Sometimes new acquaintances ask Katja and I about our secret for staying married for fifty years. At first glance, we seem like such opposites. Katja’s from a big city in the East; I’m from a small U.P. town. I like college basketball; she adores opera. She’s outgoing and emotional; I’m quiet and inhibited. My favorite vacation is camping in the wilderness; Katja dreams of fine hotels on the Riviera. Et cetera, et cetera. These, however, are mere surface differences. On the deepest things that really matter, we are like peas in a pod. The clearest example is our mutual attitude toward shopping and buying things.
In my case, I was excited to learn that a new St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop had opened in Western Hills. I do most of my clothing and bric-a-brac purchases at our neighborhood St. Vincent’s, so this doubled my thrift store opportunities. Before I went to the new store, I made up a list of items that I needed. Figuring that winter articles would be on sale, I decided to get a pair of warm gloves. Because I’ve bought my gym shorts at thrift shops, they are nearly always out of style, compared to the baggy knee-length versions that are in vogue. So I added knee-length shorts to my list. I needed a Santa Claus advertisement from a December 2010 magazine for one of my collectible projects. And I wanted a sturdy bag to hold tent stakes since my current stake bag had developed a hole in the bottom.
The new St. Vincent de Paul store was big with wide aisles and rows of colorful, inviting merchandise. In a matter of seconds I found a 50% off bin with winter hats, scarves, and gloves, and I picked out a handsome pair of bright blue gloves for only a dollar. They had a rack of used magazines for a quarter apiece, and I quickly found a December 2010 issue of Cosmopolitan which featured a Santa Claus ad. They didn’t have a lot of workout shorts, but there was one fluorescent violet pair in my size which were nearly knee-length. Then I found a zippered multi-colored cloth bag that was the perfect length for tent stakes. I couldn’t believe it. I had found everything on my list in less than ten minutes. There’s no way that you could have done that at Target or Wal-Mart. Then, to top it off, I found a line dancing instructional video for a dollar to add to my burgeoning collection. This entire cart full of treasures came to only $5.79. I figure I had saved at least $60 off the original list prices. I practically line danced out of the store.
Katja was pleased when I told her the story of my amazing success. While I was out shopping, she had gone downtown to Saks Fifth Avenue. Katja refers to the Saks’ saleswomen as her friends, and, though I keep insisting that they are not her friends, she always replies that they are. She does, of course, have more firsthand information than I do. Anyway, one of her best friends in the shoe department named Drue was helping her and a second customer. Katja started chatting with the other person and soon learned that she had been the co-owner of Smythe-Gladwin, which, before it closed, was Cincinnati’s most fashionable downtown women’s clothing store. Katja had loved that store and was thrilled to meet the owner. Drue showed both women the latest in women’s shoe styles. She advised Katja and Mrs. Smythe-Gladwin that they should discontinue the dowdy low-heel flats that they were wearing. The current “in” styles all had 5” to 6” heels. Mrs. Smythe-Gladwin looked them over and picked out a brown pair for $750. Katja thought they were very beautiful and picked out a pair for herself. She explained to me that the shoes were very well-constructed, so that, even though you had to stand tip-toe on the balls of your feet, the shoes provided full support.
I’m ashamed to admit that I lapsed into a temporary psychotic episode at that point. Katja had broken her right arm in a fall last Autumn, then jammed her left shoulder when she tripped in a parking lot a month or two ago. She’d also tripped a couple of other times in recent years, and each time we had speculated that her impractically designed women’s shoes were the cause of the accident. “You can’t go walking around in five-inch heels!” I exclaimed. Katja bit her lip and looked very sad, but finally she decided to agree with me. She said would return the shoes to Saks. She did show the shoes to me. They were made by Prada, and even I could see that they were top of the line. I knew returning them would not be an easy matter emotionally.
Katja, to her credit, did follow through. She took the shoes back the very next day. When she came home she said she’d picked up a present for me at Saks. She’d bought a very fancy silk dress shirt and striped tie, noting that this was what the business executives were currently wearing on Fourth Street. Still in my thrift shop state of mind, I thanked her very much, but added that, since I almost never wear fancy silk dress shirts and ties now that I’ve retired, this would definitely complete my wardrobe and I wouldn’t need any more silk shirts in the future. Katja said, “Mmm hmm.” Then she said she’d found something for herself too. She opened a small box and showed me a new ring. It was gold and was divided into four quadrants, each filled with diamonds. It was very attractive and tasteful, even more aesthetically pleasing than the Prada shoes, if that’s possible. Katja asked me to guess how much it cost. I offered the highest figure I could conceivably think of – less than a month-long trip to Asia or New Zealand, but not by much. Katja was amazed that I was so remarkably accurate. Then she explained that she had saved a small fortune because the ring was on sale for half price and she had a coupon for a couple hundred dollars more. I gulped, nodded, and agreed that that was totally amazing.
So now the reader can probably see the foundation of our marital compatibility. Even though Katja and I like to shop at different places, we are both driven by a common desire to seek good bargains. Katja, of course, saved a great deal more money than I did. But I got my record-breaking discount of over 90% at the thrift store, no small matter. We both wound up feeling pleased with our purchases and with one another. And that’s the secret of how to stay married for half a century.
-Phyllis S-S (4-12): Dave… Loved the blog about your and Katja's spending habits.
-Jennifer M (4-3): :-)
-Donna D (4-7): beautiful reframing! i love it! donna