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DECEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 12



THAT'S LIFE

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A Southerner in New York City




KRISTEN HAVENS, a freelance videographer, editor and writer, with a particular focus on poetry and screenplays, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. She makes her home near Hartford, CT.


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Mail Order M.O. - Who Am I?

KRISTEN HAVENS

Like any self-respecting woman older than twenty-one and younger than one hundred, I am not particularly fond of divulging my age, salary or weight. That said, I would like to address the seemingly omnipotent twentieth-century invention known as the Mailing List: that most secret of agencies which has somehow targeted, tagged and labeled me as a Slim, Rich, Thirty-something Housewife on Permanent Exotic Vacation.

I'm making an educated guess that the deluge of paper began with my early nineties entry into higher-priced catalog shopping. Over the past eight years I have placed perhaps five total clothing orders with a certain preppy-sophisticate institution we all know and love. Yet in the time that has lapsed since my first major credit card balance, the influx of catalogs courting my mailbox has multiplied by fifty. Now, at the dawn of the year 2000, hand in hand with the economic boon and the mobilization of the buying class, it becomes equally suspect and apropos that a struggling single woman like myself has been profiled as a rapacious, not to mention overeducated, consumer.

My needs, the Mailing List tells me, are numerous, sophisticated and highly visible. To think that just a few short years ago, as a recent college graduate, I was uncertain about my identity and social standing. In the face of all of this mail, I can no longer deny my true calling. I am a showy, hoarding dilettante and I wear my insecurities like a badge.

I hunger for one-hundred percent linen dresses even as I canvass the countryside with my frame pack and three-season tent. My need for capri pants and Gore-tex is insatiable. Though I often find myself fly-fishing in the Pacific Northwest, I cannot stand dirt and I wash twice a day with lava-enriched bath salts. And though I smell of floral, cruelty-free perfume, my adventures cause me to sweat so all of my clothing must wick. Wicking is my religion.

Speaking of wicks: I own over one-thousand aromatherapeutic candles and several dozen candelabras to match. I unwind at the end of a long day by pouring and scenting my own pillars. If I'm still uptight after a eucalyptus bath, I take a stroll through my avocado-lined grounds with the aid of my hand-tooled Moroccan sandals.

When I must leave my considerable acreage for a visit to the city, I never venture forth without my pocket-sized weather radio and global positioning system. For longer treks, I require specially designed, wrinkle-resistant travel clothing, including a straw hat which crumples to the size of a golf ball. All the better for the inevitable, impromptu club-swinging on Safari.

I never let a birthday or anniversary pass without a thoughtful gift of imported D'Anjou pears, miniature bonsai trees or living wreaths. My home, which, of course, I own, is decorated ceiling to floor in "butter" colored drapes, "sage" slipcovers and sheer organza shower curtains with little pockets (presumably to display a selection of favorite collector's stamps; my overnight guests are philatelists). For elegant occasions, I deck my dining room table with a runner made from genuine Brazilian moss. And I always serve my sherry from hand-blown decanters. I hired a closet consultant to organize my walk-in and I keep a steady supply of cedar blocks on hand for the protection of my vast selection of Shetland wool sweaters.

Seeing as I am that rare urban dweller with a garden, I take a keen interest in stainless steel spades and antique brass barometers. In my copious free time, I enjoy the arts of embossing, paper-making and calligraphy.

Occasionally, though, I just need to get away. When the urge to escape strikes, I am always grateful for the opportunity to hop on an academic Black Sea tour led by one of my former professors. When I return, I can be sure that my faithful stacks of catalogs await.

Clearly, in this age of keystroke consumerism, the old adage "time is money" is an understatement. We are a frazzled citizenship; a country of manics pumped up on caffeine, nicotine and good old-fashioned American industry. Caught up in the frenzy of ambition, who, realistically, has the time to self-assess?

Certainly not I. So there is some comfort after all in this twenty-first century trend of consumer profiling. Now that Big Brother has told me who I am, I can finally relax without the time-consuming aid of therapy. I have an analyst who comes directly to my door, free of charge, rain or shine. I no longer need to waste valuable hours on the couch, poring over the yearnings of my subconscious. Instead, I can simply flip to page eighty, flash the plastic, and see myself in the reflection of the Bering Strait: puffy and doubt-free, decked out in my goose-down anorak and designer moon boots. Tromping my way to nirvana through a sixteen-foot snow-drift, with not a banana-conditioned hair out of place.

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