Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Bloating

I just spent a fabulous 10 day vacation out West, flying first to Salt Lake City to see friends Jacob and Tim and to check out a PhD program there. Then I drove to Olympia, WA, to cavort with Nate, his lovely fiance Michelle and their two dogs (Roya and Paige) and kitten (Ganky Roundworm--named after his current unfortunate condition. I was assured by all parties that roundworm cannot be passed to humans. I'm too afraid to check WebMD to make sure this is true). Then up to Seattle for oysters (good but Long Island's are better), art (Seattle Art Museum--delicious) and a haircut (given to me by a guy named Bash who was wearing pink boots and ripped jeans. My hair was scared! But it all turned out okay.) and some face time with ex-New Yorker and former bedbug-sufferer, Gabe. One more flight to San Francisco to enjoy the company of the lovely ladies in my life, Jen and Carolyn, and then home. Needless to say, I kind of need a vacation from my vacation. But everything was perfect and wonderful and fun except for this: I spent so much money on stuff that I have been suffering staggering waves of nauseau whenever I spy my overstuffed suitcase hulking in the corner of my office. I have not yet been brave enough to unpack it.

Truthfully, I had prepared for this and financially, I'm okay, but it got me to thinking about why I buy so much stuff (some pretty, some crap, some pretty crap) and whether or not it actually makes me feel better after I get it home. I mean, the answer to that question has usually been "Not really," but between spending so much last week, reading the really excellent nonfiction book THE TRAP: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in America by Daniel Brook, and envisioning my life in a graduate program that pays approximately 1/3 of what I'm making now (which is nothing to write home about), it's finally time to take seriously this issue of overspending and overconsuming and do something about it. So I've decided not to buy anything non-consumable for a year. Okay, I'm going to TRY not to buy anything non-consumable for a year.

Not that this is anything so special or novel. I'll still get to eat out, order drinks, smoke a few of my bittersweet butts and wash my hair with Pantene Classic Clean. For most of you, that's probably the extent of your "entertainment" spending anyway. But that's because a lot of you are willful, intelligent, forward-thinking people who have been able to avoid being sucked into the new hyperconsumerism spiral. Not me.

Call it a function of living in New York for so long. New York, where you're mostly supposed to look like a million bucks, even if you're barely breaking $30,000. My rookie year as an editorial assistant, I blew most of one month's rent on a gorgeous blue suede skirt and then had to hail a cab home in hurricane-like weather conditions with my remaining $20, lest my beautiful stupid purchase be ruined in the rain. I wish I could say this was a singular situation.

Call it part of being raised in a lookist, bored and upwardly mobile society, where depression rates have skyrocketed hand in hand with Tivo and HD TV subscriptions.

Call it all those women's magazines that have convinced generations of the fairer sex that if they just had the perfect pair of open-toed pumps, their lives would finally be complete and that elusive thing called happiness, theirs (until next season, anyway).

Call it a lifelong lack of impulse control and practicality on my part.

I'm calling it boring. That little rush I get from buying French-Canadian weatherproofed Italian-leather boots leaves me dry as Ann Coulter's cooter on a hot day when the brand-spanking newness wears off. I'm not proposing anything revolutionary here--after all, there's a whole movement of people who have vowed not to buy ANYTHING for a year. Those people have my best regards, but I do not look to lead a saintly, monkish life. I enjoy whiskey and lobster chowder far too much for that kind of sacrifice. Nor is my proposition unselfishly spurred by my disgust with the foreign sweatshop labor that keeps stores like H&M in faux-designer tailored motorcycle jackets. (After all, who else but the little children can get those tiny stitches just right?)

No, this is a purely selfish and incomplete kind of social experiment, but I'm interested to see what happens. Maybe this will help reset me somehow, thus enabling me to start planning for the awful inevibility of adulthood markers like house ownership and (gulp) babies? Maybe I will successfully deprogram myself just in time for the middle class to crumble and disappear, thus inuring me to what would otherwise have been a devastating blow to my (cute-jacket-and-frock filled!) quality of life. Also, all signs point to graduate-school induced poverty up ahead. It's time to save money and dust off my library card. Last, this will certainly impact my new music and book sensibilities, perhaps in awful and irreversible ways. Please refrain from pointing and laughing when I wind up at your party wearing a threadbare dress, ignorant of the new McSweeney's wunderkind and prattling on about the last Arcade Fire album I bought in 2006. Sigh.

Goodbye dumb and indescribibly beautiful new things!


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