CSotD: Of diamonds and dime stores

I thought Real Life Adventures did a nice job of summing up the holidays.

Every Christmas season, auto companies run ads where a delighted wife walks out into the snowy driveway to find a brand-new car with a big bow on top.

This year, one of the companies doubled down on the concept with the punchline being that hubby bought two cars, one black and one red, and she’s thrilled but wants the black one he got for himself.

Who the hell are these people?

I want to see the commercial where he walks her out the door with his hands over her eyes, she sees the car and starts pounding on his chest, screaming “How could you do this without talking to me first? Where are we going to get the money for this?”

The diamond commercials are a little different, in that I could see where a guy might, over the course of a year, squirrel away enough to buy his ladylove a $750 bauble, if it means he’s eating lunch at his desk and maybe playing a little less golf.

Whether that’s the best way to spend it is a separate question, and that’s like the cut-flowers vs living plant issue.

Cut-flower people like the fact that the gift is beautiful and transient.

Diamonds, by contrast, are forever, but there’s still something similar in the “Oh, honey! You pissed away $750 on this shiny, over-priced little rock!”

You don’t have to get it. It’s still a thing.

And if it’s possible because he made little sacrifices, it’s sweet, whether it’s a diamond or a getaway weekend or whatever.

But if it’s possible because she has no goddam idea how much he makes or how the family finances are structured, then I wonder how much he’s got similarly squirreled away in Switzerland that she won’t know about until after he’s gone and I don’t mean dead.

If your husband can drop $25k on a car without discussing it with you, and your response is delight, I can’t help you.

Though I’ll modify my objections when some commercial shows the wife buying a brand new car for her surprised and delighted husband.


By contrast, Jill notes in Pajama Diaries that you can indeed have it all, and all at once.

The strip in general, and today’s episode in particular, is a refreshingly realistic look at a family that is happy but that has to dig in to make things work.

The kids aren’t funny brats, the husband isn’t an incompetent sluggard, Jill has a job she’s passionate about and, by comic strip measures, she does have it all.

And the financial surprises come from the bursar at Amy’s college, not in the form of a car with a big red bow.

The “You can have it all” constant shower of positive thinking aimed at women is one of those cut-flower/diamonds things that doesn’t resonate across gender lines, though maybe the rosy world of Cosmo and “Sex and the City” is just as much a fantasy as what men saw in the lifestyle of the Playboy ideal or James Bond.

But I think women get a much greater dose of people holding out the ideal as attainable.

Anyway, I found this Washington Post article about the push-back against “Lean In” to be an indication that there are more women on Jill Kaplan’s wavelength than may be obvious.


Just as Terri Libenson’s lead time at Pajama Diaries cannot have anticipated that Washpost article, so, too, Jef Mallett can’t have drawn today’s Frazz with the Boston Globe’s comic strip massacre in mind.

(BTW, I was heartened both by the amount of response D.D. Degg’s write-up got and the tone and content of it.)

When I gave tours of the paper to school groups, I’d take the day’s edition and give it an extra fold into four, then hold it up and point out that it’s the size of a book, except that a book costs around $15 or $20, while the newspaper (at the time) cost half a buck.

I’d explain how advertising offsets the price, but I’d also point out that, when you pay $15 or $20 for a book, it had better be good.

A book, I’d say, is like dinner at a nice restaurant, while a newspaper is lunch at a diner: It’s cheap and it’s good but nobody comes out saying, “The cole slaw was magnificent, and the french fries — Ooo la la!”

The paper includes not just the news but entertainment coverage, advice columns and comics and things that don’t each matter very much but that, as a whole, add up to that good, satisfying diner lunch.

Well, they used to.

And it ain’t fifty cents anymore.

A related anecdote: One day, as part of my compiling of the 25-50-75-100 Years Ago feature, I needed to photocopy something from a 1945 bound volume, which required a second set of hands to support the large book.

The copy machine being next to classifieds, I asked one of the clerks there for help, someone who I’m guessing was about 20 and so born in 1975.

She looked at the eight-column page of tight text and said, “Wow! There’s so much to read here!”

And she wasn’t marveling at the amount of homework it represented, but the amount of value.

Readers know the difference between filet mignon and burgers with fries and coleslaw.

They also know the difference between good slaw and bad slaw, and that three french fries isn’t a side dish.


Meanwhile, over at Between Friends, columnist Kim sounds a familiar note.

I know a lot of cartoonists who technically have a presence on social media but count on the “social” part to take care of itself. They use automated programs to post their cartoons and never go there themselves.

Others joyfully leap in, not only responding to comments on their own work but joining in the conversations of others.

Guess which ones it works for?

Come on: It’s called “social media” for a reason, folks.


I was always more into dime stores than diamonds, myself