To Set Sail or Not
For well over a year now, I have been lusting after a Sailor pen. Goulet Pens picked up the Sailor line right as the pandemic hit. Since then, they've added all kinds of colors, including a new exclusive. But it's the Pro Gear Slim Dragon Palace that has captivated my imagination. The color is gorgeous. So many times, I've nearly ordered it. (Un)fortunately, it tends to be out of stock whenever my cravings are the most intense.
There are so many reasons to not order it. It's expensive, and I've already spent far too much as it is. It has gold hardware, and I really dislike gold hardware. It has glitter in it, which makes it seem kiddish to me. It's comically small. Smaller than my Pelikan M205, and only just a hair longer than the Kaweco Sport. All of these pens are meant to be used posted, but I don't post my pens. Ever. Not even the Sport. From what I've heard, the Sailor converters are not that great. And the nibs, while gold, are stiff as nails. (And, frankly, if that is the case, I fail to see the point of them being made of gold.) Plus there's only one nib option.
And yet I can't get this pen out of my mind. But why? Is it just because it's a Sailor? Because so many people have sung its praises and collect them? Is it the pen or the allure of the brand that I want?
And this dilemma has had me adding this pen to my cart and removing it for eighteen months now.
In that time, I've ordered pens (almost) as pricey: my Pilot Falcon ($152 then, but now $180 same as the Pro Gear Slim), my Edison Menlo Honey ($169), my Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Marietta Vintage Green ($165) - plus 3 #6 SIG nibs from Franklin-Christoph at $49 each. I have a Medium SIG on my Menlo and a Fine SIG on my Model 20 - essentially raising the price to $219 and $214 respectively.
Of course, having spent that money means I have less to spend on future pens. But why was I able to pull the trigger on those pens but not on a Sailor? I waited months before ordering the Menlo to make sure I wanted it. How come the Sailor hasn't passed that test? What is the test?
I have been trying to think of my collection as a whole while buying pens. The Falcon is my soft nib and my gold nib. The Menlo is bright and happy, and I love owning an Edison. I'm from North Carolina, so having a Franklin-Christoph feels like a piece of home. And both of those pens take #6 nibs, which means it's easy and (relatively) cheap to change up the writing experience whenever I want. I have over half a dozen #6 nibs, so the world is my oyster. I have a piston-filler and another soft-nibbed pen in my Pelikan M205 (which I got for a steal at $119, but would otherwise rival the Sailor in price). The Kaweco is, of course, my pocket pen. And then a handful of cheaper snap caps to round things out.
Where would the Sailor fit? This one is bright and glittery, when I've come to realize that I prefer understated pens. Well, maybe a different color then? I also love the Midnight Sky - a beautiful dark blue with silver, rather than gold, hardware. It's also an extra twenty dollars more. On the other hand, I could choose my nib size. Sailor nibs have feedback, but I know how to smooth and tune a nib. But to do it on an irreplaceable nib? It's tiny, even for my small hands. And it's too expensive to be a pocket pen or even just sidelined for short notetaking sessions. And if I'm balking that this price, I certainly can't afford the regular Pro Gear. And yet....
And yet, and yet, and yet...
When it comes down to it, I love the pens in my collection. I have two (a Penbbs and a Narwhal) that I've been planning to sell, but otherwise, I don't want to get rid of any. And I have nine. That might not seem a lot for some pen addicts, but I want to be a user, not a collector. I have had almost two dozen pens before, and it actually wasn't enjoyable for me. There was too much pressure to use them all, to justify them all, when really I'd quit liking some of them a long time ago. Once I bought my first "nice" pen (the Pilot Falcon), I decided to cut down to five pens. I didn't quite make that, but I still want and need limits. Ten is a nicer, rounder number...
$180, $200 are nice round numbers too, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a lot of money. Not quite a car payment, but still a lot of money. I can buy so many notebooks and inks for that. Or rather, I have bought pens and notebooks and inks for that much. Five of my fountain pens put together were barely a hundred. There is no reason to have to spend that much on yet another pen. Of course, there is no reason for most people to spend even twenty dollars on a single pen. I remember agonizing over ordering my first Pilot Metropolitan...
The way most people practice this hobby is by spending money. No matter how much one writes (and I write quite a lot by most standards), we don't need five or ten or twenty or more pens. Many others in the community have written about the dangers of acquiring more and more. FOMO is real. Pens are continually coming out in new colors. There are always other brands, models, and editions to chase after. Part of me would love to do that. I mostly get my fix, however, by reading other pen blogs and vicariously living through their reviews. I justify the cost of this hobby because it makes my job of taking notes and writing more enjoyable. It makes planning fun and leads me to journal more, which helps with my mental health. Spending lots of money does not help my mental health. Trying to hide the cost of my purchases does not help my mental health (or my marriage, for that matter).
In an odd way, it's not so much that the Sailor hasn't passed the test, but rather that the Sailor has become the test. Every day that I don't order it, I'm proving to myself that I'm in control. I'm making a stand about how I want to participate in this hobby. I'm setting boundaries about how much I'm willing to spend. The truth is that I've already spent more than I can afford on pens. And I shouldn't let those past bad decisions, no matter how much I enjoy the fruits of them, justify spending more now.