Every so often, my girlfriends and I feel the the need to get away for the weekend.
This happens four to six times a year, and we always gather at the home of my friend Jan, who lives just over the border in Wisconsin. That Wisconsin can feel so foreign and exotic to those of us coming up from the greater-Chicago area, proves that the border is as psychological as it is physical. For 36 or so glorious hours we are totally on vay-cay. Any male influence is strictly second-hand, creating the perfect atmosphere for an uninhibited and unapologetic orgy of eating, shopping, and chick flicks. "Girls Gone Wild" for the post-menopausal. The rest of the world should be so lucky.
Weekends like this are also conducive to deep and soul-searching conversations, the kind one would never have under any other circumstances or with any other people, like whether Botox is a viable and necessary part of a modern woman's beauty regime or whether it's just a creepy poison.
"Would you ever get Botox-ed?" I asked my friend, Babs, on the drive back from Jan's house. Babs was driving, and I admit here and now - for all my pious rantings about automobiles and their drawbacks - that I am very grateful for my friends who have them and their willingness to ferry me about on occasion.
Babs is a person who truly leads the examined life, and it is a tribute to her ability to be honest with herself and with those in her world, that she paused to ponder once again what she - like all ladies "of a certain age" - has probably pondered a gazillion times since turning forty.
"I think I would like to," she sighed. "But it's so expensive!"
"Not that expensive," I countered. "You could afford it."
Babs grimaced. "It seems so frivolous. To have medically unnecessary procedures done, when so many people lack basic health care. And for what?"
I saw her point, but something in me rebelled. "But you buy cosmetics. And color your hair. Those are 'unnecessary', too. How far are you going with this?"
Which brings me, on the day of the Golden Globes, to my point.
Because tonight the Red Carpet will abound with women so beautiful that I cannot immediately identify myself as belonging to the same species. Most of them will be wearing gorgeous, expensive dresses. Many of them will have undergone medically unnecessary procedures that I don't even know exist. And the resale value of their jewelry alone could probably feed the population of a developing nation for a year.
So...why don't they?
How much is too much and at what point do we forego jewelry in order to help feed the population of a developing nation? A fair question, and one I ask myself every time I buy a new shade of medically unnecessary lipstick.
It's a matter of degree, I think. And priorities. And what we mean by "necessary".
I am pretty sure - at least I hope so - that Bill Gates has never said to his wife, "Hey, Melinda, we don't need another trip to Italy. Let's just kick back around the house and use that money to save more of the world," because somehow that just seems too cruel to me. But I could readily accept the Dalai Lama telling me not to buy a new bag this spring, and to put the cash in an envelope to a deserving charity instead. I guess context is important, too.
But where are the boundaries? At what point is one "selfish" or "frivolous" or "generous" or "saintly"? Is it a sliding scale? Is a dishwasher an appalling waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere? Is a trip to Vegas? A Fendi bag? Two pairs of shoes?
My response to Babs was to be careful with that line of thinking. It seems to me (perhaps a bit conveniently so) that someone, especially someone with an acute social conscience (like Babs), could easily talk themselves into feeling guilty about everything not vital for basic survival. Even a vodka martini.
God help me.
Taking this sort of logic to extremes could pave the way from simple compassion to virtual sainthood, with - ultimately - the monastic life being the only acceptable form of responsible human existence. Which sounds pretty grim and boring from this corner of the universe. Or maybe I'm just hopelessly selfish and a couple of sessions with the Dalai Lama wouldn't hurt me.
I should just watch the Golden Globes and try to appreciate the clothes and the fun. And maybe have a martini and an imaginary conversation with Mother Theresa where she tells me how much she likes Anne Hathaway's dress. And maybe I'll be able to avoid thinking about the gross national product of Togo.