June 22, 2008

There are five words no woman wants to hear. Even worse than "I don't love you any more" is "That item has been discontinued". Love you can always find again. But once they stop making your favorite cookie? There's no solace.

A friend of mine is in mourning. There was a heart-shaped vanilla cookie at a bakery in Manhattan that is no longer being made. She is in a bad place because it coincided with a break-up.

Not only does the loss feel significant but it also feels personal. As though the one source of sweetness (literally) in her life had been taken away.

She confronted the bakery owner coming out of his kitchen. He explained that the supplier he used discontinued the vanilla and therefore, no, they wouldn't be making it. She kept repeating: "But just find ANOTHER company" over and over, and finally he just walked away.

It wasn't her proudest moment.

I know where she's coming from. I once actually wrote to a company that suddenly stopped making a corn muffin I was addicted to - and urged them to "rethink the situation." They wrote back explaining why it didn't make sense because demand was low. I guess my buying them seven days a week wasn't enough to keep the company afloat. Now when I think about it, I can't believe how many of those I ate - considering what was in them - but I convinced myself the "corn" made them healthy.

It's like any relationship. When you're in it, you can't imagine life without it. But then, time passes - and you think about how maybe it wasn't as good for you as you thought.

Wouldn't it be great if certain types of men could be discontinued? The ones we're addicted to - and feel you can't live without - one day you wake up and discover they're no longer available.

There's something about an item being discontinued that is jarring. Suddenly, something you have come to rely on and seemingly need can disappear and it's entirely out of your control. Whereas when a relationship with an actual person ends, I just assume it's my fault.

At the moment, I'm facing the end of a relationship. I know it's only a matter of time before it's over and the situation is irreperable. We have been together a little over a year - I'm very attached.

When I first saw my Jack Gomme bag, I knew it was the one. It was the perfect size, the perfect material, and we've been together ever since. If only I'd known then it was a one-off in the collection, I would have stocked up. Who knew?

I have to live with the fact that one day it will be unfixable and unusable. No matter how much I plead with the lady at the leather shop. It's been repaired three times and I am preparing for the moment it will have to be retired. Every so often I'll use another bag to buy myself some time but deep down I know our days are numbered. It's the long slow goodbye. And if I get caught in a downpour, it won't be that slow.

It's the indispensable item that you realize you should have bought two of. Now when I really like something, panic sets in, Will I be able to replace it if it's lost? Do I buy in bulk? My friend Laura recently bought a pair of shoes that she thought were so great, she foresaw wearing them out and then not being able to buy another pair, so she bought two pairs. Turns out she hates wearing them.

Another friend is constantly searching on eBay for things that have been discontinued. Usually shoes. She had a pair of clogs she wore down to nubs, and kept looking for on eBay. She would find them in a size 36, not her size, and it was always the same guy trying to sell them. Back in 2004, he bought all the unsold size 36 pairs. I told her I wear size 36. She could buy them for me and then live vicariously through my shoe size.

She passed on that offer.

Once something is no longer available, it develops a mythic status. There are some Brits who mourn the loss of the Wispa chocolate bar with more emotion than they would a dead family member.

For my friend Laura, it was a Diet Hawaiian Punch soda. "It was in 1990," she recalls, "in San Diego, where my family was on vacation, in a town that must have been a test market for Hawaiian Punch. If I'd known it would be the last time I'd ever see that soda, I would have gone to every grocery store in San Diego and bought it all up and shipped it home. I think about that soda all the time."

Maybe it comes down to wanting what we can't have. Whether it's a muffin or a man, is the fact that it's inaccessible what makes it desirable? If certain types of men were no longer available, I wonder how long it would take to get over it and move on. Then again, those types of men will never be discontinued because there will always be a market for them.