My last month in Paris has begun. As I begin to ponder my departure from the fashion capital of the world, I have been thinking in terms of shopping and Christmas gifts and purchases and souvenirs. Wherever I go in Paris- the Champs Elysees, Galeries Lafayette, le Bon Marche- everywhere has some fabulous designer creation to offer. The abundance of couture fashion here is overwhelming, even after four months of soaking it all in every chance I get. The Avenue George V and the rue Faubourg St. Honore are always bustling with well-dressed shoppers toting numerous large bags full of thousands of EUORS worth of purchases out to a waiting car.

What recession?

I read somewhere that only a thousand women in the world can afford to buy more than one couture gown in their lifetime. When I was at Harrods in London, the designer level was certainly full of women trying on Valentino, Chanel and Marchesa garments, and here in Paris, Louis Vuitton and Hermes always seem to have customers coming out with full shopping bags.  In a time when no one can really afford to buy anything anymore, I have to wonder: what kind of person lives like this? Are all of these one thousand women- Saudi princesses, oil heiresses, Madonna- all in Paris right now?

This lifestyle is not attainable- yet every fashion magazine I read and every style page I log on to tells me to “invest” in timeless pieces- Burberry trenches, Chanel suits, Yves Saint Laurent handbags, Louis Vuitton luggage, Dior shoes. Je ne pense pas. Life in Paris has certainly been an eye opening experience into the luxury that many crave but few can afford. Especially young college women today- we’re told to work really hard so we can buy ourselves whatever designer purses we want, and Infiniti pools and Range Rovers and yachts. To exaggerate obviously, but shopping and blogsites like Bluefly, Netaporter, Outnet.com, stlye.com, Gilt Groupe and the Zoe Report and millions other like them tell us what’s important is investing in ourselves- buy yourself Gucci sunglasses and Yves Saint Laurent coats and Fendi briefcases and Dior heels and you’ll be successful in the workplace. Is that really attainable for anyone graduating from college without several trust funds at their disposal? Will that really make me more successful at my first job?

In a world where everything is so fleeting, and where time passes so fast, why would you waste time and spend your whole life working to spend your whole paycheck on one designer item? Why is everything about status and what you own? Paris is beautiful and lovely and gorgeous and every shopping trip is exhilarating and fantastic; but there are so many people who live such an insanely different lifestyle than anything I’ve been exposed to before, that I wonder if those women who use their black American Express card at Hermes to buy three Birkin bags for themselves are really as happy as I am to be sitting in my house in Norfolk, Massachusetts with my boyfriend, my family and all my pets.

Not to say that money isn’t great and wealth isn’t great and fabulous designer bags aren’t great- that’s imply not true. But being over here, away from everyone I love and everything I know, I have learned that not only does money not buy happiness, but that there are so few real things in life that are actually attainable- and none of them can be charged to an American Express card.

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