For What It’s Worth
When I went to see Confessions of a Shopaholic, I expected an ultra-feminine chick flick comedy, comparable to any waste of tape featuring the latest teen sensations- $10 for a cheap laugh. I was pleasantly surprised as the screen before my eyes unveiled my mother’s lessons of self-worth.
The film’s protagonist, journalist Rebecca Bloomwood, played by Isla Fisher, recalls her shopping experiences as a child, her mother selecting the less-than-attractive shoes that she can purchase on sale and will “last,” hauntingly similar to my experiences with my own mother who insisted on what I considered horrid Sketcher shoes. Though painful at the time, I learned the correlation between value and quality. Bloomwood’s experience, however, spurs her credit card dependency and overspending that lands her indebted to both her debt collector, and her friends and family. My columns usually examine the value of human life, but let’s try on for size the value of human garb. I can’t help but relate Bloomwood to the people I know, to myself- how much we would spend on an image. We are all guilty: $200 pair of designer jeans, a $30 tank top, or maybe a $12 bottle of neon hair dye for the “rebellious” types.
Tsk, tsk. It’s not unforgivable, it is after all how we present ourselves to the world each day, but let me reiterate my mom’s point. When l got picked on during my playground days, my mother told me bullies weren’t worth it. When I got a bad grade, I was worth more. And when my mom used the word worth, it stung. It meant something then- authenticity, character.
Yet, I can’t overlook the diction in some of our language’s most common sayings and cliches. They clearly demonstrate American, and really Western, society’s consumerist malady that considers an individual’s adequacy as a business transaction- what they’re worth. And I hate to point out the elephant in the room, but in respect to the state of the economy, we can’t afford a name-brand mindset. With prom just around the corner, the halls of my high school are already flooded with talk of dress shopping and tux renting, which are probably the least concerning as far as cost goes. Catalogs come delivered to our homes, neons and pastels streaked across the pages. Enticing.
But $400? The price of the “prom look” is only one instance where material value and self-worth appear interchangeable. Is it the satisfaction of swiping plastic that cheers on our tendency to overspend? Or is it the immoveable need to belong? I can eliminate the desire to appear attractive to the opposite sex, at least for girls. Most guys I know would cringe at the thought of the fuschia (O.K., maybe not fuschia) floor-length gown and stiletto heels waiting in our closets. Like, hello? Are you there? I don’t know you and you probably don’t know me, but unless you’re a serial killer masquerading as a loyal reader of mine, I mean it when I say that you deserve more.
Before heading to the mall and emptying your wallets to create the picture society wants to see, think about what you want to see. It will pay off.