Saturday, March 19, 2011

With Sprinkles

There are women who buy too many purses. They are women who buy too many shoes. My best friend never met a set of high-thread-count sheets whose purchase she could not justify. And then there are women with truly strange shopping compulsions, like me. 

I think that all of us probably have one consumer good that we have a hard time saying “no” to, an item that makes our Visa card start to wiggle in our wallet. Don’t pass me up, the thing says. You really, really need just this one more, and then you can stop. People listen to the call of the credit card, and the next thing they know, there’s a roomful of crying clown figurines, or an unfortunate beer stein collection that fills a rathskeller. 

I grew up in an era when there was only one thing that aspiring intellectuals aimed to collect -- books. It was de rigueur to live under the commanding weight of too many books, stacked on cheap Pier One shelves and collecting dust. Many rueful comments were made at moving time, along the lines of, “We would have been done last week, but (sad shake of the head) I just have so many books.” (Curse you, incredible intellect and remarkable cultural sensitivity. My friends all have hernias now!) I never fell for this, realizing early on that librarians would dust and stack all the books in the world for me, and that I could check them out whenever I wanted, for free. My moving days were always a few-hours-or-less affairs. 

No books, no purses, no shoes. I can resist everything, to quote Oscar Wilde, but temptation, and that temptation is sprinkles. Those little bits of color and sugar decorations are irresistible to me. I have sprinkles in a shape that honors every holiday, including pumpkins and baby chicks and tiny hearts. I lack Presidents’ Day Washington and Lincoln head-shaped sprinkles, but don’t think I haven’t looked. I use them, often, and sometimes in unexpected ways. Brownies. Buttermilk waffles. I haven’t tried them on baked potatoes yet, but give me time.

I love them because they are small, humble and cheap.  I love them because they serve no practical function. I love them because they make people smile. I wish I could say all these things about myself, but at least I can say them about sprinkles.

And just like any other true compulsive, I hide my sprinkle collection from those who just don’t appreciate their importance  – down the stairs, behind the door, in the corner of a strange basement space where I keep French bread pans and Dutch ovens. They sit right next to my cookie cutter collection (another problem purchase area, but never you mind about that right now).

I do take some satisfaction in knowing that my inventory for the items that are usually so tempting to my fellow females is as modest as a Buddhist nun’s. I don’t much care about shoes. I own one pair of sneakers, one pair of winter boots and two pairs of black pumps. In the purse department, I have a black clutch for fancy parties and one beat-up Banana Republic carryall, purchased at a garage sale last spring. But ask me how many jars of sprinkles I have, and I’ll clam up. That’s none of your business, bub, and besides, I’m going to use them all someday.

And don’t even think of asking to see my cookie cutters. That’s a compulsion for another day.

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