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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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