Friday, February 5, 2010

Consumerism and the order of things

I realize that many people struggle with the task of self-definition. "Who am I" often becomes more about "What do I do" or "What do I like" or "What are my hobbies". Then there is the other major question - "What do I own, what do I buy and what does it say about me?". Not that I believe that what I own or consume *defines* me, per se, but it does reflect something of my values and my taste. For a while, I think I tried unsuccessfully to deny that I enjoyed shopping and clothes and things of that nature. Mind you, some people might see how I dress and still make that assumption about me, but they would be wrong. I prefer to be understated, I like jewelry that is not mass-produced and prefer silver to gold (the gold jewelry that I do own sits rather lonely in a box), I do not have a flashy car (and the car that I have sits in the driveway, unattended because we pulled it off the insurance this summer).
Not that I follow the latest trends, but I do like:
- Cute t-shirts (especially those that Michael gives me for my birthday and/or other events, like a "just because" day; see below for an example of a cute t-shirt, despite the bad photo.
- Smart wool socks - Seriously, they are so great!
- Almost anything from Patagonia (which is a problem, because how many little fleece jackets do I really need? Ditto goes for their women's underwear!)
- Cardigan sweaters and crisp white, tailored shirts.
- Nice notecards - especially letterpress on good card stock (see below again).
- Products by Aveda.

See, consumerism! And, to top it all off, Michael and I finally succumbed to the pressure, to the desire to HAVE and we bought ourselves a television. MAJOR CONSUMERISM!
It was a slow process, and it took years for us to finally give in. I still blame Sara, my friend who moved to Paris, because we inherited their old but pretty-nice TV in the summer, and we realized that it was nice to not watch shows on a computer screen. Now, we are the proud owners of a flat-screen TV. And a PS3. Did I fail to mention that?
I'm not sure what this means, or if it means anything. I feel as though we've become true suburbanites, but a friend assured me that owning a television is not the sole terrain of suburbia. I must confess that I do enjoy the picture quality of the movies we watch. We have yet to install cable, but it may be the next step in our "we are consumers" reality.
Maybe there's another issue for me. While the television was a very deliberate purchase, and we made that decision as a 'household', I also like the occasional, random purchase here or there. A skirt that maybe I don't really *need*, but it's kind of cute. A part of my nature tends to the impulsive, the impractical, and the spontaneous (although I also like structure!).
Anyway, random thoughts, but I do wonder what it all means, if it means anything. I've never tried to adopt a zero-impact lifestyle, as much as that sounds appealing in theory, and I try to not judge other people (although I probably do have some smug moments, no doubt) for their choices. However, I do think that our choices reflect something about who we are, what are values are, what we believe. And, whether we like it or not, what we buy is a choice.


Kim said...

I agree with you that what we buy DOES say something about us, but not everything. Actually, I think what I don't buy also says something about me ;) Honestly, I don't think getting a television means you are a different person than you were or that you're caving into something. You are still you, with the same values. We leased a Lexus when we traded in my car and I still feel weird in it. It's just "not me." But, my husband wanted it, it was cheaper than we thought it would be, etc, etc. I don't think our purchases always are in line with exactly who we are, but certain forces converge (significant other, cultural pressures, convenience, cost) and we buy what we buy. I know I would prefer a Barnes & Noble shopping spree over a clothing shopping spree any day, and that says something about me. But, I still covet the J. Crew catalog. Living in America, consuming is a very tricky thing. We are told to want lots of things. Some of them, it turns out, we do actually want (meaning they'll bring some pleasure to our lives, as I'm sure the television will). Being aware of our choices is what's most important. I'm like you in that I love structure, but I can be very impulsive. Some of my best purchases are the whimsical ones.

Ameena said...

What we buy definitely reflects us...but what we don't buy also reflects us. I usually won't spend a lot on dinner but I wilk spend a small fortune on jeans. Random, right? I wish I didn't care about money but unfortunately living in LA can do that to you!

I guess we just have to maintain some sort of limit and stick with it, right?