Sometimes I wish I didn’t care. That I didn’t know what I know. So I could drive wherever guilt-free and buy whatever stupid plastic toy the kids are clamoring for now. So I could enjoy cheap food and cheap clothes and worry more about whether my hair looks good then the list of ingredients of my shampoo. So I didn’t have to prepare speeches on Why I’m Not Buying That. So that I didn’t evaluate Need vs Want every time I feel the urge To Buy Something.
It’s not that I actually want more stuff; I want less stuff in my house. It’s spring and in addition to the obligatory Spring Cleaning (time to do the annual dusting and scrub the kitchen floor on hands and knees), I find I’m looking at the bookshelf and wondering, “Do I need to keep this book?” It’s actually making walking into Caitlyn’s room difficult; her definition of “clean” seems to be that there’s a central patch of clean floor in the middle of her room, never mind the piles of stuff ringing the perimeter. I see it all and figure if it doesn’t fit on the shelves in her room, she has too much and some of it should go. Asking her to let go of anything is traumatic, though, with tears and pleading and protestations of undying love, followed by goodbye speeches and weeks of random remembrances. It’s the same whether she’s saying goodbye to a playhouse she didn’t use or a scrap of fabric that’s been used once as a guitar and left in the corner of her closet ever since.
But I digress. My point is that I’m finding I’m sometimes tired of being the one Trying To Make A Difference. I use those funny shaped, energy efficient lightbulbs that are hard to find. I don’t watch TV and thus have no idea who Kim Kardashian is. I pay attention to where my family’s food comes from, stocking up in the summer so we don’t buy produce trucked from California or Mexico during the winter. I avoid extra packaging, carry reusable bags to the store, try to avoid impulse buys, evaluate how many different bottoms I can wear a top with before I’ll buy it, keep Caitlyn’s clothes around til they’re too small in more than one direction or until they are falling apart.
I don’t miss being an American Consumer. Although I’m certainly still consuming at an alarming, unsustainable, totally First World rate, I think I’m consuming less than I used to, and certainly less than Average. But I lose heart when I see other people, in person or in pop culture or in the news, consuming as if it were a God-Given Right and a National Imperative. And really, who’s to blame them when the economic indicators are trumpeted on the daily news, with regular reminders that the economic recovery won’t really take off until Consumers Start Spending Again. That means Consuming. We don’t have a Gross Domestic Product. We have a Gross Domestic Consumption. We’re an obese nation – in more than just weight – because the only useful means of contribution has become consuming.