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The Dire Cost of Keeping Up With the Joneses at a Young Age 
8th-May-2011 05:02 pm

"Keeping up with the Joneses", one of the most toxic cliches known to man, has become, disturbingly enough, the norm. Society is fueled by an all-consuming drive to have more than the neighbors (or whoever).  I just don"t understand it.

People who buy into this lie end up in an endless cycle of misery and despair in pursuit of a foolish goal and unending task.

As Eddie Vedder sings in the song "Society": "You think you have to want more than you need...until you have it all, you won't be free."

No one should fritter away all their money on pointless possessions. You don't need that huge TV or game console just because your buddy has one. Don't let him make you think you're less of a person for not having such things. There is no need to change oneself completely to please others. It took me almost 28 years to learn this.

I was horribly ridiculed in school for wearing hand-me-downs, for being poor enough to be in the free lunch program, for living in a trailer, for my mother being a taxicab driver and driving an old car. I vividly remember lining up after recess one day in fifth grade, a rich girl beside me in the adjacent line gave me a good once-over and sneered, "why do you wear such ugly clothes?" This remark hurt immensely...as a child, I was shy, insecure, had few friends, and wanted desperately to fit in.

So badly did I want to be one of "them", that I let this girl and her friend bring me to their house after school one day. They had me try on some preppy, fancy-schmancy clothes, painted me up in make-up, and tried to turn me into something I wasn't. None of it felt right, but I held onto a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could fit in and have some friends, maybe the ridicule would stop.

"Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" was the big movie of that time; I loved quoting Jim Carrey's "AAAALLLL-RIGHTY THEN!" at opportune moments. "No, no," insisted the Material Girls during their makeover. Quoting such nonsense would not do. My next fatal flaw was the way I walked; I've always had (and still do) a slight bounce to my step, not sure why, but it is as such. They went so far as to make me walk stiffly about the house with books balanced on my head to eradicate the bounce. Take away the books, right back to square one.

If being dressed up made me feel off-kilter, imagine the tailspin of being told the way you walk and talk is wrong. Even in 5th grade, I learned quickly that this was not acceptable. I made a run for the bathroom, changed back into my hand-me-downs, not the most fashionable clothing...but what is fashion, anyway? WHAT EVERYONE ELSE SAYS LOOKS GOOD. I called my mother, almost in tears, to come get me. She did.

Being transformed, even for that couple hours, was horrible. It felt, even then, so mechanical, just like being another one off the assembly line. Everything had to be done with the utmost concentration and care, even something as simple as walking, lest the herd at large be upset. I was relieved to be back in my home, back in my clothes, back to myself.

To hell with that. YOU ARE YOUR OWN GREATEST ASSET. REVEL IN YOUR QUIRKS AND IDIOSYNCRASIES. To hell with the mainstream, don't keep up with the Joneses, keep up with yourself. 

When you try to keep up with the Joneses, you betray yourself, trying to become something you're not, trying to attain things that have no value to you except for status. Status is NOTHING. It's no one else's call what your worth as a human being is. Only YOU can dtermine that for yourself; you don't need anyone else's input.  Who's to say they're superior to anyone? Because they have money? If you break it down to is base element, money is paper...paper we can live without.

People have survived for ages without money; I'm sick of people arguing otherwise. Read Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival and Edible Wild Plants by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman and you'll be all set. People have become so reliant on others, it's no wonder they compete stupidly with each other.

If you think about it, anyway, the expectations placed upon us by society are no more than the wishful musings of the miserable, for they so love company, right?
9th-May-2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Have you read Shannon Hayes' Radical Homemakers? She writes a lot about what's wrong with our consumer-driven society and interviews people who have shed the need to accumulate things and learned to live simply and happily on less. It's quite an inspiring book.
10th-May-2011 01:10 am (UTC)
Never read it, but now I must find this book!
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