I've been on a search to find a chair to sit beside the one I discovered at a Santa Clarita optometrist's office. Every time I came close to committing to a chair, a breeze would blow through my place and whisper, "Rallllllllllllllllllph Lauuuuuuuren." Just as some people fetishize India, bringing sari curtains and elephant footstools into their homes despite having very little immediate conception of the life, just as some people fetishize a generalized notion of some Chinese-Japanese supernation, sticking bamboo sticks in pots and loading up on rice paper screens, I've had a really bad WASP fetish for a really long time.
Being raised middle class JAP (JAM?) I may have no inkling of what it means to live the Ralph Lauren lifestyle, but I'd argue that an understanding is irrelevant anyway since the brand is aspirational. Does anyone ever get to where that life actually exists? No, not even the bona fide WASPS, who, if I'm correctly grasping what Cheever has to communicate from the inside, are too lost in alcohol, buried anger, and hateful children to really appreciate a good tartan throw.
Where did my love of tufting, plaid, Sotheby used as a first not last name, small, embroidered horses, Princeton, and dark wood detailing come from? A fantasy in my heart, obviously, but also from this picture in my head that I might have even been born with, and in it there's a quiet library, tones so deep and rich that even when I feel myself to be completely insubstantial and without meaning, they insist upon the possibility of romance in the world.
As I rejected perfectly fine chair after chair, I realized that mine had to be Ralph Lauren and it had to be a plaid or a tailored stripe or I would hate myself for compromising the next morning, then hate the chair for not being what I'd imagined. I'd spent time gazing lovingly at Ralph's current collection of chairs online, but as the cheapest one started around $2200 with the cheapest (not patterned) possible upholstery, I didn't see one of those beauties coming home with me anytime soon.
In a moment of attempting to will the universe to come to me, I did a search for Ralph Lauren and chair and Los Angeles and I landed upon this woman, Laurie, who was selling an originally $4000 Ralph Lauren club chair for an incredibly reasonable price in hopes of raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society; she was going to run the San Francisco marathon for a four-year-old with Leukemia. You may or may not know that my dad is in Lymphoma remission and continues to get chemo, so on top of loving the chair, I began to think about its purchase as a nod to him and his continued wellness right in my home.
Here I am in the chair in all my Ralph Lauren glory. The bathrobe, Ralph Lauren. The shoes, Lauren by Ralph Lauren. The chair, Ralph Lauren home. The bag, a Ralph Lauren doctor's satchel with horse bit detailing. The thing draped over my arm, a pillow sham from my Ralph Lauren Jamaican Ombre bedding set. The dog, Ralph Laureny in spirit.
But here's the thing. I am so in love with this chair and am so grateful for it that I feel like I need to repay Laurie over and above the purchase price. When I was helping her unload it from her car, she said that she hoped to raise $3200 and was nowhere near her goal. This chair should have been $3200 alone. I want to help her get there, not only because she did me one solid by making a classical-stripe-dream reality, but because she's running for a foundation that looks to cure what my dad fights.
I've been trying to think what I can offer, and this is what I came up with: If you go to Laurie's fundraising page and pledge at least $50, sending me your email receipt, I'll use your first name for a minor character in my next book. If you pledge at least $150, I'll use your first name along with a personal detail, selected by you. For example, if your name is John-John and you have a mole shaped like a pineapple, I will write, "John-John, who had a mole shaped like a pineapple, waved to us from across the street" so you're recognizable to yourself in the story. If you pledge at least $300, I'll put in your full name along with a personal detail in the form of a character. The offers will stand until Laurie's met her goal (there are only so many names I can drop into a story until the story's just a list of names). I mean, I know I'm not even close to being a big name or author, so it's not like I can send out signed panties or baggies of clippings from next time I go in for a haircut, but I figure being able to find yourself in publishable form might be fun, even if you don't particularly like my work or care about me. You'll be able to take someone you're trying to get to sleep with you into Barnes and Noble, flip to your page, and say, "Hey, this character was written for me."
All donations $50 or over will also get thanked in the back of the book by full name and city. And even if Laurie makes it to $3200 and the character naming option is gone, and even if you can't afford $50 but you can do $5, please donate anyway, just because.
Remember, all donations are tax deductible.