By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I am standing half naked in the fitting room at Barneys with a $3,300 Lanvin gold lamé evening dress and a $5,650 pleated Prada frock puddled at my feet and I am smiling for one full minuteharder than it soundsin an attempt to feel my feelings, which will in turn send out a powerful signal to the universe. I am a human transmission tower, according to Rhonda Byrne, the author of the Oprah-endorsed runaway bestseller The Secret, and in that capacity I can miraculously transform myself from a woman who buys everything on triple markdown to a happy high roller whose shopping addiction is funded by the universe itself.
Ever since I read The Secret, which is printed on fake parchment, embossed with an imitation red seal, and has to be ordered from Amazon.com because it is sold out in every bookstore in Manhattan, my shopping strategies have completely changed. I now use The Secret's secret weapon, the Law of Attraction, to attract exactly what I want. Lucky for me, The Secret has come along just in time: This season in particular clothes, shoes, and especially handbags have price tags once confined to diamond tiaras and luxury sports cars.
But what do I care? If Jack Canfield, self-described life coach, motivational speaker, and the guy responsible for all those Chicken Soup for the Soul books, can brag: "Since I learned the Secret and started applying it to my life, my life has truly become magical. I live in a four-and-a-half million dollar mansion, I have a wife to die for, I get to vacation in all the fabulous spots of the world," why can't I use the Secret to procure a lousy pair of $1,275 Balenciaga gladiator sandals? Canfield is only one of the experts Byrne quotes repeatedly throughout the book, along with rediscovered 19th-century guys with phony-sounding names like Prentice Mulford who more than a hundred years ago wrote, "When before the visit or the journey or the shopping trip you are in a bad humor, or fearful or apprehensive of something unpleasant, you are sending unseen agencies ahead of you which will make some kind of unpleasantness."
Is the kind of unpleasantness Mulford had in mind something like the time the salesclerk at Bergdorf Goodman cut up my credit card right in front of me? That was unpleasant indeed. To forestall a repetition of such events, I am following the Secret's instructions explicitly. Step one is to just write down what I want. This is easy. My list includes a wisteria-colored crocodile Birkin bag, (hey, why not?); a handmade Goyard champagne trunk that comes fitted with a half-dozen flutes and an ice bucket and costs $12,745, even though I don't particularly care for champagne; and that full-skirted $13,000 Azzedine Alaia coat that French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld sported to great effect at the New York collections last February.
And here is the best part. According to Byrne, I don't have to worry about how I will actually acquire these things. All I have to do is really, really want them. Which I assure you, I do. She calls this placing your order with the universe, and apparently no order is too tall. Not only will this incredible new wardrobe descend from the heavens and find its way into my closet, but everything will fit me like a dream. This is because I have taken to heart the part of The Secret that says, "Food can not cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can." From the moment I hear this, I cease believing that McDonald's french fries and Beard Papa cream puffs have anything to do with my intermittent chubby status. I buy the Azzedine coat in a size two.
I love The Secret so much that I read the whole book in one day. OK, so I have to employ a visualization technique Byrne calls a "scene shifter" to block out a couple of disturbing sections, especially the part that says, "If people believe they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have no control over outside circumstances, those thoughts of fear, separation, and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Sorry 12 million Holocaust victims! Tough luck residents of New Orleans!) I'm also less than thrilled with the stuff about how if you have cancer you should skip the chemotherapy and just watch funny movies and you'll be cured. So I quickly flip the pages and take refuge in the sheer profundity of sentences like: "If you're not sure how you're feeling, just ask yourself, 'How am I feeling?'" And I focus on case studies like the one about a 10-year-old named Colinno last namewho came to Byrne's attention because he managed, by sheer force of mental will, to get to the head of the lines at Disney World rather than wait for hours along with thousands of other suckers who didn't employ the Secret.
Because you know, I'm fed up having to wait endless months for spring clothes to be marked down before I can even think about buying anything. So imagine how happy I am when I read, "Make it your intention to look at everything you like and say to yourself, I can afford that, I can buy that." Byrne even makes the bold proposition that I pretend all my bills are actually checks! "I would jump for joy as I opened them and say, 'More money for me! Thank you. Thank you,' " she writes. With this new tactic, I can hardly wait for my credit card statements to arrive.
You might think I'm feeling a little spiritually bankrupt, a teensy bit guilty, with all this emphasis on luxury goods and personal appearance, but you'd be wrong. According to The Secret, those old-time patriarchs didn't exactly take vows of poverty. Byrne refers readers to a little-known series called The Millionaires of the Bible, swearing that "in these glorious books you will discover that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were not only prosperity teachers, but also millionaires themselves, with more affluent lifestyles than many present-day millionaires could conceive of."
But just in case whatever remains of your social conscience begins to prick, Byrne offers this solution: "When I discovered the Secret I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good . . . The news services and newspapers will change what they deliver to us when we emit a new signal and focus on what we want."
Sorry, but I'm not wasting my signal on the news media. I'm too busy arranging to have my purchases shipped to my deluxe apartment in the sky. After all, according to Byrne, this is just as the universe wants it to be. "The earth turns on its orbit for You," she opines. "The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You.
For Me, and for the big money boys over at Barneys.