My Record Cake Collection

Baby Birthdays and Other Reasons You’re Oversharing

Each morning I get up, let my dog out and wander aimlessly into my kitchen to prepare whatever low-carb, lo-cal “breakfast” I believe I can force feed myself without incident. This morning as I was spooning cottage cheese out of the container I noticed a pastel green party invitation laying casually on the granite counter top. It was one of the customized, glossy photo invitations that everybody is using now for everything from bah mitzvahs to Christmas cards. The light green back ground was covered with floating daisies and, in the center there was a cockeyed picture of some stranger’s fat, redheaded, smiling baby.

The invitation encouraged the recipient to come and celebrate the life and happiness of Baby. All I wanted to celebrate when I looked at this picture was Baby getting into some clean clothes that hadn’t been covered in green puke (which I was later informed was Baby’s first taste of guacamole. Who puts that in a public photograph?).

I placed my breakfast back in the refrigerator, content that I was about 100 calories closer to a girlish figure than Baby due to my now non-existent appetite.

What happened to cute first year pictures? Was a matching outfit, or an appropriate photo really too much to ask? I would have settled for a photo sans a regurgitated lunch.

With the rise of digital photography, Facebook and photo sites like Flickr, we’re much more apt to take and share pictures of the mundane and sometimes even digestively offensive, but does that mean that it’s okay to send invitations to your loved ones for a birthday party, where, if the invite is any indication, I’m more likely to walk away having been puked on than I would at a Vanderbilt frat party?

This is just one more instance of over-sharing in today’s world. Just because you can put it out there doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

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Faking It

This morning I came across Lindsay Ferrier’s blog post regarding the purchase of knockoff designer bags. I’ve expressed my stance on knockoff bags enough times that I felt compelled to comment on the subject. After writing four paragraphs , I realized I was writing a post of my own.

I’ve had knockoffs over the years. In the beginning they came by way of one of my step-father’s clients who would bring bags back from New York as gifts. I got my very first knockoff my sophomore year of high school. It was a hunter green “Phooney and Bourke” backpack purse. I didn’t really see the massive appeal of a D&B bag (all that tiny lettering is too busy for my taste), but everybody in high school was carrying one and my parents were offering it to me in the interest of fairness since my private schooled step-sisters apparently needed them as a uniform requirement. Given that I went to a public high school, I’m guessing 90% of the ones I saw everyday were fakes. The other 10% were likely lifted from the carrier’s mom’s closet as soon as she was out of the drive-way and on her way to work.

College and a meager, steady paycheck brought an appreciation for accessories. I fell in love with the simplicity of Kate Spade’s patterns and designs and my next knockoff, a blue on blue stripped “Fake Spade” Sam, was given to me. I loved it, but despite, and probably because of, the compliments I was given when I carried it, I felt like I was somehow cheating fashion. I had no idea where it had come from (other than eBay), but imagined some lady sitting in her house in Ohio, picking out similar fabrics to those of the authentic bags and hand sewing the telltale labels on the outside of the purses.

I purchased a few more knockoffs over the years. However, they were confined to pieces I liked, but couldn’t afford. After society decided to bring bell bottoms back, it became painfully clear that I couldn’t rely on the public-at-large to dictate my sense of style. Besides…in the absence of a reason to get dressed up, I’m very much a blue jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.

After Jessica Simpson sparked another Louis Vuitton craze in ’03 and ’04, I’d begun to grasp the scope of the industry and no longer imagined a suburban housewife, sewing the labels on the bags. What suburban housewife had access to leather working equipment? I knew the leather fakes were most likely out of the Orient and assumed the everything else was as well. I’d heard stories about poor working conditions and knew they were probably less than ideal; however, in my naiveté, I imagined a room full of Chinese workers, slaving over their sewing machines, making a pittance for a weekly salary, then heading home to their huts where they would gleefully eat their bowl of fish and rice, ecstatic to have work that paid anything at all. I stupidly assumed that this industry, a black market, would afford its overseas workers the same basic working conditions as the mainstream clothiers claim. Of course I felt a little guilty, but surely the Chinese government had labor laws just like the United States, and even if I thought their standards were sub par, it was the prerogative of the Chinese government to dictate what was acceptable for its citizens. I needed that Louis Vuitton Piano Bag that Jessica Simpson carried on Newlyweds.

In January, 2009, I came across a piece by Dana Thomas in Harper’s Bazaar“The Fight Against Fakes”. The absolute horrors of this industry hit me head on. In the article Dana quotes a passage from her book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster:

“I remember walking into an assembly plant in Thailand a couple of years ago and seeing six or seven little children, all under 10 years old, sitting on the floor assembling counterfeit leather handbags,’ an investigator told me… ‘The owners had broken the children’s legs and tied the lower leg to the thigh so the bones wouldn’t mend. [They] did it because the children said they wanted to go outside and play.”

After reading this, I knew I would never again carry one of these bags in good conscience or otherwise. I couldn’t, and still don’t, understand how we can live in a world that allows human trafficking for the sake of carrying what APPEARS to be a designer bag. I don’t understand why people are allowed to die in the name of mining diamonds and those have some quantifiable value (even though it’s just a rock). But a purse? Are you really willing to condemn people to be beaten, starved and treated as subhuman just so your friends can think this bag, that you spend too much time searching through for car keys, cost you several hundred dollars? Since reading Dana’s piece, I have heard other stories; stories of children chained to sewing machines, sleeping on floors, starving, beaten and broken so their “owners”, for lack of a better phrase, can reap the rewards of their slave labor.

I recently went to New York for a long weekend with a friend.  Hell bent on shopping, she was adamant that we visit Chinatown and explore the secret shops and store rooms that make up the labyrinths behind the storefronts. I hadn’t ever been to Chinatown, but quickly became accustomed to the women and men standing in the doorways, quietly mumbling names like Coach, Tiffany and Juicy, hoping to catch our attention. At one such store they caught D’s. Quickly, they ushered inside the store where part of the wall began to give way to a doorway that would have been undetected by the casual observer. After entering the room, the door was immediately closed behind us and it was indicated that we were to follow a small woman who lead us down a hall, through another door, down a flight of stairs, across a musty basement, up another flight of stairs and into a small room where purses covered the walls. There were about six other women in there shopping when we entered. I remember thinking that taking out my phone would probably be seen as a hostile act and I wasn’t keen on being mistaken as an undercover anything. There were beautiful bags in that room. I was particularly taken with a few of them, but looking around at the bargain priced bags, belts, wallets and sunglasses, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all wrong. What I now knew of the production of these things had taken any joy I would have found in my previous state of blissful ignorance. I just wanted to leave.

I couldn’t begin to express my philosophical concerns to the two women who stood guard in the room with us. I wondered if they had children and if their children had come to the US with them…or were they some of the children working in the mills, essentially sold into the trade in exchange for passage to a better life. I have no idea to what extent these women knowingly participated as cogs in the wheel, but standing there, I knew that I would never perpetuate the need for these things again.

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