One of my favorite features in New York Magazine is this series called “Things I Can’t Live Without.” Each week, a celebrity writes a shopping list of his favorite little amenities.
The whole premise of the feature is that these celebrities aren’t showing off their t-shirts with six-figure price tags or their favorite Pollack that hangs over their mantle, but normal items that are a part of their daily lives. It’s basically the high-brow version of TMZ taking pictures of Kate Hudson picking up her dry cleaning.
The popularity of the feature — and my interest in it — suggests no matter one’s income or social status, we’re universally fascinated with the daily routines of people we perceive as somehow having better lives than our own, and we’re equally validated by knowing we use the same products as those people.
My god! Podcaster Karina Longworth says she loves Calgon bath beads and I ALSO love Calgon bath beads! We have so much in common!
I, for one, have always felt using the same products as celebrities offer me some kind of superpower. I remember being in sixth grade and watching the band Presidents Of The United States Of America perform its song “Peaches” on tv and noticing its guitar player used a yellow pick. I got it in my head that if I had a yellow pick, I could be just like him. So I scoured the different guitar shops near me until I found yellow picks.
I’m ashamed to say it didn’t stop as I got older and my brain was capable of more logical thought. In college, I studied photos of bands and tried to duplicate their outfits. In 2003, I asked Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump outside a show at the 930 Club where he got the corduroy sport coat he wore over his hoodie. “Urban Outfitters,” he said, and the next day, I took two Metro trains and a bus to the Urban Outfitters in Georgetown to get one of my own.
But surely as an adult I’ve grown out of carrying around totems of the people I admire, right?
As I type this, I carry in my breast pocket a Rollbahn spiral notebook, the very same brand favored by humorist David Sedaris. How did I find out this is the notebook David Sedaris uses? I read his feature in New York Magazine, of course.
Which brings me back around to the point of this whole thing. I read this feature every week, and most of the time I don’t even know who the celebrities are. But it doesn’t matter, because New York Magazine feels as though they’re important enough to ask what kind of soap they use (side note: if I’ve leaned anything from “Things I Can’t Live Without,” it’s celebrities love artisan soaps). And as I read these features, I think god, how amazing would it be if I was important enough to tell New York Magazine the things I couldn’t live without?
And then I realized, duh, I pay for real estate on the World Wide Web for the very purpose of publishing such solipsistic musings.
Usually, I’m cognizant of the reader experience when writing my pieces, and I try to make them at least mildly entertaining. But this series is probably boring. Feel free to skip it. I’ll tell some half-remembered story from high school next week, I promise.
Before I get to it, a final insight that dawned on me while I compiled this list of stuff: Many of these items became my favorites as a result of 15 years of trial and error. What I notice about my purchasing habits and my “stuff” is that part of the joy I receive results from the hunt itself. So though these are my standbys now, there’s nothing that says in five years, they won’t all be gone.
Coming soon: My Favorite Things.