Little Luxuries Lift You Up

flowers on coffee table

Five years ago, the economy, my marriage—and my income—all collapsed at once. Then in my late 30s, with two small children, I could barely afford my mortgage, and I was actually ill from financial stress.

My mother insisted: Get a treat now.

I knew what she meant. I come from a long line of breadwinning women, all of whom held brainy jobs demanding long, rigorous hours and hot-potato deadlines. The maternal MO in my family is steadfast: Mama needs a treat.

But how? I was literally growing my own veggies because I couldn’t afford decent produce.

Plus, “treat” in my mother’s rubric—or mine, my grandmother’s, and beyond—didn’t mean a sack of “bargains” destined to be hoarded in a shopaholic’s crawl space. A treat made you feel special, sparkling with delight.

At first, I simply haunted Neiman’s beauty aisles, inhaling the glittery splendor. Then spare change went into the jar, and with time I procured a gorgeous Guerlain red lipstick ($48), cobalt Jemma Kid eyeliner ($24), impeccable Laura Mercier concealer ($35).

I know, I know. Maybelline would have been fine. But fine doesn’t inspire. When I’m on the floor, the gloss and heft of a sumptuous lipstick lifts me up. Now I’m standing—and never late on the mortgage.

Susan Gregory Thomas lives in Philadelphia, and is the author of In Spite of Everything, a memoir.