Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The imploding of an American Dream

I've been feeling disillusioned lately. Well, really for awhile. For a couple of years actually. In terms of what is supposed to be the American Dream I don't think I fit into, nor do I think I want to obtain it. In terms of what is considered American I don't think I fit into, nor do I think I want to obtain it. In terms of mass materialism I don't think I fit into, nor do I think I want to ever obtain it or worship at the alter known as "The Label."
I never want to say, that a $5,000 purse is affordable or that the latest model of SUV is a must-have.

I've never made getting married or having kids a goal, nor do I ever plan to. I don't understand how marriage and kids can be a goal. I think they can be a want perhaps a need, (meaning in terms of biological clock) but never a goal. Do you want to be a parent or do you want to have kids? Do you want to be a husband or a wife and have a marriage or do you want to be a bride or a groom and have a wedding?
Last week when speaking with two soon-to-be-grooms I told them I don't want to spend more than $1500 on my wedding and that $1400 of that had better be on food and alcohol. I thought I was going to have to pick their eyes up off the floor. They said that was all fine and well, but I'm forgetting about a little thing like the dress and the tuxes. To which I replied, I'm pretty sure I could find a white dress at Target that would do just fine and if he wants to wear a tux, great, but it didn't really matter to me at all. I don't want a wedding, I want a marriage. Both of the soon-to-be's said they were at upwards of $15,000 for their (the brides) big day. I can't articulate how obscene that is to me. But, to each their own. Starving children or education for schools, $2,000 on a cake or $2,000 on books and clean water it's a choice. I guess.

But, this is simply one thing that I have issue with, the whole mass conspicuous consumption and waste that comes with a imagined disposable income, because isn't that what most of us have, an imagined income? We are living one way when we should be living another. A nation of mass debt and dreamed of necessities. SUV's that guzzle gas fueling the need for foreign oil and causing drivers to create intimidation on the road. Hummers were made for warfare not for soccer practice or pizza deliveries. Not to mention how frustrating it is to be inside my Mustang and try to back-out of a parking spot next to two Denalis on either side of me, which causes me to worry about being rear-ended.

Our homes are nothing more than a different shade of beige in a 2.5 McHouse society with a Playskol set that is remarkably never used. The different shade of beige has a three car garage, which allows the owner to never be seen or heard by the other beige neighbors. The SUV can be parked quickly and quietly inside the comfort of the home and thus showing the prominence of what we truly value, our cars, and the garage has become our new fence. Yet there is still a need for a fence around the different shade of beige and the remarkably never used Playskol set allowing for double protection from ever having to see or know our neighbors in the perfect Wonder Bread White suburbia McNeighborhood. Perfect.

We consume pre-made pre-packaged foods with more additives and preservatives than anyone could ever pronounce all cooked in the quick convenience of our microwaves. We consume the food within a 10 minute time frame and yet we wonder why we are obese, we wonder why every other person is suffering from heart disease and diabetes and various cancers somehow remain a mystery to us.

We value fame over substance. We want our facts in five second sound-bites and we consider ourselves informed. We believe the stupid-box is the alter of our living rooms and have all of our furniture pointed towards the glowing god. We don't have time to know the full article and believe what-ever the government wants us to know and we don't argue, fight, or have time to question because we don't have the time or worst of all, we no longer care and we don't believe that we can make a difference. There was a time when the status quo was measured by the Jones it is now measured by the Hilton's. We are trying to keep up with the unkeepable and the unattainable all with a PR driven image that bears no relevance to substance what-so-ever.
We want material items because we think that will give us substance. It's about the label and what the label represents and how it will represent us to those around us; what the perceived perception of us will be to the people we don't know and who we don't have the time to know.
We want to know what knowing and being associated with a person can do for us and gain us in the long run, yet we don't have time to really get to know anyone beyond that. People have, in a way, become the new label, the new perception.

We are more connected than ever, yet have never been more disconnected from those around us. There are days were I am starved for real and actual intellectual conversation. I'm tired of asking how someone is and only being answered with one word replies of "busy" or "tired." That's a status report that's not a conversation. What happened to adjectives, verbs, and nouns when having a conversation? When someone tells us something personal we label it as TMI, when really, it's not, we have simply become too distant, too busy, too lazy to care. We spend all day IM'ing in abbreviations and call it conversation.
People are looking for a quick fix and an instant result, yet they aren't willing to put the time and effort into it. We want someone else to "fix" us. What happened to spending time alone and thinking, spending some time alone in quiet? Quiet time without the stupid box on all the time? What has happened to connections and friendships and relationships and spending real time with someone? What is happening to all of us? We are constantly going, going, going...but where are we all headed?


clids32 said...

I couldn't agree more with you on several of your concerns. However, with all due respect, the world is changing and with that, so are the people in it. I just got married in Nov and tried my best to keep the cost under $10,000, but everyone's trying to screw you and there's no way we could achieve that. Maybe that's the new American way: screwing people (not that it's a bad thing)! Too many people are concerned with materialistic possessions and impressing others, but forget about the important things in life. Great post!! More people should read this!!!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I have come to believe that the "American dream" has always been a myth and has become on the past 30 or so years a bit of a nightmare.

egan said...

There are a lot of interesting topics in this blog post. I will have to collect my thoughts and get back to you. Especially on the marriage, kids, home, and the American Dream stuff. $1500? That's like buying a new car for $2000. Anyways, I will be back as you've raised some great topics once again.

Party Girl said...

clids: With all due respect (Oh, that phrase amuses me. It's like sayin, I'm about to say something that is going to piss you off now.. Which you didn't and I hope I don't now..) (Anyway)

The thing about weddings is that they're a choice. A choice to get married and also a choice in terms of what is important and how much a couple wants to spend. Does a $2,000 wedding cake taste any differnt than a $200 one? $5,000 for a dress? Is that nec? $6,000 on flowers? Does any of that stuff make the day any less or more important and symbolic? It's a ceremony. It's a day to show off a and to say, look at us! I'm loved! Someone wants me! And more importanly it is ONE day. I think I just become frustrated because again, as a couple do they want a wedding or a marriage?
I am also always amused when my friends have been married for a few years and they are still paying off the wedding as they are filing for divorce.

I don't know that America is about screwing others, I think it has become about taking advantage of others, about feeding others what they want to hear and what they want to..need to.. believe. It's about, what you can do for me.

Sometimes Nick: dreams do have a funny way of become nightmares. Dreams are not always tangible.

Egan: I look forward to your thoughts as always.

GirlGoyle said...

You took the words right off my brain. I was just in the process of posting something similar in particular regarding weddings. Weddings that break the bank and then don't last. I think the American dream or at least the American society has attained a level of consumerism that is beyond description. If it isn't working, throw it can always buy another.

Party Girl said...

GG: Yep, the, "why fix it when I can just buy a new one."

Disposable. Everything is disposable. Our incomes, our cameras, our friends, and relationships, to Tv's.

A side point that I have issue with: Is the American dream really even American anymore? In other words, doesn't everyone want what we want? Or isn't the perception at least that everyone does or should? Aren't we trying to push what we think and believe onto other countries? To Westernize everyone? Don't we believe and think that our way is the best way?

limpy99 said...

Screw beige houses. I painted mine periwinkle this year.

Thank god my wife is color blind.

Party Girl said...

limpy: Something tells me she is thankful as well.

Jay said...

I may have said this before... the American Dream, to me, is having the ability to truly live life on YOUR terms. The standard version of the American Dream has been bottled and sold to billions of people in this country and around the world for several decades and plays to the one aspect of our nature that nearly every human being on this planet shares: GREED.

Your last paragraph deals with the "zombification" of American culture. We, as a nation, average more hours at work per person than any other country in the world. We can thank the Japanese for that. In the mid to late 80's, the Japanese were well known to devote an insane amount of hours to their careers. Not to be outdone, American corporate cultures began to modify themselves to slowly increase the demands of its employees over the course of a decade. With all the time we now devote to our jobs, our demand for "convenience items" has increased. We have become overfed, yet malnourished. Many Americans are in what is called "sleep-debt", i.e. we don't get enough sleep. We constantly spend more money than we have due to the nature of our banking system, Fractional-reserve banking, which is a system in which the goverment prints more money than it actually has is gold/silver/etc. which then creates an atmosphere where credit is the norm...

...Wow! I just realized how much of a rant I'm on!

Maybe I could chalk this up in as simple a sentence as I can:

Life sucks, get a helmet! :-)

clids32 said...

I hope I didn't piss you off about the "with all due respect" comment; that wasn't my intentions. You hit the nail right on the head when you said that people now-a-days just like to take advantage of others though. As for the $2000 cake vs the $200 cake- what if you really like cake?:) That's why we opted for the desert tray of assorted pastries.

Party Girl said...

Jay: Hey, where ya been???

I agree with you about the hours and working until we're dead...literally. Sleep deprived and no time for any fun, do you really think that was the master plan when we were created? Doubtful.

When I listen to co-workers and friends tell me about their nights and weekends it's a constant go-go-go-go-go mentality. I don't understand it. Then again, I guess that's where the whole, free-will thing comes into play.

clids: oh, my gosh no. You didn't piss me off in the least. Not at all. I just think that phrase is amusing because typically that's what the comment leads into-something that doesn't show any kind of respect at all. However, you didn't do that, you showed respect and a left two great comments. Thanks. I hope to read more great comments from you in the future!

egan said...

Okay, I finally got back to this topic. There are so many things to address. Weddings are expensive, yet they don't have to be. Sure, you could get married for under $500, but it's a personal preference I suppose. Does it make us more materialistic than other cultures, sure. We got "mauied" as they say and it wasn't cheap, but it was damn memorable and also served as a honeymoon at the same time. There's a huge difference between a $200 and a $2,000 cake, but I say this because I used to work in a cake shop. This being said, I do understand your point PG.

Getting married or having kids as a goal doesn't really make sense. We need goals that challenge us as people. Having a kid is nothing new and neither is marriage. I think your comparison of starving children or an expensive wedding gown is kind of unfair though. Life can't always be viewed that way. We'd all have that "catholic guilt" shit going for us.

I totally agree with your last paragraph about connections. I find it sad how few people know their neighbors. I personally make it a point to know the people around me. This is easy enough to do while out working in the yard. However, the one word responses you get around the office may not be a fair indicator because you never know what sort of mood someone is in. Again I know what you mean though. We have a grouchy guy at work and I make sure to say "how's it going?" in a very chirpy tone. He's not amused.

Great topics you brought up here. Who knows, maybe blogging, instant messaging, etc. is a part of the problem? Have you chatted with many people about your thoughts in person? I'm going to guess the answer to that question is yes. Have a good weekend and thanks for rattling the cages.

puerileuwaite said...

Wonderful writing and insightful thoughts in this post, PG. You are a girl after my own heart.

Materialism as a substitute for humanity. What a shame. We should all know better.

Pyrhonik said...

I totally agree with you on all of this. I got married in 1995 and spent roughly $5,000, of which, the dresses and tuxes was about $1000. The rest was venue/alcohol/meal/alcohol/ and it was a tremendous party. If I was to do it again I don't know if I would change much.

You really nailed it regarding the lifestyles we all lead and how important the perception labels have become to everyone. It is scary how deeply manifested this is. Right down to the everyday choices we make for the mundane life things. Marketing has effectively snatched every morsel that can be gleened from our conscious daily choices. I hate to blame sedentary and obesity on the Marketing demon but it fits there as well. Videogames have replaced physical activity. Kids don't play marbles, or jacks, or tag, or kick the can, ....... Identities now hang on what you have and whether it is the most recent version.

Let me tell ya, it isn't much different in Canada.

Great post!

Party Girl said...

Egan: Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, of course, there is a difference between a $200 or a $2000 cake, but in the end, it's just flour, butter, eggs, ect.

I can see how the comparison between starving children and an expensive gown is perhaps not a fair one, but again, you can see my ending point.

Many people say they don't want to know their neighbors because of the "nosy neighbor factor" okay. But sometimes a nosy neighbor can be a good thing: in terms of where your kids are, or seeing something unusual in or around your house.

Yes, of course I have discussed these topics with those around me. I think I am just very frustrated wtih American cultural right now. However, I don't think it is just American cultural anymore. I think "America" can be found just about anywhere.

P: Yes, we should know better, but I think we have been spoon-fed that we must have, we must need, we must want something...a make us happy. Things will make us happy. Ugh.

Py: Video games and sitting in front of the stupid box...oh, that's another rant all by itself. Whatever happened to kids/people using our imaginations? God, I used to play make-believe for hours upon hours when I was a kid. That a sit in my room and read a book.

Mark said...

I'm with you on this, PG. Weddings have become crazy. They ought to put the damn 15,000 on a house payment. If people are really your friends, they'll show up if you were serving beans and hotdogs.

I need to check your blog more often!

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