Category is... luxury
The album features the truly awesome Eve collab Rich Girl, the majestic Hollaback Girl (Gwen enjoys being a girl) and the less loved but truly excellent Luxurious. She sings about “champagne kisses”, “platinum lightning” and the chorus goes “We're luxurious, like Egyptian cotton,
We're so rich in love, we're rollin' in cashmere”. It just stops short of “We have so much cash money that you’re fingering me in the Harrods food hall.”
Like Gwen, I love luxury. And writing that sentence in 2016 feels so weird, unseemly and gross that I’d almost prefer to write “I love having a good go at the cluster of blackheads on my jawline in the unforgiving light of the Zara changing rooms,” (which is also true). It seems as though the world has never been a more financially difficult, desperate place to live for the majority of people. But a constantly shrinking group seems to be doing brilliantly, buying houses that cost ten million pounds and refusing to live in them until they have been fitted with golden bath tubs and ambergris Glade plugins.
Luxury has changed its door policy, and I bet you a tenner that if you were one of the three people who managed to get in, it would be as boring and miserable as arse. There are no West Egg style parties - just clubs where slender girls in bodycon double down on Spanx while dreaming of chips, and some red faced man shouts “BANTS BANTS BANTS!” while trying and failing to get rum out of a pineapple and into his mouth.
Luxury has become synonymous with money, vulgarity and showing off, when it should be about fantasy, fun and confidence. A feeling, not a signal. I believe that it’s essential to our happiness and wellbeing. It’s special, not comes-as-standard. Everyone’s version of luxury is different. An extra pound buys you luxury loo roll that comes with “cashmere effect” - for a fairly small investment, you too can feel as posh as Gwen when you wipe your bottom.
A lobster holding a diamond, handy for scooping up caviar and cracking the top of Fabergé eggs.
But then, I spent two broke years pining for this bag, “visiting” it in Selfridges and saving up. I found it online, heavily reduced in a Boxing Day sale, and bought it breathlessly, while waiting for my bank to ring me up and ask me just who I thought I was to spend more than fifty quid on something I couldn’t eat or live in. When it arrived I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to put my phone in it or throw a party for it. I had never owned anything so beautiful before. Once, a woman spied it and screamed “I LOVE YOUR BAG! WHERE DID YOU GET IT!” from the other side of a crowded tube platform. It was love. Then, a few weeks afterwards, it made the papers. Not the front pages, in a “Prime Minister praises Daisy for excellent handbag choice!” way. It was featured in a round up of “affordable totes” for women who wanted to “spend less without sacrificing style”.
According to the paper, my luxury totem, the thing I had strived and struggled to afford, was, for most women, the sort of thing you might pick up on a quiet Wednesday afternoon while buying tampons and sandwiches. The fanciest item I owned was so underwhelmingly middling that Tamara Ecclestone might use it as a Poop-a-scoop. I felt shitty. There’s an episode of Futurama in which the characters get a three hundred dollar tax rebate. Lobster medic Dr Zoidberg (my patronus) is laughed out of every establishment he tries to spend his money in. It’s the most cash he’s ever seen in his life, but all the things that he construes as being desirable are still beyond his reach. (There is a beautiful, brilliant, sad Dorothy Parker short story, The Standard Of Living which explains this concept perfectly.
However, that screaming woman shouted “I LOVE YOUR BAG!” not “THAT LOOKS EXPENSIVE!” It was affordable, because I afforded it. It’s not like I bought something that turned up in a section called “Bags to rob banks and go into debt for”. I still love it, use it, and find it beautiful.
If you want an example of what happens when you have access to unlimited, unparalleled luxury goods and services, look at Donald Trump. Could he derive any pleasure from crisp white sheets, a room service bacon sandwich and a sea view in a Hastings B&B? Will he ever know the joy of being found by the right Uber driver two minutes after leaving the bar, or feeling wickedly decadent after blowing forty quid on Le Labo bath oil, or planning a picnic because there’s an unexpected free day, the sun’s out and champagne is half price at M&S? I’m pretty sure that he’d swap all of his power and money for my hair.
Luxury can be warm bread and warmer butter, waking up and hearing waves, dinky diamonds, a single White Company hand towel purchased on pay day because it makes you feel like a grown up lady, lining your pockets with Speculoos biscuits from the Virgin First Class train lounge. It isn’t a status that is conferred upon things by an invisible army of tastemakers. It should never be about the pursuit of items that we believe will make us better than we are. We can all live luxuriously by believing we’re just as good as any of the gorgeous things we long for.
Unlike Daisy, who I’ve seen exude a special kind of dewy-skinned decadence at all kinds of incongruous moments – including when cripplingly hungover or piling cocktail sausages into a wine glass with the hostessy aplomb of a latter-day Margot Leadbetter – I am not very good at luxury. I have a go but I wear it badly, like a scratchy ballgown from TK Maxx.
Lovely things, I immediately ruin. There are coffee stains on my fanciest coat and a moth hole in my only cashmere scarf. In fact, There’s A Moth Hole in My Cashmere Scarf would be the title of my one-woman Alan Bennett play. I am terrible at being waited on. I get flustered when restaurant hosts take my coat, in case tissues fall out of the sleeves.
I frequently turn up to dinner parties clutching the wine with the prettiest label and yell “I’M SORRY I DON’T KNOW WINE OK” before a sip makes it halfway down anyone’s oesophagus. About once a year I douse myself in Chanel No.5 at a perfume counter, impatient to understand its charms, but every year I just smell loo cleaner. I love the idea of spa breaks but inevitably end up bored, pink-faced and faintly nauseated by all the white towelling slippers.
Food, however, I can luxuriate in. I never feel richer than I do with a bellyful of something gout-inducing, making me all glossy from the inside out. And nothing, but nothing, does that better than butter.
I didn't really eat butter until I was at university. Like so many 90s kids, I was raised exclusively on margarine and Dairylea triangles. I know, I know, it’s like reading a lower middle class misery memoir – but swallow your tears, because the story has a happy ending. Eventually posher, free-range friends from the countryside introduced me to the hard stuff (Clover was a gateway drug) and I realised what I had been missing all those years. Butter: the true taste of luxury.
Some would say the true taste of luxury can’t be something you can buy for a quid in Tesco. It must be oysters, or Wagyu beef, or something else that tastes of iron and earth and sinew. Or the 'luxury pie!' Bernard makes in Black Books, with truffles, saffron, caviar and bits of oven. Daisy would, famously, vote for lobster – and I almost agree, except that I am lazy to my bones and feel true luxury lies in food that requires very little effort on the eater’s part. No pliers.
So what’s the softest ingredient? The easygoing good-time gal of the dinner table? And what’s that lobster swimming in anyway? That’s right! It’s our pal, butter.
Once you realise about butter, you notice it everywhere. The day I explained to my luxury-averse boyfriend (who prefers his toast dry, like twigs) that the main reason food tastes better in restaurants isn’t magic or expertise but liberal application of butter, cream, oil or all of the above, I think I opened his eyes but crushed his soul. The day he watched the Bake Off contestants folding vast sheets of butter into their pastry dough with both hands and realised just why croissants turn the paper bag see-through, it was like Dorothy peeping behind the wizard’s curtain. He’d eaten from the tree of knowledge and found it smeared with Kerrygold.
I, meanwhile, am making up for lost time. I don’t spread, I slather. In scrambled eggs and mash, obviously, but also in porridge and spaghetti and pear crumble. Sometimes, on very hard days, I slice it cold as though it were cheese.
And although I’m late to the party, it’s really only just getting going again after a long lull – we’re in the midst of a butter revival. Sales are up, and flavoured butters are drawing a crowd at some of London's best tables, like Oklava, where Selin Kiazim's medjool date butter is so addictive they started selling jars of it in Selfridges (Leon’s cinnamon date butter toast is almost as dreamy and available in train stations, you’re welcome). Or The Dairy, which serves smoked bone marrow butter with its sourdough. Or Bao, where your sweetcorn comes in a casual puddle of beef butter.
And thanks to bulletproof coffee, the health food trend no satirist could have made up for lols, butter has even left its greasy paw print on the cult of clean eating. "Fat is totally fine again!" cry the headlines – and we're happy to ignore the dietary small print (*stop slicing it like cheese, Lauren) because it doesn't get better than butter.
In those butter-free years (which, now I think of it, culminated in me being cast as Margery in an A level Drama production of Vinegar Tom, cursed to churn milk fruitlessly forever while her husband’s knob falls off), one of my favourite after school snacks was ‘butter balls’ – a patch of malleable white Hovis with a blob of Flora in the middle, rolled until perfectly spherical and eaten in front of Nickleodeon with all the panache of the guests at the Ambassador’s reception.
And now I wonder, would little Lauren have grown up better at luxury if she’d had real butter in there? Would she now enjoy massages, instead of lying tense and awkward for an hour out of fear she will fart or fall asleep? Would she understand the purpose of fabric conditioner, or have a preferred brand of champagne?
Probs not, and she'd almost certainly appreciate it less now. But she might have fewer grease smears on her posh pyjamas.
What's more luxe than a made-to-measure frock? Instagrammer Loftyfrocks creates bespoke dresses and skirts out of incredible vintage fabrics – like haute couture but with M&S bedsheets, for less than £100 a pop.
A monogram for Instagram! Papier's dreamy personalised notebooks have a price tag that’s more WH Smith than Smythson.
Canelés, like a tiny creme brûlée you can carry round in your handbag. There's posh.
Zana Bayne's & Other Stories collab is here, and it's swiiiiish! These mushroom-coloured satin trews promise 'flow perfection and walking captivation'. Ok sure.
Aveda Chakra body mist – like an instant spa break but with no confusion over when you're supposed to be naked.
Matte gold cutlery to feed your inner Midas, and you can buy it here in individual sets – because nothing could be more luxurious than a posh knife and fork, just for you.
Imagine a luxury life, a life in which you worried so little about the rain and pavement gack and treading in an old kebab that these were your October shoe purchase. Imagine that life. Now live it, for £20 plus an Uber.
1. The business ideas:
“A department store…with a guestlist.” “The word ‘bistro’ is classy as shit.”
2. When he bonds with Ron over fur:
“You mind if I rock that bad larry on my dome?”
3. The creation of Entertainment 720:
“It’s a multi-media, entertainment, production, conglomerate.”
4. He holds an investment meeting in a jacuzzi:
“I bring a certain amount of panache and spice to the spa experience”
5. Three words: Treat yo’self:
"Massages. Mimosas. Fine leather goods."
Pure and Semple: Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple is out this week and gets a fast pass to the top of our to-read pile.
Lol, lady, lol: Comedy babe and Lauren's office companion Alexandra Haddow writes an A++ newsletter, Women Aren't Funny, in which she defies the laws of science, nature and gender to ram some jokes in. Inspirational.
WANT WANT NEED: This Hermes Constance – costing just half a house deposit, it's the poshest way to store an empty Pret sandwich box when you can't find a bin.
ACTUALLY BUYING: Anthropologie's Amaryllis butter dish, which will give you enough change from 20 quid to fill it with extra-buttery Ampersand cultured butter. Raise a toast!