Jul 31, 2016

Quantity over Quality

     I love summer. Despite the heat, it's one of my favorite seasons, top four easily. Not just because it's ice-cream-sea-dip-crazy-sweat-stain time, though, but also because a bunch of people whom I hold near and dear to my heart celebrate the day their mothers squeezed them out of their private parts or someone simply cut them out of their bellies and my mom's one of them. Then there's also my boyfriend and a couple of friends, but most important of all is the first kid who wholeheartedly, genuinely liked me that I also wholeheartedly, genuinely liked back, despite the torrents of snot, poo and other scrumptious secretions leaking out of his every hole — my nephew.
     Luckily, the profuse discharge days are (mostly) behind us thanks to his venerable age of seven and thus a loving aunt doesn't have to rack her brains with questions like Does it smell bad enough for it to be changed? or Where does your mother keep wet wipes and a spare pair of ... well, everything? This year, however, I encountered a question I hadn't given a lot of thought before: What to get the pesky little bugger for his birthday?
     I know, I know, I can basically hear you saying, "Just go to a toy store and buy him a toy, he's seven, duh." But that's the thing, I didn't want to 'just buy him a toy' — not because I didn't love him, but because I loved him. And because I, along with a small army of other doting relatives, had been smothering him with the said love over the course of his short life, the room he shares with his younger brother is now overflowing with a diverse array of more or less plastic expressions of love of various shapes, sizes and colors, even though their parents asked, begged, ordered and even threatened us not to buy them any more crap. It took me seven years, but I got the message. Finally. Probably not just due to my nephew's parents' tireless efforts to stop us from schlepping heaps of shit into their house, though.
     Long before my nephew was even born, you see, I stockpiled a different pile of different junk in a different house — I'm talking about my closet. My closet, I regret to say, is even more stuffed and is bursting at the seams on account of all the shorts, shirts, blazers, sweaters, skirts, dresses and everything in-between. Or in plain English, on account of shit, shit and more shit. Over the last decade I've filled it with cheap crap, the cheaper the better — why would you want to pay more to get less, when you can pay less to get more? Duh. Sneakers for fifteen euros and shirts for five. Wear, tear, buy, repeat. Grown women change their complete wardrobes like three-month-old babies who outgrow everything on a weekly basis — what's our excuse? We need new stuff if not because we buy garments according to the cheaper-the-better logic, because someone said turquoise is out and teal is in this season and I don't know which is stupider. That's the reality, that's the bigger picture. And when I saw it, standing in front of my closet, it wasn't pretty: like many a children's room, many a woman's wardrobe is a painfully exact reflection of the world at large, drowning in useless, cheap rubbish.
     But to avoid being sexist, I should add that modern men are no better. Will all the metrosexuals out there please stand up? Come on now, don't be shy, we know you're out there — we see your eye-brow-plucking, selfie-taking, moisturizer-slathering, armpit-shaving self-pampered asses everywhere. Sometimes I think the only difference between us and them is the period. Now don't tell me your closets aren't just as afflicted by the clutter hoarding malady as ours, all fallen victim to the more-is-more mantra.
     So if this vaulting accumulation of low-quality nonsense isn't a question of gender, what is it then? Money? Are we, the members of the lower class (there isn't a middle class anymore, let's not kid ourselves, but that's a completely different post) so used to saving that we don't just buy cheap stuff when we need it but simply buy cheap stuff when we see it? That can't be it. Rich people waste their money on crap too, there are TV shows upon TV shows documenting that. Yes, they go after the things of quality but not because those are more durable but simply because they can and they still end up picking quantity over quality — why would you otherwise have seven Bentleys, three Lamborghinis, a Porsche and a Rolls Royce? Because more is more and quantity is what counts. Duh.
     I remember watching those shows thinking, "Thank God I'm more frugal with my money," which clearly isn't the case. But that's just when it comes to clothes, right? Surely I'm wiser in other regards. Well ... not really. Upon reflection, I have to admit I buy my furniture like I buy my clothes. Granted, due to various practical reasons, money constraints being just one of them but still, the mentality is there. And do you want to know something else? My brother, for example, has the same coffee table as me. "Hey, it was only twenty-five euros," he said to me during one of my visits, "when the kids wreck it, I'll simply go buy another one just like it." And here's another fun trivia: I already dented mine. It's so poorly made that I chipped it when I put my laptop down too quickly. But hey, it was only twenty-five euros, I'll just go buy another one — quantity over quality.
     Of course that attitude permeated into all areas of our lives: clothes, shoes, phones, kids' toys, dog toys, sex toys, food, drink, cars, bikes, vases, watches, kitchen appliances, lotions, make-up, blankets, pillows, TV sets ... Think about it: how many shit you have in your home that you could easily do without? And you know why? Because our brainwashed minds keep telling us that new is always better and two is better than one. Meh, forget two — six is better than five, eighteen is better than seventeen, thirty-two is better than thirty-one, new, more, next, next, NEXT. That's the reality, that's the bigger picture. Our society has become an a-dime-a-dozen cacophony of humongous fake asses and even bigger fake boobs, an avalanche of vapid selfies and shopping-is-my-cardio and life-is-short-buy-the-shoes bullshit memes, brimming with worthless crap. Welcome to the 21st century, enjoy your stay. And to quote Stephen King: I don’t want to speak too disparagingly of my generation — actually I do, we had a chance to change the world but opted for the Home Shopping Network instead. But is this really what we want the kids of tomorrow to live in and to live like? Is this the legacy, the gift we want to bestow on the daughters and sons and grandchildren and nieces and nephews of the world? Is it? I know I don't want any of that, not for myself and especially not for any of them. Therefore I definitely didn't want to just buy another fucking toy for my little birthday bugger. But what should a loving aunt get her beloved nephew then, hmm ...
     In the end, I decided to go straight to the source. "Hey you," I said when he stopped running around like a maniac for three seconds. "Your birthday is coming up. What do you want for your birthday?"
     "Hmmm ... I don't know," he said thinking hard.
     "What, no new toy coming to mind?"
     "Not really ... I have so many already."
     "You do? Which one's your favorite anyway?"
     "Hmmm ... I don't know. Sometimes I think there are so many to choose from, I just don't know what to do with them all, which one to pick." Out of the mouths of babes, huh.
     "So OK, no new toys for you this birthday?"
     "No way, you have to get me something! Wait, you know what I want?"
     "Shoot."
     "A Rubik's cube."
     "A Rubik's cube??"
     "Yes. The one we have at home is too difficult, I can't solve it. Get me a new one, an easier one."
     "Sure ... I'll do that. I'll get you an easier Rubik's cube." Thanks for the help, nephew.
     But that did turn out to be helpful because I ended up getting him exactly that, an easier Rubik's cube — I got him a twist ball. Pretty cool, right? At least I think so. Sure, I got him yet another colorful, plastic expression of love but I somehow managed to bypass the buy-now-think-never philosophy and actually get him something long-lasting and reusable that doesn't just squirt slime or glow in the dark but promotes brain use. Needless to say, I felt like a champion and kept hearing 'winning' in my head (in a Charlie Sheen voice, what else) and was altogether pleased with myself — in your face, consumerism!
     "Wait, why did you order two of them?" asked my boyfriend, looking over my shoulder in my laptop.
     "What?"
     "Two, you ordered two. Why?"
     "Because ... you know ... two is better than one?"
     Baby steps, champion.
    




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