ripples through you quickly and resounds on the street. You pull the door open and crisp, cool, clean-smelling air bursts on you. As you step inside, your eyes adjust to the dimness. The room grows. Tasteful, muted blues, greens, and browns warm the skylit interior from fifteen depths of field. Ruggedly soft fabrics, worn out at birth, lay in half-piles all around as if tossed from a hammock.

Yes, you think, I am entering a place that is not meant for me, really. For I have many issues with much of the current "scene" and humanity in general: a cowed and suggestible bunch. And a clothing store is all forecast style, and cozy coercion. It shrugs as if it has read our subconscious, offering in return an articulation of our feelings in the form of, say, a trim, navy, short-collared light jacket. I am insulted. I am unknowable.

But I want to be coerced, another crime for the list, and I am intelligent enough to hawk down into this blonde-wood inferno and cherry-pick good items, and unforeseen combinations of such, and therefore rise above my position as a "limited means individual," not by impressing others with my purchases per se, but by buttressing my own faintly criminal attitude toward myself by looking and feeling sleeker at a faintly dangerous cost.

All of this becomes the spiritual "goo" that holds the little indulgences together. And when self-sabotage and self-respect and joy and madness thread in equal measure, you become the "you" that you want, for now, within your limited means: a whiff of danger, sharply presented. And it is quite apparent, on the faces of those you meet who aren't imbeciles, that you've thrown your cards correctly, for now.
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Author:White, Chad
Publication:Southwest Review
Article Type:Essay
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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