At least in my world it is to the degree that my disposable income can afford it. And I often feel like an old relic for feeling or trying to do otherwise. And have likely and often made my parents feel like old relics for having these cultural tendencies and practices of ‘reusing,’ ‘saving scraps,’ and holding on to ‘old things’.
Undoubtedly, the privileged difficulties of embracing the ‘taking care of your things’ practice has occurred to me in the past. Most recently though, it really struck a chord with me when I decided to refurbish a pair of boots that I have lovingly worn for two winter seasons, and am not ready to let go.
When I took the pair of boots to a shoe repair shop (I dare not say cobbler for such a historic word shall not be uttered from my lips), even the salesman had to break it down and get real with me, explaining that I had destroyed the heel beyond a simple fix, and that it could cost me close to $80 to rebuild the heels, and even then I might not like the look of the restoration. “Listen, you should think about it. You could probably buy a pair of boots for that much. Go home, look online, see how you feel, and come back if you change your mind,” he said.
Absurd! is how I perceived this $80 tag to restore my destroyed boot heels.
Shakespearian moment: …Yet, I love the pair. So much that I know I will not find something I will love just as much. If I bought a new pair, I would still not be willing to ‘throw away’ this pair of boots and would stow them away in the back of my closet until I found a way – a way, I tell you!
This begged the following thoughts:
- Even if I were to find a better ‘deal’, a ‘fairer’ price – for this particular chain of shoe repair shops, this was a price they had determined to be appropriate according to the cost of labor, materials, and shop overhead. So I eliminate the question of fair price for a moment, and assume it is fair.
- Then why do I perceive this to be a ripoff. Why, because it is so easy to buy something new for the same or similar price, and extremely encouraged in our culture of consumption. To restore a pair of boots for that price would make me look like a moron in most peoples eyes, the way I perceive it that is. It makes more ‘sense’ to buy new, and toss out the old.
- But does it make more sense? Doesn’t it make more sense that when this pair of boots is perfectly beautiful to me, perfectly useable and perfectly practical, with the exception of the destroyed heels – doesn’t it make ‘sense’ for me to then get them fixed, and instead of contributing an entire set of boots to the growing trash problem in the world, I would contribute just a pair of destroyed heels, and instead of consuming a whole new pair of boots (not to mention the footprint it left behind in being manufactured, packaged, shipped, delivered) I would consume just a pair of new boot heels? And rather than argue that a new pair of boots would have supported labor and jobs somewhere, couldn’t it be argued that coming to this repair shop supported a more sustainable form of labor?
So I listened to the salesperson. I browsed online, and truly did not find a pair of boots that fit that particular perceived ‘need’ in my closet. And here I am. Decidedly determined to get my boots fixed, repaired, restored, and back to mama.
My dad has had the same pair of Raybans since nineteen-eighty-something. I’m talking about those gold-rimmed aviators with the black-out lens. At some point in the two-thousands, we decided we were sick of it and added a different pair of Raybans to his now Rayban collection of two pairs.
There was nothing wrong with his ‘old’ Raybans. In fact, if you saw them, you wouldn’t know if they were ‘old’ or ‘new’, for he has maintained them with rigor and allowed but only the most minor of scratches to befall them. Now, a pair of Raybans is not ‘cheap’. But ‘any fool’ could argue that he has gotten his money’s worth. So for a lifetime of use, the full-price-non-sale-payment was ‘well worth it’.
I’m going somewhere with this, but I’m too lazy to go. Wow I’m so bored of this topic (most likely because it’s not all about me, but partly because I get bored with ‘there’s a lesson in here somewhere’).
I imagine all the times I’ve judged someone in my mind – determined their socio-economic ranking in the world – based on their decision to wear the same pair of boots with multiple outfits, despite my ‘knowing’ that the outfit would ‘look so much better’ with a different colored pair of boots.
Yes this is so Orange County of me, so before you get excited please get over yourself, you don’t need to think of me as so petty when I am sitting here evaluating my pettiness myself.
Truth be told, I know a lot of people who not just think like this in every aspect of life, but actually say it out loud and are lauded for saying it out loud, because this is a part of middle to upper class culture (and likely a part of lower class culture because no one can escape the ‘trappings’ of class; I just don’t know it myself because I have, as a result of the efforts of the various structures in place, and as of late from my own efforts, been kept and kept myself away from ‘lower classes’ – yeah, I’m an asshole).
Which brings me to examine my use of the word ‘classy’ as a finer compliment and desired level of achievement for almost every aspect of life. I want it, I try to achieve it, and yet it rubs me the wrong way, ever so slightly, every time I use the word out loud. I intend to return to this at another time.
And back to the topic of boots. My decision to pursue the boot-refurbishing is in no way representative of the way I live my life. I have a list of ‘needs’ of material objects that are constantly being updated throughout the year. This is how I live my life. I have many more ‘needs’ than many, many others, and less ‘needs’ than a few others. I have more expensive ‘needs’ than a great many others, and less expensive ‘needs’ than fewer others. And most of my ‘needs’ are fulfilled at the backbreaking expense of many, many others, not to mention the non-human inhabitants of this planet and Earth itself. These are just my thoughts as I evaluate my place in life, my decisions, and how these decisions affect the very fabric of Life as it is and Life as it will be.
There is a very determined expression of ‘class’ occurring. Part of it is indeed a reflection of my ‘wants’ and ‘desires’, but what influenced and shaped my wants and desires? And, there is a fine line, if any, between my ‘wants’ and class-based-and-maintenance ‘needs’.
P.S. This article is a must read: “Why Do Poor People ‘Waste’ Money on Luxury Goods?” by Tressie Mcmillan Cottom
There is no conclusion. This is a reflection of the inner workings of my lifestyle, the ‘systems’ and ‘structures’ of society that encourage and keep me in my place, and the ‘systems’ and ‘structures’ that I keep in place with my enthusiastic and sometimes less-than-enthusiastic and sometimes-weary-and-fearful compliance. This is not an end, this is not a beginning. This is what it is. I do what I do, you do what you do. Why do we do it? What will come of us choosing to do so? What is happening right now because we chose so?
I did read something the other day. That it would be foolish to think that all change must come from the individual – when there is such a thing as Power, and we must examine what things that those with Power are keeping in place. Perhaps we are not examining the things we must do beyond the things we must do such as recycle and use less water and consume more wisely. What are those things? This is mostly rhetorical because I’m afraid to ask.