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Generations of Erred Rationale and Repressed Emotion August 18, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.

If my daughter had been a confidante of mine when I was 13 and 14, we would have had in common certain thought processes.  I take this to be due to her intelligence, but it may also be a sort of familial vibe she picked up from me.  Or perhaps this is normal for every teen, which is why I recognized it when I saw it in her, just as in myself.

I hate second hand things.  Some second hand things may be fine, functional, and affordable, working just as well or better than something new, and for a very few things, I think it would be acceptable.  For instance, a Stradivarius viola would be fine, I don’t care who owned it before me.  But by and large, I hate second hand.  I don’t want to go to Goodwill and pick up someones clothes.  I don’t really care who owned them or what condition they’re in.  I don’t want them.  I want my own, new, clothes. We have enough, and we have enough because we live on a budget.  But we don’t have excess.  And frequently I have to say no to the new thing, and wait until it’s less new, or go without.

I’m damaged goods, I confess.  I’m a psychological minefield, scarred by a childhood where my parents told me no, and made me wear the ugly horrible slacks and dumb looking goofy “denim” pants that weren’t Levi’s and weren’t even Wrangler’s.  They had measured me, measured them, picked them up from the resale store and told me they were “fine.” But to a kid who was already being bullied because of the limp in my walk, they were not “fine,” they were insult added to injury.  Or injury added to injury.  If I have to be picked on for the limp, maybe they’ll respect me if I have something decent to wear that wasn’t stained, or ill-fitting, or last seen hanging in a display window at the Goodwill.  No, I had to wear them or wear nothing, because they spent the extra on my special shoes with the braces on them.  So I had to wear them.  And look stupider because of what they were.  I hated the resale store.  I hated being forced to look through the clothes to try to find something because everything there smelled bad and looked worse than anything I imagined any other child at school would wear.  And I was right.  I don’t care if the tags were still on them, if they came from the resale store, they were gross, used, horrible, tacky second-hand things.

My daughter is my daughter.  She doesn’t want the stigmatized things, marking her as the child whose family has less money than her neighbors and school mates.  I can explain the economics of it until I am blue, it doesn’t matter.    I never had the status clothes, the Michael Jordan shoes, or the fashionable jacket, or the new music album or CD.  To this day I dream of tailored suits and shirts, pretty neckties and argyle socks and matching shoes, new tools and new cars and new toys, dinners at nice restaurants and something nicer than low-priced meats, rice and oatmeal at home.  I dream of them for myself, I dream of them for my family, and I can’t because they are not in my budget.  

I grew up, and I understand my parents and their rational, budgetary choices, but still, in my heart I agree with her and I know she is right.  She deserves better: I want to dress her like a princess and feed her like a queen and equip her like everyone else is equipped, or better, instead of making her suffer the indignity of the second hand, the used, the rental, the marks of insufficient income.  I don’t really want to spoil her or give her excess.  I just want to make it better for her than I had it.  And yes, sometimes I do want to spoil her and treat her to a little decadence.

She feels the peer pressure of having to accept the second hand, of realizing it’s tacky and realizing (or deluding herself to believe) that it makes people look at her differently.  I felt the same way when I was growing up.  I absolutely agree with her and I know she is right.  I hated it for myself, and I hate it for her.  Saying no when the request is reasonable but the budget doesn’t handle it, sucks.  Rationally, I have to accept that fact, but emotionally, I never will.

Money can’t buy happiness?  

Bull crap.

What did your parents tell you when they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, buy you the new thing because it cost too much?  Did they spoil you, or, looking back, were they able to take reasonably good care of you and get you what you needed plus a little bit extra sometimes?



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