Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pressure To Consume

We are having a HUGE discussion about the meaning of clothing over at Beauty Tips for Ministers, with a guest writer from the South weighing in (nicely) on how misguided I am, and me retorting with much fun and vigor.
It's a great discussion and you should check it out at

The Rev. Sean Parker Denison writes that he doesn't like fashion at all because he sees it as part of a big cultural pressure to consume. I think he's absolutely right.
However, PeaceBang very secretly thinks that the expectation that all adults (and especially women) in this culture should have -- or even should want to have -- children is a far more insidious pressure to consume.

When I thumb through the pages of In Style and entertain myself looking at all the goods for sale, it has often occurred to me that considering a new pair of Bandolinos is a lot less of an indulgence than carting myself to Babies 'R Us and piling my SUV with huge plastic stuff I think my kinder and I need to have.

I remember a female acquaintance who sneered at me when she saw my vanity table full of cosmetics. "Wow," she said. "Conspicuous consumption, huh?"

And I responded, without missing a beat, "Oh yes. And so much more an expression of consumerism than your living room full of Fisher-Price toys and your entertainment cabinet stocked with 400 Disney videos."

We stared at each other.
"My child will contribute something to the world," she said.
"He'll also consume a tremendous amount of natural resources," saith I. "And as far as contributing anything, let me interview him in thirty years and give you an objective assessment of his contributions."

And then I went and petted my lipsticks and said to them, "There, there. The mean lady is all gone now."

Thanks, Sean, for reminding me of that.


Blogger Brett said...

Yeah, you figured me out. I had children so we could consume more.

Good grief.

Blogger Alex said...

Hey PB,

Little consumers become big consumers, you know? I think it is a mistake to assume that people choose to parent just to drag that Expedition to BRU for the big shop-a-thon. I guess we just drive our little Corolla to Target to buy our cheap baby stuff...

I think the break down in your conversation with your pal after the makeup table comment happened when you became defensive and she dished that defensiveness right back. But I'm not sure you are even making a fair comparison.

Sorry she hurt your feelings or the feelings of your gorgeous MAC lipsticks!

Alex, a fairly low-consuming Mommy

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Brett, I know I wasn't clear. My point isn't that people have kids *so that* they can consume. I just wanted to remember that self-righteous mommy who got all judgmental about my stash, while never considering how much of a consumer being a parent had made her. Difference is, her consumption was NOBLE while mine was just immoral or selfish or whatever.

Being a fly on the wall of Parenting America, I do notice that the minute people announce their pregnancy, the STUFF starts flowing in mighty fast. No one ever says, "Hey, So-and-So's having a baby! Let's comb our attics, churches and neighborhoods for baby stuff to give them!"

I spoke two weeks ago with a woman who is hugely pregnant and due any day now. She was absolutely panicked that she and her husband hadn't done enough shopping in advance of the baby's arrival and that they wouldn't be at all prepared for him. I said, "Hey, you know what? People have been bringing babies home for millions of years and taking perfectly good care of them without a lot of advance shopping. You're going to be fine."

Blogger PeaceBang said...

But overall, no one should take this post that seriously. I was just riffing a bit on Sean's comment.
Also, I've been invited to WAY too many baby showers lately with invitations to view people's baby registry -- even when it's their second or third kid.

Blogger Alex said...

You know PB, I just spent the evening combing through a giant box of gently used baby clothes a parishioner gave me for our youngest. I *rarely* buy her new clothes, as we have too many glorious hand-me-downs. I guess it depends on the circles you travel within.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

My friend is having a baby and my mom, I guess as a sign of surrender, gave my friend a big box of my baby clothes from the 1970's.

What a funky baby this girl will be...


Blogger PeaceBang said...

PLAY that funky music, baby! And when we say "baby," we mean it literally!

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Hey, Brett and Alex -- no fair double-teaming me! LOL!

Blogger Alex said...

LOL, PeaceBang. You know you've hit a nerve when one spouse says to the other, "You've got to read this post!" And then I HAD to respond...

Check out the pic of my daughter on Brett's blog (Sheep Days) -- the denim dress she is wearing was a seriously on-sale Baby Gap find. Got to start her out early...

Blogger Rev. Sean said...

Oh how I want to see pics of that retro chalice(friend)child...

Hey PB, you know I wasn't meaning to say a durn thing about you, right? Was just talking about my own reaction to the fashion thing. I totally get that we all have ways we buy into the whole consumer thing. Mine's computers and games.

About kids...right now, at the height of "back to school" season, I totally relate to what you're saying. I've spent $500 on school fees alone--and these kids go to public school!

My daughter is trying to scare up babysitting jobs so she can buy new clothes for school. I'm such a dud of a dad in that department. I just refuse to indulge her in a big shopping spree when she has plenty of great clothes...

maybe she should just tell me she's going to buy some computer games...

Sean don't always have to use my name and title, you know. "Sean" is fine. Or maybe "Sean over at ministrare."

Blogger Brett said...

I've calmed down.

Thanks for the fun blog.

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Oh, Peacebang, did you ever see that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie (SJP) goes to an old friend's baby shower (or 3rd kids' birthday party or something like this) and she has to take off her brand new Manolo Blahniks that are like, $400 (because of the little ones)? And then - when she goes to leave the party they are GONE. And when she understandably gets all vexed, her hostess-friend is like, "Oh, calm down, they're just shoes." When she finds out they cost $400 she says with disdain, "I can't believe you spend that much on shoes. I am married, with children, and have a household and am doing important things, and that is just silly-single-woman excessive!"

And then Carrie has to walk home in a pair of Vans or something, and is thoroughly bummed out, and then reflects on the fact that over the years she has bought disdainful friend some very nice gifts for her a)engagement b)bridal shower c) wedding and d) three baby showers PLUS birthday parties for her munchkins. And Carrie's like, "THIS STINKS. Because I didn't get married and reproduce I get NOTHING! I've spent thousands of dollars on this friend and she won't even replace my shoes!"

So Carrie makes up a nice card saying, "I'm getting married! (to myself)" and sends it just to her friend. And inside there's a "gift registry" location of her favorite shoe store. And the only thing on the registry is those shoes, and her friend realizes what's going on and sighs and buys the shoes.

I'm sure you've already seen this episode but it's one of my favorites! Hopefully my recount is something close to accurate.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Hafidha, I CHEERED at that episode!!

Blogger Chalicechick said...

1970s baby clothes don't look as different as I implied they did back there. But I can assure you pics of this baby will be all over the Chaliceblog as soon as she comes.

Sean, I don't know your daughter and don't want to overapply my own experience, but if she is a nerdish type, you might want to indulge her a bit on the clothes thing.

My dad was strongly of the "I don't want my daughter to be one of THOSE girls" school and was really strict about new clothes, fashion magazines and makeup. I did turn out bookish as he wanted, but in retrospect, I think I would have anyway and wearing old clothes made junior high and high school harder than it had to be.

But if she really is a clotheshorse already, and it sounds like she might be, ignore me.


Blogger Girl said...

Wow...what a firestorm over here...doncha hate when when people step all over your snarky with rationalization.

I mean...SHUT UP already and let us be bitter, right?


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