It wasn't until I read this takedown article about Mast Brothers chocolate—the $10 bars from a duo of bearded chocolatiers that is ubiquitous at the checkouts of hipster food outlets—that I realized that pretty much all of the money I definitively regret spending is money I spent on vanity.
But first: Mast Brothers. I am a chocolate lover—specifically a lover of chocolate, not chocolate flavor, in that chocolate ice cream, candies, cakes, cookies, etc., do little for me, but give me a good chocolate bar and I'll think fondly of you forever and ever. That said, I'm not a snob about it, and as long as a bar is at least of Lindt quality (that is, quality chocolate but not like the top-notch stuff), I'm happy. But every so often I can't help but get a ridiculously expensive bar, which I manage to savor like all the magazines say you should, and I feel like a decadent queen the whole time.
Mast Brothers was one of those bars. The packaging was cool (though not beautiful; distinctly "cool," i.e. hipster chocolate), and I'd heard enough about them to know they had a good reputation. But $10 later I was underwhelmed. Was it decent chocolate? Sure! Was it good? I guess, insofar as it was at least of Lindt quality, but not appreciably better, and I felt swindled. Swindled! I have not made the mistake since. Also, I discovered Milka, which is probably of lesser quality than even Lindt, but—I mentioned I'm not a snob, right?—it's MILK CHOCOLATE, which is the best chocolate.
Anyway. I remember regretting that $10, but since I like to think of myself as a savvy consumer, I like to forget my financial regrets until I'm reminded of them. But when I saw that article, I was like, "I WANT MY TEN DOLLARS BACK, RICK," which made me think about the other times I've instantly, and distinctively, regretted spending money—and found that while I'm certain there are plenty of other purchases I regret making, the only ones that stick in my craw (besides that waste of a cacao bean) were all beauty-related:
- Highlights, $200. It was 2002, I was still new to short hair, and I thought I wanted to be "edgy." I initially wanted blue hair, actually, but this was before normal people could really sport blue hair, and every hairdresser I went to was like, Woman, don't dye your hair blue. (I have an exceedingly pedestrian look otherwise, so it indeed would've been a mismatch visually.) I settled on highlights, and I knew enough to go to a good place that I'd been to before for cuts and trusted. The highlights were blonde and it looked like I'd scattered straw over my head. The worst part is that I went to the DMV later that day to have my driver's license picture taken. It is nearly 14 years later and the representative government-issued image of me shows me looking nothing like myself.
- Pedicure, $18. I do like pedicures in general (though I haven't gotten one since the Times exposé about labor abuses came out). But in 2010 or so, I got a pedicure and thought, This time I'm gonna go all the way, "all the way" meaning get the calluses razored off instead of merely sloughed. It took me two weeks to walk without pain, like the little mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen's original tale. Your calluses are there because your feet need them to support the weight of a fully grown adult! Do not get your calluses razored!
- Moisturizer for mature skin, $56. I'm 39, and I don't yet need moisturizer for "mature skin." So why I thought I needed it at age 18, I have no earthly idea. I probably read it in a magazine, that this was THE moisturizer to have and that it would change your life, and I was young enough to believe that when a magazine told you something was life-changing, that it really would change your life. I traipsed to Nordstrom, went to either the Elizabeth Arden or Estee Lauder counter—I can't remember which, I just know it was one of those lines that was meant for women three times my age at the time—paid $56 cash (babysitting money) for this moisturizer, and let out the world's biggest harrumph when it did not change my life. To date I am vaguely pissed off at the woman at the counter who let me buy it, since I told her it was for myself.
- Facial, ungodly amount. I've written about this before, and why I spent an ungodly amount of money on this particular facial. Suffice to say that I am still embarrassed to print the number but will say that it wasn't much less than my plane ticket to the wedding. Across the country. I am not a rich woman. Just, at certain moments in my life, vain.
- Stupid Mast Brothers stupid chocolate bar, $10. Seriously, Rick, gimme my $10 back.