"The best money I ever spent was maybe on tooth whitening," Sandra said (we all leaned forward and realized anew how dazzling her teeth are, and I could sense six women secretly vowing to stick on their Crest Whitestrips before going to bed), "but probably the best was on my coat." Sandra has a fierce, black shearling coat that everyone admires; she bought it for $600, she told us, just before she had to go to the Sundance Film Festival one year. It's a coat that "raffishly and bad-boyishly covers a sloppy host of 40-something-mother fashion ills."

As the impartial moderator, I was abstaining from answering the questions, but when Sandra told us about the coat, I thought immediately of the dress I wore to my second wedding. It cost me most of a paycheck, and better money has never been spent. It was a Carmen Marc Valvo beaded cocktail dress that fit like a glove and banished forever the memory of myself as an '80s bride drowning in yards of tulle and marching purposefully toward a union that nobody was giving very good odds. That second dress rocked.

Then Jody averred that the best money she ever spent was on fertility treatments, and many of us hung our heads in shame. "Oh, yes, definitely!" I said, thinking of my own little boys and how they almost edge out that dress.


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