The Dress You’ll Never Wear & Investing in Stuff, Anyway

Don’t fret — Treat Yo Self!

Treating Yo Self to Roses Dresses, Batman costumes — whatever! If it makes you happy, it’s not #useless (even if it’s #dumb).

A couple days ago, A friend[1] lamented never actually owning a dress that she would never actually wear. We were biding time before she served the theatre and I sat patrons and told them where the bathrooms are,[2] and also that, no, I’m not a server, and yes, my job is straight up just to seat you and show you where the bathrooms are, indeed, surprise surprise, I get paid for this.[3] “Look at this dress I want,” she said. It was a strapless rose-colored floor-length gown that was endowed with hundreds of textured roses folded from the fabric. Holy hell. “Hark! You must get it!” I cried like a Shakespearean asshole.

“Ha. No,” she said. “I’d never wear it.”

Mon dieu! L’horrible vérité![4]

Ooh, mama. #French

Off the bat I must explain to you this Roses Dress. It’s a princess thing. A 29th-birthday-expensive-wines-we-rented-out-the-hotel-ballroom thing. A I’m-at-the-Emmy’s-and-NOT-as-a-writer thing, a horse-race-country-club-benefit-auction thing[5]. And my beauteous friend is a goddamn princess — but let’s be clear. She ain’t going to a ball this Thursday. She’s not watching a horse race with Kentucky elite next week, or going to a charity auction on her Saturdays off. She’s not a millionaire; she’s a young, killer, comedic actress. Shit, I mean, I guess she’d have a romping 29th birthday party, and yes she’d have a kick-ass outfit, but you match with the company you keep and our peers aren’t getting done up like the Roses Dress. Not like that. We’re putting on tight black articles of clothing from Forever 21 and $20 Target heels on our GOOD DAYS. I mean, I can’t remember the Roses Dress price tag, but we all know it wasn’t $20.

I’ll put it this way: we’re not Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl. And the everyday average millennial getting-to-work or going-to-happy-hour bustle isn’t either, the bustle doesn’t have the space or time for the Knock-Out Strapless Roses Gown. It just fucking doesn’t.

So my first thought: She’s right. Why would she get it?

My next, immediate visceral-gut response: Because it’s beautiful.


Did I just say that?

Nutso Bananas! Pizza Supreme! That was disgustingly sappy. Wake up Chicago. I’ve turned into a Hallmark card overnight.

In the rest of this probably pointless essay, I’m going to argue that the question we asked of “when would she wear it” is SO NOT important, and that instead, the very fact of the item in question (in this case, the Roses Dress) being beautiful a.k.a. making my friend[6] happy a.k.a. being something she wants, is the only important factor and thus, through those realizations of A. desire, and B. Un-wear-ability, we must shift in our heads the item’s purpose and allow it to serve a different one. You love a dress, but can’t find any practical use of it…then don’t be practical! Don’t wear it anywhere! Using the 2 Principals of Treat Yo Self, and Purpose Fluidity, I argue that the idea is to accept you love it, Treat Yo Self, and allow this item to serve a different, individuated and created purpose, function, and use. In this case — get the Roses Dress, feel it with your face, hang it on your wall, interact with its aesthetic, I don’t care! Think of it like a decorative rug or something. Think of it like a pair of old cowboy boots. Appreciate it. Treat it like ART. And if my friend[7] and the rest of us can operate with these principals, we can engage with things that lift our hearts and not feel guilty for indulging in ‘em!

The First Principal of Guilt-Less Item Indulgence comes from Pawnee employees Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle in the beloved TV series, Parks and Rec. Treat Yo Self [8] is the one day a year in which Tom and Donna treat themselves to “clothes…fragrances…massages…mimosas…fine leather goods,” among other things.[9] Almost exactly to our point, Donna says, “I really want this dress and I like this crystal beetle but it’s expensive and there’s no use for it,” to which Tom replies: “Donna Meagles — treat yo self!” A second later, Tom says, “Velvet slippies, cashmere socks, velvet pants, cashmere turtle neck. I’m a cashmere-velvet candy cane,” to which Donna replies, oh yeahhh, you know it: “treat yo self!”[10] As Parks and Rec understands, the principal to grasp is allowing oneself to indulge in (sure, material things but also more generally) things that bring one happiness regardless of functionality, absurdity or cost. Like a silver beetle. Or Velvet slippies.

The Second Principal of Guilt-Less Item Indulgence comes from something I’m making up right now: Purpose Fluidity. How exciting! Did I just forfeit all claims to authenticity and scholarship with a fake smart-sounding adjective-noun combo? Yeah I did!

Purpose Fluidity is the idea (I say as if it’s real) that in our practical world, bent on productivity and usefulness, functionality and purpose is attached to items, actions and things. In order to (accurately) value indulgence — our own forms and items of indulgence being totally individuated and personal — we need to disassemble these item-purpose assumptions/presuppositions/limitations. My friend[11] saw a dress she loved. She did the simple math: dress = clothes item. Clothes item = worn. Well, because she wouldn’t wear this clothes item, therefore, the dress is purposeless to her. But wait. *drumroll please* If she re-purposed the dress (recognized the dress as having the created personal purpose it does for her) as an aesthetic piece instead of an item whose sole function is to be worn, she’d no longer feel “guilty” about owning it and not wearing it. The whole math equation falls apart. The presupposition changes. If the function is to be admired, then when she Treats Herself to the Roses Dress, she is fulfilling her own individuated purpose by loving it, instead of failing to fulfill the expected/assumed purpose of wearing it. If we are fluid and responsive to what our desires are and why, we can fulfill what is actually them and indulge in things we want to. We can Treat Ourselves by realizing and acting accordingly to our desires in regards to their personal Fluid Purpose for Guilt-Less Indulgence.

So the Treat Yo Self episode concludes with fellow employee Ben Wyatt buying a full size Batman suit as his version of Treating Himself. Donna, understanding personal Purpose Fluidity, thoughtfully notes to Tom, “Maybe [that was] our version of Treat Yo Self Day and he needs to do his version”.[12] Tom quickly jumps on Donna’s thought process, and says, “This is a whole new level of nerd. I mean that in a good way, Ben! You’re part of the Treat Yo Self Team, now, okay? If that [Batman] costume somehow makes you happy, you’re gonna buy it. You’re gonna wear it out of this store. You’re gonna treat yo self!” And Tom Haverford is right.

It doesn’t matter how just dumb it is! It doesn’t matter if you wear it once. It doesn’t matter what is it! Let it be a Batman suit! Velvet pants! A tea pot shaped like Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z! If it’s beautiful TO YOU, Treat Yo Self and buy it.[13] Every so often[14] — and that’s the key phrase here — spend the money on a Batman suit. Get a Roses Dress. Recognize its purpose to you isn’t functionality or practicality like a pair of white socks to go sleepy bye in — it’s putting a lil smile on your facey! Allow its purpose to change from what’s expected or assumed or what its obvious functionality indicates. Indulge your fantasies with just some aesthetic art thing that lifts you up. So you won’t be going to Gotham City, or in my friend’s[15] case, a Kentucky Derby Party.[16] Oh. Fucking. Well. (For the better, honestly). Everything has personal Fluid Purpose. Know that what makes you happy and why is individuating and purposeful, and go back to work in your theatre serving people but filled with joy because you Treated Yo Self to some weird shit. Especially if it involves a helluva a lot of roses.

Now for my REAL question: do you think anyone on Etsy is selling Vegeta tea pots?

[1] Sara.

[2] Past the bar, to the left.

[3] Past the BAR. To the left.

[4] Google Translate. “My god! The horrible truth!” in French.

[5] CLEARLY that’s not my scene. But I do know people dress up for that kind of thing…like, horses…

[6] Sara.


[8]Episode 4, Season 4, Pawnee Rangers.

[9] Treat Yo Self. Performed by Aziz Ansari, Retta, and Adam Scott. Accessed March 8, 2017.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Emily. I’m kidding! It’s Sara.

[12] Treat Yo Self. .

[13] Also, it may cost nothing — it may be a $.50 keychain at the Air and Space Museum. Or it may cost more than your house! Or more than want to spend on yourself; we often are too frugal for our own good when it comes to self-care.

[14] Though, of course, one can find littler, less costly ways to “Treat Oneself” more frequently. Like small dessert chocolates, or masturbating.

[15] Guess who.

[16] For real, the more I write this, the more I feel like this isn’t a thing…