characteristically convinced
November 9, 2010

I am the proud – and slightly guilt-plagued – new owner of a very large, very gorgeous handbag.

It happened so quickly, I almost didn’t realize what was going on. I mean, I suppose I did consciously agree to go to the outlets, showed up there on a Saturday afternoon out of my own volition. But plunking down several hundred dollars on yet another piece of leather to be slung over my arm was certainly not a pre-meditated act. One minute, I was sifting through the Banana Republic sale racks, stocking up on my favorite camisoles – reduced to $9.99! – and the next, I was in Kate Spade, clutching two massive bags to my chest, mesmerized by the shiny hardware, soft handles, and split inside pocket, lined with polka dots.

As I stood there in front of the mirror, modeling the two bags, I asked myself just one question. It was not, “Can you, Meagerly-Paid Reporter Rachel, afford this?” It was not, “Food for a month or a new receptacle for your Kate Spade wallet?” (Which, in my defense, is obviously very lonely amongst my collection of Coach purses. I remain convinced that even leather accessories feel the pain of being the odd one out.)

But no, it was this, very important, all-consuming quandary: “classic black pebbled leather or a very sparkly gold lamé?”

And there was only one very practical, mature answer.

I went with the sparkly one, obviously.

I fully blame the entire thing on my best friend, Megan, she who drove us to the outlets in the first place. A champion discount shopper with myriad credentials – voted best dressed in high school, is somehow able to employ a AAA discount that involves getting special documentation signed at something called the Outlet Management Office (I didn’t even know such a mythical place existed) – Megan is my most trusted shopping partner.

Which is why when she oohed and aahed, I just couldn’t say no.

This is a recurring theme in my life, the being easily swayed by those around me. The tendency to agree to things that are probably not in my (or my budget’s, or my college transcript’s) best interest  has actually picked up speed as I’ve gotten older. From middle school food fights to pricey purses to that time I was talked into running my school newspaper for a year, I’m just really susceptible to peer pressure.

And, at the moment, outlet shopping actually appears to be the least of my problems where this topic is concerned.

Have I mentioned I’m planning a wedding?

At first, my tendency to absorb the preferences of others actually started working to my parents’ favor. Early on in the wedding planning process (read: before I was engaged) I discovered the world of Indie wedding blogs and budget party planning. And I fell, hard. I was all, I can totally whip up my own three-tier wedding cake! And build our chuppah out of salvaged tree branches! And buy our alcohol from BJ’s!

Did I mention I was initially intent on getting married in the small plot of land across from my parents’ house? Never mind that their actual property isn’t big enough to have a backyard wedding — I was going to make it work!

Until, that is, a friend handed me a copy of Town & Country Weddings. The glossy cover immediately lured me in, and, with that first turn of the page, I was hooked. Suddenly, it was out with the sample dresses and in with the designer gowns…and then in with the $20,000 celebrity photographer and the special-order swiss dot tablecloths and dozens of other details that had never before crossed my mind. Two weeks earlier I hadn’t known a pomander from a charger; now I desperately (and immediately) needed a dozen of the former to line the walk to our venue and a dozen of the latter to create the perfect place settings for our tables (to be set with gold chivary chairs, obv.) I had swiftly and completely crossed over to the dark side.

Fortunately, I have neither a trust fund nor unbridled access to my parents’ credit cards, so this dream luxe wedding of mine (and the dream budget wedding before that) was unable to materialize instantaneously. And, unlike the bag buying splurge last month or the eleventh-hour newspaper election plans of 2005, I have one important factor on my peer-pressure-prone side this time: time. I have time to sit down and talk it through and hopefully ride out my swinging pendulum of wedding desires, ultimately settling on something in the middle – halfway between shabby and chic – that betters suits both our personalities and our budget.

The win, once again, goes to April 2012.