Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Things We Deserve

I've come to the conclusion that Americans are derailing the economy and trashing the planet to feed our own overblown egos.

I realized this yesterday, when talking to someone about some deals I found at a local thrift store. They told me that they feel they "deserve new clothes".

My first thought was that I would never dream of stepping into my yard, much less a public place, in what she was wearing. Her entitlement to new clothing forces her to wear poor quality clothes, which need replaced more often and never look as good as the better quality clothes my unentitled family wears. But that's mean. And it's a matter of values... She values "new". I value quality, economy, and ecology because I have found that they last longer than "new".

Later, I reflected that perhaps she was forced to wear unstylish hand-me-downs as a child, or maybe she has self-esteem issues and needs this boost. Would looking really, really good feel better than that second of tearing off a store tag? She probably doesn't look at it that way. But she's not alone in using material goods to make herself feel better. It's a cultural malaise here in these United States.

Consider, for example, cars. Would you drive an old, dented sparkly-brown Nova without being forced by economic necessity? Of course not. We buy cars that say something about us--whether it is a Prius, a Lexus, a Hummer, or a minivan. We "deserve" a nice vehicle. We want that daily affirmation. Same with houses. Our houses are simply too large, but I personally love having all the space. I love it when people come over for the first time and tell me how nice my house is. I spend half my life keeping it clean because we "deserve" a clean and organized space.

Or, take food. A friend tells me her husband "deserves" meat at every meal because he works so hard. It doesn't matter how expensive it is, how devastating cattle are on the environment, or how he will die of atherosclerosis at the age of fifty. He deserves meat, darn it. Because he is apparently the only man on the planet who puts in a long day.

I'm guilty too. Here are a few things I "deserve":
a glass of wine in the evening
high quality coffee beans
designer handbags
long showers (yeah, I'm working on it)
higher-end haircuts and highlights

I could write all day, but you get the point. Would I be another, lesser person if I carried a Target handbag? Does that glass of wine negate a long day caregiving and homeschooling? Of course not.

Here is what we truly deserve:

our minute share of a small and fragile planet--and no more
breathable air, clean soil, and fresh water
balanced budgets and lives free of the stress of debt
health, happiness, and aesthetic beauty to the point that we are willing to work for them

Coach purses, whether new or used, bought full price or at a killer deal, pale in comparison. So do meat dinners, the new clothing smell, and the privilege of owning an automobile. Join me in reevaluating your entitlements, not so much to criticize the love of possessions as to understand their very marginal place in our lives.

2 comments:

wildcardquilts said...

What "deserving" people don't know is how fun and rewarding thrift shopping can be. They are missing OUT, I say. We are kindred spirits on this issue. And I'm with you on "deserving" that glass of wine, as soon as this baby on the way is born and nursed well! (Eight weeks or so to go.) Thanks for the inspiring post!

me said...

Hey- it takes "deserving" people like that to keep the thrift shops stocked. Someone has to be the first purchaser of all those clothes. Let's just keep them donating and we'll be OK.

I deserve my 2 pots of coffee a day. And I deserve to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. SHoot- I'd settle for just fitting back into my maternity clothes at this point.