Anna and I visited the local shrine to unattainable perfection on Monday. It’s called Pottery Barn for Kids, the beautifully lit showroom designed to make you feel like an asshole. I haven’t been there since 2008 because the instant I cross the threshold I feel like I don’t belong. I say fuck, don’t wear single strands of pearls, and refuse to join the PTA. Generally I prefer to avoid places that thrive on impossible standards, but I can’t get a new brain, or ignore Anna’s request for new bedroom furniture. We’ve already been to IKEA and Rooms to Go.
We glided through their glossy catalog on foot for 13 minutes before I started believing their monograms and ironed sheets could guarantee happiness. The fantasy rooms in this store fire up my primal longing for the double fairy tale. The one I wanted as a girl, and the one I want for my daughter. It’s a buy-one-get-one-free mind-fuck.
We visited the store specifically to look at this loft bed, which has a built-in desk and vanity. It’s a “storage solution.”
My brow crinkled when I saw the price of this American Dream: $1,800.
That’s only for the frame. If you add everything else in that room, the total cost is $5,632.
Then Anna pointed out the coveted play kitchen, and I remembered why I broke up with this store five years ago.
I wanted to buy this for her for Christmas. I didn’t because it costs $700, not including the tiny groceries. Now she’s too old for it. It’s a wish that can’t come true.
I started to fret about future wishes. What if they can’t come true unless I buy her the perfect PB Teen loft bed and study, with the mini-polka-dot phone and crystal lamps? Will I regret not buying her the entire room when I drop her off at college? Will she spend the next nine years feeling less-than and broke, like I did as a kid, like I do in this moment?
The smart part of me knows that’s dumb, but logic is no match for retail terrorists. This manufacturer strikes the core of my ugliest fear: Anna will be an outcast, ashamed and miserable, and it will be all my fault for not making more money, for not going to church, for not staying married, for not making her Halloween costumes, for not waving from the carpool lane every day at 2:15pm…for not having the Pottery Barn house.
My emotions were in a rolling boil when the sane voice in my head finally appeared. What in the twisted fuck is going on? SHE’S the nine-year old here, not you. Come back. You’re not living in a motel anymore. You can buy this stuff if you really want to, but is it worth pulling money out of savings? Or opening a line of credit with a million percent interest rate?…Do you really want this furniture because it’s beautiful, unique, and speaks to you? Or are you trying to slay the childhood lack monster with bunk beds?
Oh. Right. I don’t want to spend $5,600 on anything that doesn’t have or involve an engine. Especially not on furniture that will be destroyed or abandoned in five years. What I really want is to spend $500 at IKEA/Target, and keep the rest of my money where it belongs.
I braced myself for Anna’s heartbreak and disappointment and told her my plan. She said, “Okay. I’m not getting pepperoni on my pizza. Are we sharing a sundae or can I have my own? I love our California Pizza Chicken dates. It’s where I was born, you know. Los Angeles. Do you want to go back there some day?”
Anna couldn’t care less about where I buy her bed or how much it costs. Her self-esteem isn’t defined by the furniture in her room. It’s defined by us hanging out together blowing bubbles in our drinks, eating pizza, battling brain-freeze, taking stupid pictures of our cats, and laughing at Barbie farts.
Suck it, Pottery Barn. I win this round.