In Bitter Is the New Black, politically incorrect Jen Lancaster charted her involuntary descent down the corporate ladder and explained why one should never carry a Prada bag to the unemployment office. The tone of this sequel is perhaps best typified in its subtitle: "Self-indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?" Needless to say, Lancaster's outrageous rants won't edify advocates of positive thinking, but they will keep the rest of us chuckling.
Lancaster (Bitter Is the New Black) is a plus-sized, downwardly mobile Republican. She makes fun of disabled people. She cracks nasty about Anna Nicole Smith (granted, she was still alive at the time). She annotates her text with footnotes cheering herself on. When she's feeling particularly mean, she writes in her own "pidgin Spanish." But in spite of all her politically incorrect rantings, there are times when Lancaster is just too on-target to ignore. People who worry about Bush imposing the Christian lifestyle on everyone, for instance, should take heart from how he's raised his daughters—those "twins are but a Jell-O shot away from starring in the presidential edition of Girls Gone Wild." Even if readers can't altogether sympathize when Lancaster has to downscale her shopping "Holy Trinity" from Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus to IKEA, Target and Trader Joe's—they know what she means when she talks about the relentlessly cheerful sales staff at Trader Joe's, the tough-love staff at Target or how IKEA's going to take over America by keeping us all busy with Allen wrenches. Her humor is a bit like junk food—something you can enjoy when no one is looking. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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A few years ago I used to take shopping so seriously it was less of a habit and more of a religion. Every chance I got, I'd steal away between appointments or at lunch in order to maintain my daily communicate status, worshipping at the Church of the Magnificent Mile. I'd make my way down Michigan Ave, stopping to pay my respects at the lesser deities: Sephora for their Fresh soy skincare line and giant perfume selection1, The Body Shop for products with a conscience, Lord & Taylor for Jockey for Her underwear2, Marshall Field for scarves and hair accessories, Pottery Barn for casual home dŽcor except for glassware which was Crate & Barrel's domain, Burberry if I felt like a little something plaid and pretty, and Les Vosges because carrying heavy shopping bags made me hungry for thirty-dollar-a-pound chocolate-coated toffee. I'd tithe portions of my salary at each of these stores until I got to any one of the members of the Holy Trinity - Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus - and the real purchasing commenced.
Bloomingdales was my preferred spot for staples such as fur-trimmed coats, bathing suits, and cashmere sweaters, while Nordstrom was the best place for multiple shoe purchases. (Really, those poor salespeople worked on commission - it would have been a sin to make them run into the back for only one pair!) Neiman Marcus was my absolute favorite place for ridiculous designer splurge items - jewelry, purses, and sunglasses. Plus Neiman's made it so damn difficult to buy anything - they wouldn't take Visa or Mastercard; basically they'd only accept cash, Krugerrand, and black diamond truffles - walking out of there with my shiny silver carrier bag always felt like a bit of a victory.
My shopping habit was so all-encompassing that I had to construct a list of rules so friends could better understand the process. But rather than sending them down from a couple of heavy tablets on Mount Sinai3 I simply emailed them.
The Jen Commandments of Shopping
Thou shall not buy on sale. Because sale? Is another word for shit not good enough to be purchased full price.
There's no such thing as too many twin-sets. And you shall not rest until you have them in Every. Single. Color. (Except orange, because, you know, ick.)
Remember the three most important things when buying shoes: Italian, Italian, and Italian.
Life is too short to wear synthetic. Our Heavenly Father would not have placed all those goats in the hills of Kashmir4 if He wanted you to put on something fashioned from a recycled Mountain Dew bottle.
Salespeople are there to carry the heavy stuff for you. So let them. See also: Cold Beverages, Running to fetch.
Coupons are for amateurs. What good is a four hundred dollar sweater if you can't tell people you paid four hundred dollars for it? See also: Commandment, First.
"Outlets" are for plugs and creative expression, not malls. Is style so trivial to you that you're wiling to purchase your clothes at a store situated between the place where they sell the deformed Goldfish crackers and designer impostor perfumes? I think not.
Only shop in stores that have a philosophy. Hell, yes, you should pay 10% for a store with a philosophy. (Even if that philosophy is, "Let's sucker our customers into paying 10% more.")
The harder to pay, the better it is. Self-explanatory. See also: Marcus, Neiman.
People who say "less is more" are simply jealous. More is ALWAYS more. This is precisely the reason people go ga-ga over twins and litters of puppies and why a matched set of Kate Spade luggage is so much better than a single piece.
Even though I treasured almost every item sold in each of the Holy Trinity's bountiful departments, the merchandise wasn't the only draw. I loved the service and the personal attention. Nothing made me happier than when my girl Basha at Nordstrom's Dior counter called me to tell me about a new line of body shimmer. It made me feel like she had ESP; how did she know that very morning I'd looked at myself in the mirror and thought Yes, you glow, but are you luminous enough?
No matter how chaotic Michigan Ave was, I knew I could enter the pricey enclaves of my favorite places and it would be calm, cool, and quiet. Clerks would speak in hushed tones - almost reverent - and would wrap my pair of Capri pants and Lacoste shirt with the same care they would use to package Waterford crystal for shipping. There would be few other shoppers around, and we'd rarely interact because we were all too involved with our own expeditions.
My little boyfriend who worked the David Yurman counter would squeal whenever he saw me pass, sibilantly exclaiming, "Ooh! What are we treating ourssselvesss with today?" and before I could say "nothing, thanks" he'd be waving a black velvet-covered platter full of sssparkly thingsss at me. And it would have been rude not to try - and purchassse - at leassst one of them, right?
Obviously, I don't live my life like this any more (a) because I can't and (b) because I like to think I have some small capacity for "learning." I'll be honest - I still dig buying stuff, but that's mostly because at the nadir of our unemployment, purchasing anything other than dog food and toilet paper was a luxury. I still believe in the Holy Trinity, except now it's Target, Trader Joe's, and IKEA.