So, a friend who always sends me the best reads sent me the latest article about Gwyneth Paltrow and her famous brand/website/wellness empire GOOP.
The article is long (seriously....it could have been cut in half, easily) and can be found here: The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow.
I have a few things to say about the article before I move on. I'll limit it to three things because I don't want to take a road trip to Rantsville, population 1.
1. There is nothing new in this article at all. You know all the shade thrown on GP over the years? Yeah, same stuff, different day. There is nothing you don't know; though it is sometimes said in a witty, tongue-in-cheek way that some people might find amusing (there's a fine line between witty and caustic, and I'm not sure the author balances it well).
2. I blogged earlier in the year about whether or not we should pay for news/writing online. This article is a perfect example of why I'm grateful I didn't pay for a subscription to the NYTs.
3. I'm curious why people are so up-in-arms about GP at all. She's doing what she's doing, and she's obviously enjoying it, doing it on her own terms and being authentic about it. Why does that bother so many people?
The last point is sort of the crux of what I want to explore today.
For a few weeks now, I've been thinking hard about money. I've been thinking about my current financial situation, what I want to the future to look like, how I feel about money and what emotional baggage I carry in regard to it. I've also been paying attention to how other people talk about money and listening for clues as to how others feel about it as well.
The whole thing has been fascinating, and I've got many thoughts, chief among them the following question:
What is considered 'responsible' use of money, and when is spending irresponsible?
You might be tempted to jump right in with an answer, and I certainly might be tempted to do the same thing (especially after a glass of wine and at a dinner party), but let's explore this question a little bit.
Ol' Gwyneth takes some serious heat for selling and/or promoting über-expensive products most Americans can't afford on a reasonable income.
Since the average salary of an American woman in her 40s is $45,000/year (according to CNBC), I think it's fair to say that many of the products for sale on GOOP's website don't fall into a responsible budget for that yearly income.
Let's take a look.
These are just a few of the options available over at GOOP.
Does it make me mad that a dress is offered at $990?
Can I afford to purchase that dress? Nope. Do I want to spend that much money on a dress even if I could? No, not really.
But it doesn't offend me that it's for sale, and the fact that someone else might spend that much money might seem a little silly to me, but I'm also aware that it's silly based on my own situation and perspective. If I was living large and bathing in imported sheep's milk, I might think $990 for a dress was a bargain.
When I was 20, I thought Chick-Fil-A was expensive.
Times, they change. You know?
I thought about all of this in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day when I flipped through a magazine and saw a wine tote for sale - a Ralph Lauren, super-posh wine tote.
After admiring that wine tote and thinking I might like to buy one, I checked on the price.
Readers - it's $495!
For a wine tote!
Just this morning, as I sat in bed reading an article on the Best Resorts in America, I came across a hotel I thought might be nice for a ski vacation when the kids are off to college (I like to plan my life 7 years in advance, particularly when it involves vacations).
The Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail looked like a cozy good time. I envisioned my husband hitting the slopes all day while I wrote by the fire and enjoyed cups of well-balanced coffee and maybe a hot yoga class or two.
I hopped over to the website to check room prices.
For $790/night, you get 350 square feet of accommodation, and for $812/night you get breakfast thrown in.
I can just imagine my husband's face if I causally said, over dinner, "You know, let's book a week at the Sonnenalp in Vail. It would be around $5600 for the room, but I think the views will be spectacular."
I was shaking my head as I walked into the bathroom to wash my face and get ready for the day, and as I reached for my toothbrush, I saw my Eve Lom cleanser sitting on the counter. It was stacked right on top of the Eve Lom Rescue Mask my sister gave me as a Christmas gift.
The total of these two items is $165.
For face wash.
We're having company come into town this weekend, and they're flying their own plane.
Their own plane.
Now, they share ownership of that plane, but readers....they're flying their own plane.
I own a pair of $700 Prada shoes, and while they're my only pair of such shoes, I didn't go into debt to buy them or have to skip paying a bill to walk out of the store with them.
I could go on. In some way, we could all go on.
We're all on a spectrum of financial security or insecurity, and that spectrum shifts and changes throughout our lives. But wherever we're at, is it fair to judge anyone else for their position based on our own? Who says Gwyneth Paltrow's $600 dress is a waste of money but my $80 cleanser isn't or my friend's pack of cigarettes isn't the biggest waste of all?
We all make choices regarding how much money we have, how much we save, how much we spend and what we determine is reasonable, and those choices are individual and unique to each of our situations. So, placing value judgements on others' habits feels like a waste of time and energy.
And what is the point at which we're morally obligated to give our money away? Is there a point? Is it amoral or immoral to keep it all to ourselves and enjoy it without regard for others?
Who decides how much is too much and what to do when our cups runneth over?
For me, an American to the marrow of my bones, I say it's up to me. I must decide how to spend my money, what is too much and/or not enough and if I feel obligated to give it away and share my wealth.
And I must let others make that decision for themselves as well.
Gwyneth Paltrow included.
So, if you don't want to steam-clean your vagina or shove jade eggs into parts unknown, that's fine. If you think $990 for a dress is a titch crazy, that's all good. But why are we ragging on this woman for promoting a lifestyle she can clearly afford and that a group (small though it may be) of other American woman can afford too?
Do we hate Gwyneth because she's unapologetic and unabashed? And if we do, what is it exactly we're wanting her to apologize for?
And for the love of the Internet, would anyone out there really pay $500 for a wine tote?!?
I think we should all meet up at the Sonnenalp and hash it out with high-end wine, hot yoga sessions and healing massages.