(Sorry I couldn’t find this on video anywhere. Instead, you get to read the transcript of a scene between awkward and innocent teenager Nick and his womanizing, clueless — but here, very insightful — uncle Roger, from the movie “Roger Dodger.”)
NICK: What do you do all day?
ROGER: What do I do all day? What do I do all day? I sit here and think of ways to make people feel bad.
NICK: I thought you wrote for commercials.
ROGER: I do, but you can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad.
NICK: Why not?
ROGER: Because it’s a substitution game. You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives. Everyone’s missing something, right?
NICK: Well, yeah. I guess.
ROGER: Trust me. And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void. So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they run out and buy a stupid-looking pair of cargo pants.
Nick looks down and shifts his hands inside the pockets of the pair of cargo pants he’s wearing.
NICK: So … is it fun?
ROGER: It can be.
In the ultra-good bargain days between November 28, 2008, and January 31, 2009, I behaved badly. I spent $283.62 on stuff I’m now sure I didn’t need.
A total of $156.34 went to stores in my neighborhood that were going out of business. I don’t feel the least bit guilty for the $81.90 I spent on gospel CDs and bible study guides at a Christian bookstore that was closing, and I’ve made excellent use of the hand mixer and bed skirts that Linens n Things was practically giving away. The DVDs from Circuit City have kept me entertained on my many nights spent inside, and they have assisted me in the film dissection and script analysis I’m supposed to use to improve my own screenplays, so I guess about 90 percent of the going out of business sale purchases were worth the money. (The curtains from Linens n Things haven’t worked out so well.)
I spent the remaining $127.28 on a DVD from a store still doing great business, especially now that Circuit City is gone, a pair of sexy green suede boots, a related green purse, a comfy pair of loafers perfect for ushering, the biggest, warmest, most comfortable fleece sweatshirt in the world, a pair of yoga pants, and about $31 on some other clothing items I couldn’t point out in my closet today.
I can’t even recollect those items now, and yet they and the rest of the items in my shopping season shopping spree seemed so important at the time. I think about them now because, while I don’t long to be among the throngs of shoppers in Black Friday lines or among those clicking a Cyber Monday mouse, I wish I could do more than what I currently can. I wish my 20-dollar moisturizer hadn’t run out the same day my mom gave me $20 to do something enjoyable. I wish I weren’t dipping into my savings account to cover the expense of overdue repairs on my car. I wish I were finished paying Sallie Mae, or that I had the guts to default on my student loans like most people do. I wish premiums for health insurance plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions cost the same amount that they’re worth.
I don’t know why I had extra cash this time last year, and even if I hadn’t spent any of it, life probably would have happened and I would have spent the money in a different way. Another “why” is more important: Why did I feel the need to purchase anything?
As I said, I can justify almost all of it. But the sexy green boots and related purse bother me to this day. (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the boots were the most expensive single item that I bought this time last year, or perhaps even for the entire year – other than furniture.) I remember waking up one morning obsessed with green boots. I instinctively knew what store would have them. I instinctively knew that they would be on sale. But what makes a woman who doesn’t go out that often think that her life is incomplete without a pair of sexy green boots?
Now, I have nothing against enjoying material things or against supporting the people who have to endure this great season as retail employees. It’s just that I think Time writer Barbara Kiviat made a good point in her recent critique of big bargains. She “realizes that part of what got us [into recession] was overspending, and that that overspending was fostered by a shopping culture that uses cheap goods to hook people on feeling like they’re winning at something.”
Maybe if I had spent more time in the books and study guides I bought, I wouldn’t have felt the need for anything else that came after it. Perhaps if everyone “took steps to deal with their lives” or “worked to root out the real reason for their misery,” fewer of us would (still) be living life laid off.
© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.