“10 Things You Should Stop Wearing NOW,” the title screamed at me as I scrolled through Facebook. The photo featured middle-aged women in mom jeans, sadly oblivious to the pain their poor fashion choices inflicted on their hapless families and the general public.
Yet on Pinterest, I viewed image after image of high-waisted, faded wash denim shorts that looked an awful lot like…mom jeans. Some unwritten rule of the fashion gods deemed one look acceptable, the other not.
We’re constantly assaulted by urgent lists shouting “13 Ways to Fade Your Wrinkles TODAY” or “6 Foods to Stop Eating NOW.” It’s exhausting, really.
On a daily basis, I’m sure I’m breaking so many unwritten rules:
wearing at least one ‘forbidden’ item of clothing for my age or body type
eating food that is on a no-no list somewhere because it either a) had a face at some point or b) was not organically grown
deepening my wrinkles and increasing my risk of skin cancer through my reckless use of sunscreen or my heedless going without
harming myself with an exercise machine that I’m daring to operate without (gasp!) a trainer’s expertise.
Even our houses aren’t right.
Should we “Love It or List It?” This show features homeowners choosing between the completely made-over 3,500-square-foot house they already live in or the beautiful showroom 3,500-square-foot home an agent has found just for them! But it doesn’t have a jacuzzi! Or quartz countertops! Am I really expected to live without a bidet??
Now I enjoy reality TV, Pinterest, and social media as much as the next person. But we consumers never think anything is enough. We’re in constant makeover mode.
I had an interesting experience while our family was stationed in Hawaii. For several weeks, the Navy hosted the largest maritime exercise in the world, with an estimated 25,000 visiting service members from across the globe. This meant that all the amenities on base, including the commissaries (military grocery stores), were packed.
While shopping for our weekly groceries, I grumbled about my favorite cheese being out of stock. Meanwhile, uniformed sailors from other countries meandered down the aisles of crackers and cereal, gazing in wonder. They snapped photos on their phones. They examined items and replaced them gently on the shelves. It contrasted to the typical in and out, grab what you need American grocery shopping.
At first glance, you might think this was due to the different packaging and atmosphere, and I’m certain that was part of it. But then I remembered. We’ve lived years at overseas bases, and I recall the overwhelm induced by the wall of options involved in simply purchasing a bottle of ibuprofen when we came back to the U.S. And I knew what was causing the awestruck looks.
The near obscene amount of choices in everything from whipping cream to bandaids. It’s embarrassing, really. And I thought about the countries many of them came from and how excessive and wasteful it must all seem.
As Americans, we’re all about choice. But what if we quit worrying so much about whether our pants are the correct length or hue or if our wall color is so last year, and were… content?
In a world where 68% of the world lives on less income than the bottom 5% income level of the U.S., I’m reminded that it might be time to step back and question whether that one more thing I think I must have is truly necessary. To stop buying the hype of buy this-get that-change this now, whether it’s to do with my physical self or my surroundings.
I wonder what would happen then.
Originally published 2014