Anne Notations

Friday, January 21, 2005

Material boys and girls

I posted this on Ian's blog ( today in response to his keen observation about These Times in our great country. It's something I've thought about a lot during the last 20 years -- how our culture trains us to be Uber-Consumers:

The one thing we Americans are way too good at is BUYING THINGS. With my passions for reading, music, art, the New Yorker, blah blah blah, I like to think I'm above such crass impulses. So why do I end up at Tar-zhay every week, cruising the aisles and loving every minute of it?

On a trip to Europe 20 years ago (when the dollar was thumping other world currencies), I realized that I just wanted to spend money... on Benetton sweaters in Rome, on books and Irish woollens in Galway and Dublin, on Delft in Amsterdam, on Waterford crystal at the duty-free. Each time we visited a historic site or museum, I couldn't wait to get to the gift shop. My keenly honed avidity for shopping both interested me (hey, I was an Am Civ major) and appalled me. It was as if I'd been training all my life for that trip -- not just to appreciate the temples we visited in Sicily and the Coliseum and the old crumbling Irish abbeys and castles, but to buy stuff. And then some more stuff. Then we had to buy a whole other suitcase to carry it all back home.

We may have failed to achieve our dreams in some ways, but damn, can we shop!

- Anne


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