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What a country.

10 November 2009

Do you ever go through your daily life and wonder to yourself, what would Yakov think? Yeah, me neither, but I’m wondering it now. Some things about America perplex me. What a country.

First of all:

The Mall
I was at the mall on Saturday (a statement that will not be true again until Christmas has come and gone. oye.)
Y’all saw the commercials for $1 scarves at Old Navy…well I fell for it. Along with 1000s of other Springfieldians. The mall is in full-out Christmas bustle. Garlands are hung from the ceiling with care. St. Nicholas, and his jolly elves paid-by-the-hour, are there.
Somewhere while navigating the narrow aisles, dodging double-wide strollers, and scouring ransacked racks for my size, I’d had enough.

I got ANGRY. Nobody in this mall needs a damn thing, I fumed.
Poor Brandon, he did what he usually does in times like these, quietly humors my rampage and then reminds me that maybe I can’t change every injustice in the world, and maybe it’d be better for me (and my blood pressure) if I could learn to say “that’s just the way it is” and move on. (I hate that.)

I can’t get over the fact that we buy too much shit.
(Pardon my french, mom, if you’re reading this, but you know it’s true.)
There are people in the world who don’t have clean water to drink. Do I really need another pair of jeans? What’s so bad with the 10 scarves I already own?
(nothing. Nothing is wrong with them.)
And so I don’t really need another scarf, whether or not they’re just a dollar.
So I didn’t buy one.

And that is, I think, the one victory i can have in the midst of my middle-class existential angst.

What I can do is continue to look at my own spending, and learn to tell myself NO.
And while I’m at it, I’ll ask wouldn’t it be better if we stopped buying what we don’t need, and evaluate what we could give away?
or save for a trip?
or save for a big item we really do need, but “can’t afford”?

Because there’s nothing wrong with spending money and having nice stuff. But there is something wrong with trying to buy happiness, and I think that’s what we do all too often.
What a country.

Second of all:

Brandon and I went to Shoney’s for Sunday breakfast buffet. mm mm you got your home fries…your bacon…your pancakes…your eggs with hot sauce.
you got your highest tank top undershirts* per capita.
you got your old people. cute, polite, chatty old people.

(*trying to eliminate biased language from my vocabulary, but dang it—there really is no better term than “wife beater”…)

One particular old dude across from us, on oxygen (and, it turns out, coumadin…some things you can’t help but overhear) reminded me of my grandpa. Not just because they shared blood-thinning medication, but because a playfully grumpy disposition like that is exclusive to the WW2 generation. Something about the gravely voice and time-tested wisdom.

I missed my grandparents in a tangible way like maybe I haven’t since my grandma died this summer.

Old people get to me. Especially if they’re dining alone. (This is another case where Brandon tells me not to get too upset; they’re probably fine. But I can’t help but be sad, imagining they’re lonely.)
I wish it was more socially acceptable to talk to strangers.
That somehow life could feel more communal, instead of closed off. too busy, too self-concerned, too scared to care about anyone else.

The newest Radiolab, “New Normal?” was all about community (Listen to it for free at and whether people (apes. foxes.) can change.
What got to me the most is the idea that empathy is a highly evolved trait, and will continue to be a side-effect of survival.
Maybe someday war and conflict won’t be “human nature,” and instead empathy and care will be. It’s worth thinking about, and worth believing in.

In America, podcast listen to you! What was that, Yakov? You crazy.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Whit permalink
    10 November 2009 11:55 pm

    I can identify. Pretty sure Brandon would have to calm me down too.

  2. Amanda permalink
    11 November 2009 12:31 pm

    Every time you’re about to make a frivolous purchase, just think “LP10 baby!!” and put that money away.

  3. 11 November 2009 5:18 pm

    I just got done writing an entry for my church’s Advent devotional book, and I was musing about how we’ve learned to SOLVE rather than to receive the gifts we give each other (because we really don’t need anything, but we’re committed to upholding the illusion that we do). I drew my inspiration from old home movies. I realized how I was being taught how to handle useless gifts at such a young age. It’s almost sickening. I don’t want to do that to my future kids.

    One battle at a time, though. My wife and I have loosely adopted the buy new X, shed 2 old X’s philosophy. There are a few things we don’t apply it to (music, videos), and sometimes it’s 1:1 (with clothes, for instance), but that’s still better than 1:0 continuous accumulation.

    I also give mostly homemade Christmas gifts now, and accompany them with charitable donations on my families’ behalf. It hasn’t quite caught on yet, but I’m still hoping to rub off on them as the years go by and they see it’s a conviction rather than a fad. I was really pushing for the philosophy a few years ago, but they would have none of it. I figured if they all wouldn’t, that didn’t mean I still couldn’t! :-)

    Good luck Sarah!

  4. John permalink
    13 November 2009 12:45 pm

    A well known and highly knowledgeable local financial advisor I know (and I think you know him too) might encourage you to look at things this way: Buy a $1 scarf with the savings you would experience by you and Brandon creating your own breakfast buffet at home and saving whatever you spent at Shoney’s. Yes, food prepared by others is always better than food you prepare. But the scarf you’ll have forever, and the food you’ll have for 1 hour to 2 days depending on your digestive process. Plus, you could have done a Sunday home-made breakfast buffet with friends and thereby causing you to spend time with people you love as opposed to mall gerbils.

    Or, keep doing things the way to do them because thinking this stuff through in order to analyze choices doesn’t always make for good blogging.

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