Vices of decadence, not cheap thrills!
Charles knows my drink order by heart: gin martini, extra dirty, Hendricks, three olives. I cut three irises at the stem, scissors at an angle so the increased surface area means they get more water. I read a book about ikebana once, Japanese flower arranging, and while I can’t make sculptures like that, I’ve come to learn that line, color, and silhouette will always supersede quantity or cost when decorating space. I am horribly indulgent and miserly at the same time; when we first moved into our new apartment, we spent seven months without a ladle, because the idea of spending seven dollars on a moulded piece of plastic seemed ridiculous to me. I used measuring cups and drinking glasses to port asparagus risotto onto our plates and served it with the best orange wine our local grocery store carries. The dining table only has three chairs, since one doubles as a desk chair in the bedroom, making for an irregular composition. So it goes.
Summer is ending soon—or it isn’t, but I’m telling myself it is—which means we ought to reflect on this season’s vices. I spent half an hour trying to explain to Charles the difference between a “summer indulgence” and a “cheap thrill,” the former being a vice whose decadence can be corrupting if over-consumed, while the later implies a flimsy and momentary satisfaction. He didn’t get it. The summer indulgences of summers’ past remain beautiful, brilliant, and decadent (tinned fish, Aperol spritzes, kitten heels, sourdough croissants), but now is the time for looking forward. With that in mind, allow me to detail my list of Charlie’s Summer Indulgences (2023):
An espresso with tonic water and a splash of orange juice (or just a well-expressed orange peel)—it is unlikely and delightful, the summer version of the Terry’s Chocolate Orange, a safe adventure best enjoyed in a transparent plastic (or biodegradable corn-plastic) cup so all of the world can see your tricolor earth-toned beverage. Bonus points if your outfit matches, ideally a splash of 1970s power-clashing patterns with wooden clogs.
Asking Questions To Strangers
Not in the big, “Question Authority!” sense. In the asking-the-stranger-on-the-subway-what-they’re-reading sense. Asking-the-construction-worker-what-they’re-building sense. This may be easier for those of us who are Pathologically Nosy (myself included), but the best way to begin invasive chattiness is with small talk that turns into conversation. Ask your waitress how her day is going—and mean it—and ask follow-up questions. You’ll get to know someone and you’ll get information with all the thrill of gossip and all the politeness of convention. My personal favorite is asking strangers at museums or exhibitions what they thought of the art (the best answers are always the most negative). The questions you ask your friend when you’re walking down the street (“why did that restaurant close? Where does the antique shop owner collect her wares? What is that person drinking? It looks like coffee with tonic water and orange juice..?”) all have answers, indulge yourself and look for them. Funnily enough, this invasive-but-polite nosiness is easiest to embrace when alone, shielded by the strength of anonymity. If you get comfortable enough, you can even reach the highest and most rewarding stage of this indulgence: friendly arguments with strangers.
A picnic basket, a piece of ribbon, a puff-sleeved dress. Perhaps this is not a new summer indulgence but the most classic of all summer indulgences. Still, then, perhaps the indulgence is not gingham but leaning into iconography. Cloth gingham napkins at fresh-fruit picnics in the park. Sunbathing in the gingham bikini by the pool with a matching headband. It’s a rare form of proletarian glamor, best enjoyed with Diet Coke in a glass bottle.