The subject of luxury has come up in my life recently, and doesn’t look like it’ll be going away anytime soon, really.
It’s a word that’s really been abused in America. Everything tries to be a “luxury” item – but honestly, how much of a real thing is “luxury ice cream” or “luxury Kleenex?” Seriously, though, companies are trying to add luxury to everything they sell. I’m not really talking about that, though. I’m talking about “real” luxury, not manufactured luxury. Rolls-Royce, Waldorf Astoria, 5-star restaurant, 1st Class travel, “I’m going to be spending an obscene amount of money so we’re going to need more sucking-up here” luxury.
I think I’ve talked about this a bit before. I landed an amazing new job a few months ago as a traveling consultant, and my life now includes air travel, rental cars, hotel stays and restaurants…and my firm treats us well, so we don’t have to stay at the Super 8 and eat Burrito Supremes. We stay in relatively fancy hotels downtown, and eat in trendy restaurants. We’re directed to rent more than the shoebox-sized cars, so that we project the proper image of the firm. And so on.
But what’s really brought this to a head for me is something coming up this spring – our all-firm retreat. Everyone in the firm, and a plus-one, is gathering at a resort in Florida for a few days. I looked at the website for the resort, to get an idea of what to expect, and I saw that the standard room rate STARTS at…$700/night. Apparently “Ritz-Carlton” is something I’m supposed to know about. I guess they’re not just a chain hotel? At least, when I expressed my shock at the room rate to a co-worker, she just looked at me and said “well yeah, it’s a Ritz-Carlton.” I made the sort of shrug-with-head-shake gesture that indicates “I don’t know that’s supposed to mean,” and she tried again… “It’s a Ritz. Carlton.” It didn’t help.
And that’s my dilemma. I have learned over the course of my life that I don’t “do” luxury very well…I don’t care for the stuff that comes with it, or even know real luxury brands when I see them, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things – I appreciate a nice wine, or a well-built car/house/wristwatch, or a finely-cooked meal, etc. But “luxury?” Let me tell all of you about the one time my wife and I took a cruise. We had a wonderful week looking at Alaskan glaciers, courtesy of Holland America…but when I had carried an apple with me from lunch and munched it while wandering the ship, there was not a single garbage can in sight for the core…and I had to put it into the hand of a crewmember. I felt terrible about it. I loved the cruise, but I hated the “service” that came with it.
No, I just don’t “do” luxury. I don’t seem to want the things that people want these days. My idea of great service is to pretty much leave me alone to do what I want. I can throw away my own apple cores and open my own doors, and fetch my own stuff, and turn down my own bed –
–Okay, that right there. “Turndown Service.” What in the hell is that about? When we’re getting tired, we invite a stranger into our room while we’re in our pajamas, so that they can pull back the blankets? How is that not just creepy-paws for everyone involved?
Sorry. Anyway. So this upcoming retreat. I’m bringing my wife, and joking that I’m taking her on a luxury vacation, but she and I are pretty similar in this respect, and while I’d like to appreciate what my firm is doing for us, I’m pretty sure that most of it is just going to be lost on me, and I’m not going to take advantage of about $600 of the $700/night that my firm is paying out. I don’t want to look ungrateful, but I don’t think I’m going to want most of what this resort offers as “luxury.”
I know for a fact that I’d be much happier and comfortable if this retreat were in a state park somewhere, and we stayed in rustic cabins and built our own campfires, and hiked on some woodsy trails. I don’t need or want food with goat cheese, aioli, “haricots verts” or a demi-glace – I like the Super 8, and I love Burrito Supremes. Am I alone in this? Do most people who say “I don’t like luxury” actually mean “I say I don’t like luxury, but secretly I’m jealous as fuck and would suck up caviar, poolside at a Ritz-Carlton faster than you can say ‘more champagne please?’”
I had thought I had a pretty good grip on who I am and what I like, but this job and lifestyle change has really made me question things about myself. Is it possible to walk a line between the two opposing influences of my life like this? Can I balance the downtown hotels and restaurants with my country upbringing, and manage to appreciate both while not losing any major parts of me? Or am I really just over-thinking this, and I should just relax, enjoy the fancy food and hotels, and then enjoy my wife’s cooking and living in an old farmhouse on the weekends?