I bought a dress the other day. A pretty dress. A pretty dress to make me feel better. Yes, dear reader, I have resorted to shopping as my therapy, i have become a real American. And you thought all along you needed an American passport to become a contributing member of the free society, didntchyaa?! If that was the case, i’m afraid you’re greatly mistaken. If you don’t believe me, please refer to the flat screen box sitting in front of your couch – it will give you all the rules and regulations. The information might not seem apparent, but don’t be alarmed. Just observe your thought process and the action that proceeds it – you will quickly realize that you had actually become an american long ago. The rules and regulations have probably sneaked into your conscious, slowly and quietly, making you confuse who you really are with who you’re told to be.
My new pretty dress did its job, the therapy worked! After having purchased it, walking out the store, i was feeling pretty dame better in the hopes of appearing happy and content to my onlookers ( isn’t that ultimately our whole point – to please, to get approval? From God knows who or why). I don’t think i can say i was surprised by what happened – the feel good effect a thing had on me. The ‘wey gud!’ factor was more the slow realization that i actually resorted to a thing to raise my mood, and untimely my self worth. You see, i had always prided myself on not being materialistic. I use my cellphone until it decides to stop functioning, unlike most “modern” females, i actually have countable number of shoes, and any car will do for transportation as long as it has four wheels. So you see, i’m a pretty average gal, or a not so average gal, depending on how you’re looking at it.
So how did this happen to me? How and When did i lose touch with the ME that didn’t require stuff to actually be satisfied with my life? The more i contemplate about it, the more i realize i’ve unconsciously, slowly, been sucked into the consumerism that rules the great US of A. It seems every TV channel i turn on, every magazine i flip open, every billboard sign i’m bombarded with has finally done it’s job, it has convinced me that i’m not good enough. Aren’t we always told that we should purchase this and that to be bustier, curvier, prettier, skinnier, happier… worth liking, worth loving? I’ve always attempted to make myself aware of the lies we’re being fed on a daily basis so that a rich, fat, white guy somewhere can make a buck while we, the ordinary, drown in our sorrows that arise from our utter acceptance of the fake. The perfect looking couple cuddled up on their couch, staring at their 60 inch flat screen TV will make you question your average-hight, unaffectionate man and your oh so average 50 inch. The photoshopped Cover girl model will forever remind you of your flawed skin and your fat filled belly. The wholesome happy family running by the beach, ‘summering’ in Hawaii, will keep minding you of all that lacks in your life… it goes on and on and on. But hey, no problem, they have a solution for you – to get you closer to the dream – just go shoppin! That’s right, their ain’t much your hard earned Benjamins can’t do. If you don’t have much of that at the moment, no problem! – demo credit card, men serto yibla.
The fascinating thing is that these images that are being ingrained in our minds occur without our awareness of it. We take them from the imaginary world of some far away perfect world that’s being sold to us to something real, to something to actually strive for, when infact we’re always doomed to fail. Don’t get me wrong i’m not preaching against materialism, far from it. I ain’t that self disciplined, mature or in touch with my “true inner self.” I’ve spent my share of time shopping, attempting to find the perfect pair of shoes to go with that skirt that i bought on sale that looks like the one Cameron Diaz had on while on J-Leno! Yes, i can be average that way too at times. What i’m mentioning here is when the innocent want of looking good and enjoying things changes into questioning ones self worth when there is lack of these stuff. Which by the way is quite unattractive, borderlining dangerous.
You see, it is possible to enjoy stuff without letting it rule ones life, but it seems that’s becoming difficult by the day. We’re always wanting something. Once we have it, we want more of it, a better kind of it, and we won’t stop until we get it. We end up trying to validate who we are, our self worth, by the stuff we possess.The funny part is the obsession with stuff is not only promoted by marketers, but is further perpetuated by the communities we live in. About two weeks back i was complimented on the sunglasses i was wearing by a thirty something year old mother. Taking a quick glance at myself in the nearby mirror i agreed and accepted the compliment. So ‘Marku menden new?” i.e what brand is it? Given her shaky language skills and the traditional attire that decorated her full figure, i have to admit i was taken aback. ‘Eee brandu?‘ that was me with a sort of blank yet amused face. Without giving me a chance, “Michael Kors” new? awekshiw aydel esun, Ye Michele Obama’n libse endewem bezu yiseral…” Thanks to my hubby who spent his teenage years in LA falling into the brand hype, i had recently heard him mention that name. “oh awekut esun, ( fara’wan tefeleg) ehe enkuan esu aydelem.” I wasn’t sure if i should lie or just tell this very much 21st century Ethiopian American mother that what i in fact had on were 7 dollar sunglasses from a sale at NY&Co. I’ve never been a good lier so i stuck with the truth. “Wi tey enji?” she said. I thought i saw a tiny little smirk on her face. Being the nice lady she is though, i think she also felt a little sorry for me and my now not so sexy glasses that were not designed by a name she could barely pronounce.
It looks to me the business of selling stuff, untimely fake happiness and self worth, will forever be profitable. We’re living our lives trying to measure up, constantly trying to “perfect” ourselves, following an ideal that’s designed by people who’re attempting to make money to get their version of the better, fancier, high-end stuff. We’re all chasing something it seems and we think we’ll find it wrapped up in all the stuff we accumulate, but alas, to never find it.