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The Carrie Bradshaw Effect: The economy’s down, stupid

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A paradox to think about: The economy is in shambles, yet you can’t find a parking space at the jam-packed five-story mall parking garage. You might argue that the hordes of people are all there to buy the 75-percent-off-the-already-50-percent-off-with-an-additional-30-percent-off-with-your-card leftover Christmas trees and assortment of outdated “Holiday 2008” ornaments, but I argue that’s not entirely the case.

In this economy, some are deciding between paying the electricity bill or the mortgage; at the same time, in a Nieman Marcus near you, others are deciding between a pair of garish Betsey Johnson heels or your standard Manolo Blahnik Sedarby Zebra d’Orsays. And yes, I copied and pasted that directly from a shoe blog on the Internet because it was the most ridiculous thing that I could find and not spell.

Thus, the Carrie Bradshaw Effect was born.

Carrie Bradshaw, the empty-headed protagonist of a somehow-survived-six-seasons-too-long television show Sex and the City, has experienced some economic hard times of her own. In an insignificant episode of an insignificant season (because Carrie, et al. are equally bland in all of them), the mathematically-challenged Ms. Bradshaw somehow finds herself with no money to pay the rent but a proud owner of 100 pairs of shoes at $400 a pop on average.

“100 pairs of shoes at $400 each is $4000!” Carrie exclaims in her high-pitched voice.

“That’s forty thousand dollars,” corrected the equally annoying but significantly smarter Miranda character.

“I spent $40,000 on shoes?” Carrie gasps. “I will literally be the old woman who lived in a shoe!”

Thus while everyone else struggles to pay their bills during the rough economic times, Carrie decides between selling her shoes or selling out. (She keeps the shoes.) It’s easy to see the disparity between the haves and have-nots in a crisis, often in disgustingly pretentious fashion, no pun intended. Somehow, the “haves” keep on ... having.

Take a recent American Express Platinum Luxury survey, for example. Led by shopaholic protagonist Carrie Bradshaw, apparently Generation X spends 60 percent more than Baby Boomers on fragrance, cosmetics, and beauty products, 47 percent more on fashion accessories, and 32 percent more on wines and liquors. The Carrie Bradshaw Effect has fanned out beyond her lavish pink bubble as well: a Wall Street Journal wealth report notes that the annual Pebble Beach automobile auction brought in $62.4 million last fall. You have to ask, is this pattern of conspicuous spending appropriate for the situation and time?

My answer? Don’t be a horse-faced Carrie. Don’t flaunt your Manolo-whatevers while others have to cut back on groceries. Don’t talk about five-star vacations while others can barely afford a flight home. Don’t be that person drooling over luxury shoes and jeans while the rest of us rush in to get our recycled and reduced holiday items so next year won’t be as bad as this year. Don’t fall into the Carrie Bradshaw Effect.

Believe it or not, some of the “poorer” affluent have started to notice the pinch, too. For affluent who all of the sudden notice that their economic sky is gray? There’s always “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Caviar.”