Homo Economicus

2015-2017 Portfolio (Restated)

With affluence come kindness, humility and self-sacrifice, and the economy lying prostrate with emaciation, I was convinced that my purchases in luxury shopping could have a measurably positive effect on it. So on the one day, visiting out capital, where I had been working for many years, at a 20-minute drive from where I live, I entered the Burberry flagship store and came out less than an hour later with a pair of lace-up boots, a pencil skirt and a cashmere sweater, a complementary F/W 2014 lookbook slipped into the oversized bag along with my purchases, and a $ 2,000 charge to my AMEX. The next day I visited a recently opened Dolce & Gabbana store in the same street where Burberry are fitted out (and where many other big names in fashion are roosting) and spent $1,800 on a pant suit and a blouse. On the third day I returned to the Burberry flagship store to collect the skirt, which I had asked to be altered in the waist and through the darts because its size 40 (Italian; which would be a US 4), the smallest they stocked, was a little too big on me. Although (obviously) the alteration was free of charge, I found myself set back another $ 1,600 in exchange for a S/S 2014 clutch convertible to a handbag (or the other way round, at the discretion of your salesperson’s approach in talking you into the buy), whose composition – it was made of python (outer/main), calf (trim) and lamb (lining) – was a tribute to biodiversity and a testimony to the importance of preserving it. On the fourth day, I re-entered the Dolce & Gabbana store to claim the pant suit which had had to be altered to the effect that the pants would be hemmed at maximum length, because I stand quite tall, and taken in at the waist, because my waist is nimble, and the jacket’s sleeves let out an inch each at the cuffs, because (but you would have gotten the picture by now) the length of my arms is somewhat above average. That was free of charge too. Unfortunately though, the other day I had noticed a fitted light blue jacquard dress with jewel buttons and silk lining (spring 2014 runway), pinned to a mannequin, which sold for $ 2,600 (all amounts mentioned in this recount are rounded off down to the nearest unit of hundred). I had not been able to set my mind to rest about that dress and I bought it one size smaller than the one on the doll, subject, this item too, to alteration – but I will not go into all that girl stuff again. Then I asked the shop assistant whether he knew of a place nearby where I could have a decent lunch and he managed to telephonically book me at the Conservatory Hotel, one block away, where, as I could construe from his contribution to the exchange, the girl answering his call started out saying they couldn’t take any more reservations, but then said (I don’t know by operation of what leverage my man wielded to decide the matter) that they were happy to free up a table for the customer.

The Conservatory Hotel had a doorman, black. At first I didn’t recognize him for a doorman. It was cold outside and he was all huddled up in his coat, his head buried deep in its collar. In fact, I mistook him for a homeless beggar. But when I got near he straightened himself and now I could fully appraise his stately doorman attire and posture and his handsome and well-groomed face. His case roused me to the awareness how badly the cold messes up appearances (to the point of reviving obsolescent stereotypes). I set out to find a restroom to fix mine before proceeding to the restaurant. The latter was one flight of stairs down from the elevated ground floor (I had had to ascend a flight of stairs to get into the building) and, had weather conditions been more propitious, would have opened on a walled garden, visible through large glass panes, along its entire back.

As I sat waiting for my order to be taken and then for it to be served I chid myself for not having stuck a book in my purse as I am wont to. Without someone to talk to or something to read (other than the menu, which you can pretend to study only for so long or no one’s ever going to stop by your table and take an order) and there being next to no traffic on my smartphone (either text, in any mode, or voice) I soon found myself at loss as to where to cast my eyes at. I nosed out the room for famous people, but only discerned a bunch of overacting lawyers I happened to know, busying themselves around a man and a woman, youngish, whom I assumed to be liaisons of a corporate client of their firm, which I happened to know as well because I had been a partner there for over a decade. They never even once looked in my direction, or if they did I didn’t notice because I averted my eyes a lot quicker than it takes to describe the scene.

Lunch served brought relief from my predicament, it being perfectly natural to alternate between looking at what’s on your plate and picking at it, and casually looking around the room as you are chewing the food or sipping your wine. When the table had been cleared and I sat waiting for an additional coffee-and-pastry order to be served as dessert, I found myself fortunate enough to have received two email messages to keep me busy for a while, even if they were generic and appeared to have passed the spam filter only due to some technical glitch, or manipulation on the part of the sender, or coincidence.

A little earlier on, as I was still eating away at my main course, four women, whom I estimated to be in their thirties, bogged down in lower sales management or marcom careers, and at the apogee of their professional development curves, were seated for lunch at a table adjacent to mine. No sooner had the menu been handed to them than they forgot all about it but to start an inane and over excited chatter on tedious commercial stuff in the telecommunications business, which they seemed to think to be about the hottest on earth, and probably to be considered that by practically everyone else on earth. Even if it was hard not to overhear them, my lack of interest soon as good as deafened me to their conversation. But, the subject matter having shifted to weight and what caused it and how to lose it (with each of the ladies being duly apologetic about her own), I suddenly found myself picking up on it again as my neighbors converged on the position that skinny women – by which I thought I could make out (and I’m being deliberately cautious here) they meant anyone with a US catalog size from 8 down – are skinny because they hardly eat; as simple, they seemed to imply, and despicable as that. More or less at that juncture my dessert order consisting of a large latte and more than a trifle of chocolate cake was put down in front of me. I immediately dug into the cake and enjoyed every bite and every pause I took to sip from my latte with deliberation and intent. Halfway through these dessert items I got up to visit the bathroom, something I would never do, but did to prove to the neighboring table that a curvy size 2, standing at 6 ft. (exclusive of 4” heels), clad in a high-waist Burberry London pencil skirt and a cashmere sweater tucked in over a smooth belly, can coexist peacefully, even successfully, with food.

But when I got to paying my debit card bounced, and then my AMEX bounced too, and so did my MasterCard and my Visa, and that’s where I ran out of plastic. I began to feel hot inside and, although I did not sweat (I don’t easily sweat), this physical reaction to monetary pressure evidenced itself in a heightened expression of the perfume I was wearing (Roma by Laura Biagiotti), which didn’t do it any good as it made the powdery scent of this classy perfume heavy and overbearing. Mumbling vaguely something about apparently having botched the management of funds (and this would turn out to be not a complete fib either) I suddenly remembered that such a thing as cash, as good nowadays as gold bars used to be, still existed and, even better, that some of it would be sitting in my purse. And so it was. I handed over notes covering the expense, plus a $ 15 (i.e. 25%) tip to restore some of my credibility and bearing. And, barring a few coins which I tipped to the doorman when I left, this was where I had run out of cash, too. I considered myself fortunate for having filled up the car before sallying out earlier that day.

Frankly, the situation had me more than a little worried. When I got home I went online immediately to check my accounts only to establish that little under $ 20,000 (viz. $ 19,967.23) was in my current account, which all my cards draw on. I called my man at the bank and told him how embarrassed I had been at the restaurant. I asked him what the hell had been going on there. He said Hold please and I’ll check, and when he got back to me he explained that the balance of my current account was a negative amount, i.e. was what I owed the bank, i.e. that I owed close to $ 20,000 to the bank, and that $ 20,000 was my account credit limit, which would have been overstepped, if only by the narrowest margin, had I drawn on my account to pay the lunch. These limits are pretty rigid, I’m afraid, he said, and they kick in instantaneously and automatically at a max-out.

With $ 1.9 million deposited in accounts in the name of the LLC through which I had held my stake in the equity of the firm I had been a partner of, it took me less than 3 minutes to complete the necessary transfers to replenish my current account. But I recognized that it was time I took stock: I owed a lot more to my company than the $ 1.9 million registered in its name; I owned a 4-bathroom, 8-bedroom house (most of it paid with loans taken out on the company). which I hadn’t been able to sell in two years, let alone for an amount that came anywhere near the amount of indebtedness to my company; I was jobless and without a source of income. I realized I was technically bankrupt.

From this bold facedown I concluded that worse may befall a woman of talent, style and beauty, with great taste in clothes, who may be seen riding her 12-speed Koga Sportslady in a short skirt (Krizia, SS 2016) at high speed with both hands off the bars, even in curves.

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