Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gluttonous Consumer Frenzy

What a sick bastard I am. In the past week I have spent close to 1G. All this after many months of not spending a penny. This is how it goes with me - long stretches of famine, self-control and frugal self-denial and then, out of nowhere, a sudden spending feast which entails a blissful loss of control and blind indulgence in consumption. Like the hungry caterpillar, I must eat and I will NOT stop until this forest is stripped of each and every leaf! PANT, PANT, PANT...munch, munch, swallow...

The thing about spending is, it feels super good in the moment when you are grasping a $60 foam mattress cover that you didn't realize you needed until 5 seconds earlier and you are thinking to yourself, "Yeah, this will solve all my problems! This foam mattress cover is the answer I have been searching for all these empty years!" BUT there is an overwhelming sense of guilt once your credit card has been repeatedly swiped and you are pulling out of Blood Bath and Beyond with a trunk load of crap you didn't intend to buy that day. This is when you ask yourself, "Is that all there is?"

It all began Monday morning when I came into the office and saw Jessica, a college student covering the front desk. She was wearing a neon blue cotton skirt that popped out of her white surroundings like a popsicle.

"Man, where did you get that cool skirt?" I wondered aloud.

One hour later, Suzanne and I were on an extended lunch break pillaging American Apparel. I've avoided the store up until now because I was under the mistaken impression that their clothes cost a lot. But when you are looking at a hot pink wrap dress that can be worn in 4 different combinations and only costs $36, well, that's a steal, right!?

Here is how they get you. You add up one wrap dress, two neon colored soft cotton skirts, one $30 fancy ass t-shirt and one ridiculously cut James Bond swimsuit and you have somehow magically managed to spend $200. Afterwards, tightly gripping my tiny little plastic bag of clothes that cost $200, I felt a little whoozy. How could I have spent that much money so quickly? Little did I know, that was only the beginning of a consumer whirlwind that lasted one entire week and has left me spent, broke and buried under new crap.

Next came a trip to Old Navy. From Made in America to Sweat Shop Central in 5 minutes flat! Everything in Old Navy fits funny. Suzanne and I are perfect shopping buddies as we both have mildly OCD tendencies. We HAVE to look at everything in the store before we try on our massive piles of options. It is as though we are combing the place with a fine tooth comb in search of buried treasure, or at least, some nicely colored capris that fit your bum correctly AND are on sale. Dang Hector, they paid you 10 cents a week for this piece of crap? Where is your sense of craftsmanship? Have you no pride?

We snuck back to work laden down with heavy parcels. One huge bag of on sale goodies at Old navy cost $60. Poor Hector, come to America and get a job at American Apparel so you can get some decent wages. All that needless spending left me feeling guilty and frivolous but that was only the beginning.

The next day Suzanne and I wore our brightly colored, soft cotton American Apparel clothes to work and got lots of compliments which prompted Suzanne to exclaim, "We are SO COOL!"

We pointed and laughed our asses off at each other and then she revised her statement, "We are SO NOT COOL!" Much more accurate.

Even the Executive Director liked our colors so we told her where to go to get some for herself. A little too late, I realized the porn ads in American Apparel might unsettle her but oh well, maybe she'll enjoy them!?

On a roll, we made a trip to the mall to scour The Gap and J Crew for bargains. This time, I kept myself in check and only bought 2 colorful on massive sale skirts. Every store you go to, they try to jam some store credit card down your throat in exchange for 20% off. Since most of the stores are all owned by the same monster conglomerate, the cards are connected and you can use them at any of your shopping pleasures. It's overwhelmingly easy to buy shit in America - whether you have $ or not. All this fake credit floating around hoping to get you into debt so they can make money off your interest payments as you sneak toward bankruptcy. And all this for some colorful fabric! Yipers!

The next day we took a break from our madness. But in the evening, the bug had gotten to me again and I was a goner the moment I walked into City Market on an empty stomach. Even though my list was short and well organized, I kept pulling things off the shelf that seemed essential at the time. Yes, yes, must have those 15 cans of soup, need a fully stocked pantry! This 6 bags of frozen fruit are essential to my morning oatmeal. Hmm, how many bottles of wine do I need today? Do we have enough pasta? This olive spread is a must have! Now where are those little toasts to spread this on? Never too much!

The cart was packed in under an hour and I barely managed to watch as the numbers added up at a startling rate. The final figure was $200, the same amount I had spent on one tiny bag from American Apparel days earlier. Now how do these purchases compare? One full cart of groceries that will feed my family for weeks versus 3 outfits (must not forget the bathing suit). The scales are tipping, who will win? Interesting, one seems strangely less important somehow...mainly because it is not edible...

After three days of insane consumer gluttony, I decided it was time to ice my credit cards. I thought about doing this literally as I have heard this is a good way to make sure you don't spend. If you have to defrost your credit card every time you want to buy something, think of the money you might save!

Then, before I knew what had hit me, a simple trip to the dentist turned into a cash cleansing at Blood Bath and Beyond Reason. My dentist told me many unpleasant facts about my teeth like I need to have gum replacement surgery and go under the knife for more bone plumping, otherwise known as putting-dead-people-in-your-mouth (hurrah!). Additionally, I learned that I have periodontal disease (oh, these fancy dentist have a name for everything these days) and I need to have cleanings every 4 months to fight the plaque build up. Also, they recommended a special, super powered electric toothbrush to help fight the good fight.

Well, I thought innocently to myself, my very qualified and expensive dentist has told me I need a fancy toothbrush to fight plaque so I had better go and get one, pronto! One hour later, my trunk was packed with ridiculous items such as TV dinner trays (so it's TV dinner every night!), battery operated lights, a new shower head, a lunch box, citronella candles, a water hammock, hangers, a mattress cover and foam layer and, oh yeah, one fancy $100 toothbrush.

That's right, I have to keep repeating it until it sinks in. I spent 100 smackers on...a toothbrush??!!! It seems so absurd to me. Then, hours later as Tanner was educating us on video gaming antics, I began to read the manual that came with my toothbrush. Apparently, the thing is as smart as a dog and can take out the trash and update your resume while fighting plaque. This toothbrush is amazing. All this and it also feels frightening, or so the booklet says.

Apparently, the vibration motion of the bristles is SO intense that many people have tingling gums for the first 2 weeks of use. Weird. I still can't get over it. I not only bought a $100 toothbrush, I read a manual for a toothbrush. America has gone mad and I am its spending ambassador. My credit cards are weary and my paycheck will be lagging.

But who cares, really? My money gets automatically deposited and I pay for everything with a little plastic card. In the future (if we make it that far), I hope they can just scan my arm as I engage in my mad frenzy of purchasing. My brain computer will register that I have just spent 15,000 nanos on an ear cleaning device which also plugs into my antenna and downloads rocking music by little Sean Preston Spears Federline. I love his music!

My mother - hands down the award winner for the Most Good Person Alive Contest - is on this big no spending kick of late. Actually, she has been on this kick as long as I have known her. She never buys anything, ever, if she can help it. This is why I grew up thinking that a shopping trip was dumpster diving for your neighbors plastic plates when they moved and filled up the trash with their junk. We still have some of those plastic McDonalds plates!!

As a struggling family with a single, working mom, we never had much spare money and my sister and I always wanted NEW things. We craved new, NEW, anything NEW and we were denied regularly (no junk food or sugar cereals either!). But when I did get that new pair of clogs or that plaid dress brand new at the department store, it meant the world to me. I recall each purchase and the special joy I felt over being allowed to buy this new precious item and call it my own.

I still get a rush like that when I buy things nowadays. Like many obsessive compulsives, I go in waves - denying myself for months and then splurging like an addict. Ultimately, I can't change who I am, a thing-obsessed American who finds pleasure and comfort in the accumulation of stuff.

It is sick and I will seek help for it one of these days. In the meantime, there is my mom to pull me back from the precipice and remind me of where my priorities lie and how unimportant things and new bedding really are.

After all, if your brain is too focused on spending and filling your coffers to purchase more goods, how can you possibly plan the Deadbeat Revolution (coming soon to a shopping mall near you!)? Below are some DBC videos about these fun issues and more!

DBC18, DBC Special Report - Deadbeat Revolution

DBC18, Success 101 - Dynasty and The Profit
DBC26, Doomsday - Peak Oil and the end of the world, what fun!

Or perhaps life is just one big metaphor for The Red Shoes. You want them so badly that you will die to wear them and be worthy of them. Sometimes obsession and single mindedness can be deadly:


Q_Monroe said...

hello, my name is suzanne and i'm a shopaholic.

bravo to you for admitting your gluttony. i will use this blog to admit that i always lie and tell people that i spent way less than i actually did. they think i'm a bargain shopper. ha!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

dear ms shopaholic,

you got guts and are a great gal to be a glutton with! and that orange t-shirt looks amazing on you! when should we wear our matching hot pink wrap dresses out and about?

luv, shopaholic #2

steve said...

I have a Sonicare. It makes your teeth feel so superduper clean.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

yeah. it is almost TOO powerful though! first time i used it, i sprayed toothpaste all over the bathroom. it was a toothpaste blood bath! but my teeth sure do feel squeaky clean!

steve said...

Yeah, you do have to be careful to keep your mouth closed, since it pretty much liquifies your toothpaste.

What's weird is if you use a regular toothbrush, you fan feel some texture if you run your tongue across your teeth. With the Sonicare, you feel... nothing. Smooth, baby. Smooth.

I feel old shopping at American Apparel, particularly with the porn chic photos around. But I do like my AA hoodie.

Stephen Stanton said...

Just found your blog via your Owen Wilson vid on youTube--good stuff, dood(ette? ess?)!! You should scan that mold of Owen's head and build a CG model of it that you can puppeteer...creepy, yet fun.

...and I'm having fun watching your other vids too~!

Good "seeing" you--and keep cool if you can.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

stephen stanton!

long time no see but now i can hear you - wow! man, what a fun time i had listening to all your crazy voice over work - you are a madman, in the very best sense of the word! so impressive!

yes, yes, i must save the owen wilson head model for my twilight years, a perfect project to occupy me until i pay the boatman to take me over that river styx....

oh, check out Molly's blog - she had a baby! it is here:

stay cool like i know you will!