|Stay classy, ladies!|
We found out while on our way home that we'd dodged a bullet in Florence: just a few days after we left, the cast and crew of the reality show "Jersey Shore" had shown up (in a big way) for a few weeks of shooting for the next season. Pre-scripted drinking, brawling and scrapes with the police were the order of the day.
I know for some it's a guilty (or not) pleasure, but I've never been able to watch most reality TV shows, other than the HGTV yard makeover type, for more than a few minutes before I start to squirm with discomfort and empathetic embarrassment and have to change the channel. I seem to be in the minority; there's a substantial audience out there who just can't get enough of flamboyant people behaving badly (or at least with a level of drama out of all proportion to the situation). I have to wonder about young women today who have grown up consuming this kind of programming which may have the effect of normalizing what once was considered outrageous behavior (and not just on the part of women, men too). Andy Warhol, it seems, was right, and I wonder about these shifting norms as people continue to up the ante just to be noticed. Sometimes it seems that a toddler-like mindset of saying, grabbing or doing whatever we want in the moment is not only exhibited, but endorsed in entertainment media and spills over into our culture in general.
But, without alleging any sort of carefully crafted conspiracy between media and advertisers, I think one effect of the conditioning on our brains to escalating stimuli is that we begin to crave more new and shiny things, more excitement, and this dovetails with an increasingly materialistic yet throw-away consumer culture. We want more, brighter, bigger, the next new thing, and we want it NOW. We're a population of instant gratification junkies. And a plethora of options for cheap, trendy, disposable clothing have sprung up to cater to this mentality.
I'm not immune to this pull either. Long time readers of this blog may recall that I've declared my intention many times to quit buying "junk food clothing" and upgrade my wardrobe with fewer, but better quality pieces. This hasn't been easy. I've realized to what extent my buying habits are fueled not only by the high of something new and shiny, but also by fear of deprivation. "I'll never find another pair of jeans that fit." "I'd better buy a backup in case this one wears out and I can't find another like it." It's fun, but it's also reassuring to buy the same cardigan in three different colors. (OK, so maybe it's just a question of degree between me and the folks on "Hoarders"...)
Training myself out of the habit of over-consumption and overriding the magpie part of my brain has required constant vigilance, and application of the "do I love it?" and "does it add the the quality of my life?" criteria to any potential wardrobe purchase. It's harder to hold out for those few things that meet the higher standards, but slowly, the mindset does seem to be taking hold. Lately I've found myself walking away from Near Misses far more often than making regretted purchases. (You wondered where I was going with this, didn't you?) And while there's some disappointment each time I don't skip out of the store with buyer's high, the feeling of satisfaction of sticking to my guns outweighs the gratification of something new.
Intentions are good, but changing beliefs and behaviors takes practice, and yes, discipline, a word that sometimes seems old-fashioned in our world of instant fame and instant gratification. Discipline isn't flashy and sometimes isn't fun. But while intentions may be the fuel, discipline is the engine that takes us where we want to go.
Have you made a decision to change your consumption habits? How is it going? What strategies are working for you?