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My LA story, Posts

So 90210: Handbags, pocket money and schmoozing

Another week and another visitor to show off our LA to last week.  This time it was my niece coming over from Wales.  My dad was from Wales and left home when he was young to travel the world.  While we go back often to visit it’s not often we get to spend quality time with relatives apart from immediate family.

Ironically at the time my daughter was doing a history assignment on family so she got her nose out of joint that she hadn’t met any of Mr H’s extended family and only saw mine on holidays to the Philippines and Wales–and have since met more here in LA.

While her friends were having family gatherings and weddings she hadn’t experienced that because we have never lived in the same city as family. (OK technically that’s not true–Mr H’s brother and family lived in Sydney at the same time as us so the kids have a special bond with them as a consequence but that was some four + years ago now and with us both living out of Australia I can’t see us living in the same city again for quite some time.)  That’s the tough part about being an Expat.  The plus is that you establish close friendships stronger than any family bond and we’ve always had families take us under their wings (which we just love).

There were a few themes I noticed last week–especially as I see LA through the eyes of a first-timer–but I thought I’d use this week’s post to fess up to something I blogged about at the start of my new venture.

That post was about young girls here and their designer handbags.  Specifically it was about us getting swept up in 90210 and wanting my daughter to have a fabulous Furla handbag.

At the time I was annoyed that the PE bag of choice was a Michael Kors tote and naturally when you see someone with something you like you want it too.  But even with my fetish for handbags I couldn’t see how a Michael Kors PE bag would in any way be acceptable in my house.  (Thankfully I think the bag du jour has changed once again proving my point that I can’t afford to get caught up in many of the trends out here).

As I re-read the post I don’t think I even articulated myself all that well.  I think I was trying so hard to cover up what I was really trying to say that that’s exactly what I did!

Some of my gorgeous friends’ daughters do have designer handbags and to me that’s OK.  It’s OK because they don’t get everything they want and they are uber fashion conscious and spend time creating their own individual looks and it works for them.  They also don’t flaunt it.  It’s normal to them and they don’t judge my daughter for not having … a designer handbag for example.  It’s also OK because they can afford it.  To them buying a designer handbag is like me buying my daughter a Sportsgirl bag or even a Country Road bag.

What’s not OK are girls who make others who don’t sport the latest designer handbag feel bad or out of it.  Actually I don’t think many do but there’s a difference in my daughter’s behaviour (and what she wants) depending on who she’s been hanging out with so I’d love to know what is said and why she acts like that only after hanging with certain girls.  As I’ve said to her lets limit the amount of hanging out time with those girls–if nothing else but for my nerves and my alcohol intake.

So here’s the confession.  My daughter is now the proud owner of a spunky Marc Jacobs bag.  She was over the moon to be given one as a gift from a few of her friends recently.  Good for her.  She loves it and cherishes it.  It’s so special, especially because it’s come from friends.

She has also saved up for her very own matching Michael Kors wallet & tote bag.  And no, she won’t be using it as her PE bag.  She has counted every penny and watched as her favourite “camo” (that’s camouflage print to us untrained) gear went on sale.  She was able to use Christmas and birthday money as well as the very generous gift cards she got from her recent party to get it with her own money.

MK Camo

The much-yearned-for Michael Kors camo bag

Pocket money

OK She didn’t actually have to work for it but she did get to experience the importance of saving up for something you really want.

Since I wrote about pocket money at the beginning of the year we’ve also been thinking seriously about that.  The kids have been OK with doing some jobs but they’ve been doing a great job at budgeting their money and spending it wisely.  So much so that we’re pretty much eliminating gift giving in our house in exchange for money giving.

The main downfall is that it’s completely impersonal and a real downer on a celebration day.  But, money giving is helping our kids appreciate the value of money and make choices about what they really want–as opposed to asking for everything then being disappointed with the “little” they get.

My son did the same sort of thing with his money–saved it up and got a racing car set he really wanted.  Like my daughter he counted his “pennies” until he hit the magic number and got exactly what he wanted.

The only other downside to this experiment is that neither of them can have a bank account here with a linked debit card until they’re 15 or 16. Once they get that then they’ll truly be able to transact without fear of losing their cash and track their savings and spending.

Back to handbags

You see one of the things I hadn’t fully thought through was the problem is similar back home.  And it’s even more true in Expatland where Cashed-up bogans rule supreme.

In Australia there are girls with designer handbags, wallets or designer clothes. Or the latest Mac. Or holiday house. Or boat. Or iWhatever.  There are some girls who get what they want, and others who don’t.

In Expatland it’s probably even worse. I bought my daughter a designer wallet (fake of course–which brings up more ethical debate truth be told) and thought nothing of it.

When we lived in China things were so ridiculously cheap and we didn’t have mundane bills to worry about like rent, utilities or school fees that the discretionary spending was abnormally high.  I didn’t have a blog then but I spent a lot of time analysing how much the kids had and how no one wanted for anything that we were raising a generation of spoilt children living in a surreal world.  I spent a lot of time then making sure we weren’t buying the kids too many material possessions so they would think that was the norm and OK.  (No wonder my kids think I’m a hard-ass.)

The moral of the story?

The moral of the story is and always will be each to their own: their own beliefs, values and judgments.  This blog contains the world according to Gwen John and it doesn’t have to be the world according to you.

Am I being hypocritical that now my daughter, too, owns a designer handbag?  That’s for you to decide and me to justify.

What I love is that, sure, it’s got the Michael Kors element about it but it’s my daughter to a T–she loves everything camo.  In my mind she’s not compromising who she is for the sake of buying herself a designer bag.

I go back to my mum’s advice when she visited a couple of months ago when she questioned me and my steadfastness.

She cautioned me at being stubborn to resist the change (you always want what you can’t have).  She agreed we have to be true to ourselves and our values but we also had to be mindful we’re bringing kids up in a different place to where we grew up.  She reminded me that the same thing happened to me when we moved back to Melbourne after spending a few years in Queensland.  It’s OK to be pliable and blend a little so long as you remember who you are and what you believe in.  And I think we are and we do.

LA through different eyes

My niece was gobsmacked at LA–not just the six-lane freeways but the uber wealth in not one but dozens of different neighbourhoods (Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los Feliz, Malibu, Larchmont, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Hollywood Hills .. need I go on?)  She was also surprised to see so many homeless people and the terrible state of some of the roads.  She laughed at dinner the other night as she reflected that everyone in the restaurant carefully checks out everyone else to see if they are “someone” or if they know them.  (She said I was being checked out–love it!).

Perhaps one (or two) of her biggest surprises though were the canyons.  Like most people she saw LA as being Beverly Hills (the flats), Santa Monica and the beaches and Anaheim.  She had no idea of the beauty of the surrounding canyons.  Coupled with that spotting deer crossing the road just two doors down from our house spun her out.

That’s what I love about LA: the surprise factor.  There’s so much more to LA than you might think.  Whichever way you look at it though, it’s worth getting to know better.

xx It Started in LA xx

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Furla handbags
Posts, Soapbox

Six months in: the darker side

I posted on my personal Facebook page last night that I’m feeling quite homesick.  No one could more shocked about this news than me.  It was here on this very blog that I shared my delight at reaching the six-month mark in LA with friends, fun and great experiences under our belts.  We were–are–living in the surreal world that is Beverly Hills/Hollywood and we live to tell the tale.

Only earlier that day we were having lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe in the Beverly Hills Hotel where I missed seeing Harry Styles by a matter of minutes.  (We were already seated waiting for our friend who saw him leaving as he was coming in.  He even snapped a pic for his 11-year-old daughter.)

So why so glum?  I’m not really sure.  I miss my friends mainly.  It’s great to make new friends but it’s the good friends you leave behind that you are sad about–especially when they’re not here to share “the dream” with you.

Truth be told I think the whole “money” thing is wearing thin too.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re very comfortable and we’ve done well, we have a great little life in our corner of the world, we always try to make the most of every situation we’re put in and I don’t like to whinge about first-world (especially BH) problems.

So why’s the money thing getting me down? I think it’s because it’s hard to fight.  Just because our family doesn’t believe in designer handbags until our kids are at least 18 doesn’t mean everyone else shares our philosophy.  And not to say everyone needs to share our philosophy.  I value very much the concept that everyone is different because it makes the world go around and makes for a much more interesting place to be.  But seriously why do kids under 18 (or even 25 for that matter) have to have designer hand bags?  Will it make the world a better place and more importantly will it make the kids better people?

I say this also because my daughter and I were out shopping last weekend for a new dress for her to wear to a birthday party and to dinner when we go to Vegas next week.  She desperately needed some shoes and I said if we find a cute bag for a reasonable price I’d buy her one.  We got some cute shoes but no go on the bag.  It wasn’t a biggie because she’s only into bags sometimes and she knew she’d had enough bought for her that day and (for once!) was satisfied with her purchases.

So why am I going on about handbags?  Well because as we walked through the designer handbag section on our way to shoes at Bloomingdale’s we were looking at the new Furla handbags.  They were so cute and, with 30% off, this sweet little blue bag had Miss 11’s name on it.  We both looked at it longingly.  She wanted it.  I wanted her to have it.  But it was not going to happen and we both knew it.  I was cross with myself for considering its purchase and pleased with her at the same time for knowing she couldn’t even ask for it.  We mourned the bag’s departure never to come home with us.  We were doing what mothers and daughters should do: bond over a designer handbag.

But that’s where it ended.  Not in Beverly Hills it seems where my daughter can count on more than one hand girls she knows with designer hand bags.  Some her age, others older but none of them are over 18, or over 25.  I’m not here to judge.  Nor do I have a right to judge.  I suppose when you grow up with it you think nothing of it.

But as a family still “fresh off the boat” from Australia who comes from a(nother) corner of the world where girls don’t have designer handbags I feel sad.  I feel sad that I think my Miss 11 should wait until she has a designer handbag.  I feel sad that girls around her don’t have to wait.  And I feel sad for the girls around her because I wonder what they are going to want for their 18th birthday or 21st birthday (remembering they’ll most likely get cars for their 16th birthday).  And I feel sad because I actually contemplated buying her the handbag.  That’s not us; that’s not what we do.

They say you are influenced by nature AND nurture and there is no conclusive evidence that one outweighs the other.  One of our mottos before we came over was not to change and not to take life too seriously when we got here; to stay true to ourselves.  Easier said than done.  But we must stay true to ourselves because people will like us for who we are not what we have.  We have a lot to offer and I hope that’s what people are seeing and not the absence of a designer handbag, shoes or clothes.

Only in LA.  Watch this space …

xx It Started In LA xx

Style notes: If you’re not like me and wish to buy your Miss 11 a Furla handbag here’s the link (or of course you might like one for yourself):  Furla Candy Bag.

I’m pretty sure Bloomingdale’s ships worldwide.

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