Buying It.
July 6, 2011, 10:02 am
Filed under: gastronomy, insight | Tags: , ,

Probably the second straight week of rain. We meet it with a food offensive; red wine beef stew, yeasty bread, mushroom leek risotto, trays of muffins, a curry chutney cassarole. The groundwater is full, all the dry rivers bubble after years of drought. We put on our wetsuits and float down the brown sand river on an inner tube. We give in and buy a small heater after the regular temperature in our house dips to being able to see our breath mid-day every day. A big storm two nights ago makes every roof in town leak, we wake up to a steady drip on the bed, move the bed over, go back to sleep. The giant aloes and trees are flush, the birds don’t seem to mind the rain and endless species of all sizes and colours parade across the lawn taking worms without fear. Laundry is infinitely delayed.


I pretty much have the same amount of stuff I showed up with. I feel compelled to list new stuff which may be annoying so just skip ahead.

Acquisitions: underwear (result of laundry losses, more lost since), long sweater (made here in women empowerment project, birthday cash), skirt (made North, same story), dress (gift), beach bag (gift), two tank tops (one a gift), pair of shorts, handbag, two scarves (gifts), two bracelets (one a gift), flipflops<.

Other than this, I bought a small hairdryer, a brush, two pillows, a wireless modem, and a tiny tent. Also, a small stack of books, mostly used, swapped in and out before I found the library. Everything but the hairbrush and one book will be eventually disposed of.

The stuff remaining feels like the right amount, like life properly edited. These are the things and they are enough, like the accessories collection that comes with a doll. Here is her mug and her towel and her shoes and her hats. And she likes them! Everything! Maybe that’s it – due to the editing, everything I own makes me feel good. Instead of thirty shirts of which five fit well, two shirts that fit very well.

But the human urge to get and own and have stuff doesn’t really subside in the face of this satisfaction. Right. Mine manifests in two ways. One sort of healthy, one sort of bizarre.

The healthy is in the kitchen. Rarely making the same thing twice, compulsively using up and acquiring completely new flavours. Electronic information means nothing available is beyond use, no technique cannot be cross referenced, no ingredient any longer intimidating. There are cheap and cheerful options, mostly in the spice aisle and produce section, and more substantial investment pieces like good cuts of meat and bottles of oil. All of this consumption is, in turn, consumed, and there is room for something new. I easily get the same amount of satisfaction buying interesting groceries as I do buying clothes.

The more bizarre is facilitated by the fact that magazines here more often than not come with free products, generously sized. In the past ten months: press on nails, sunglasses, deoderant, a full tube of whitening toothpaste, makeup remover wipes, gum, eyeliner, coffee, nail polish, a skipping rope, various department store moisturizers, lip balm, full tubes of mascara, serums, and dayplanners. More than one sample is not unknown.

For however much my conspicuous consumption has decreased in the past few years, I am obsessed with Stuff Free in Magazines. This mostly makes no sense. My hypersensitive skin hates the new moisturizers and most cosmetics either don’t work for me or I am too lazy to bother. I think I have spent about ten minutes skipping and I give the coffee samples to LG because they all contain powdered milk.

But perversely I love the tiny bottle of nailpolish the same colour as in the Prada ads, the untested mascara variants, the small vials and potions. The thrill of trying something new, invariably mostly fragrance and promises, without the remorseful purchase hangover and bottle glut.

And, the thing is, if I do like something, a generous sample size is usually enough. I like small packaging, I like portability, and I am always oddly satisfied to empty a package of its product rather than find it two years later still three quarters full.

I recognize that this sample collecting and hoarding behavior is symptomatic of both a consumption oriented culture and probably the innate human desire to gather things. It is not environmentally friendly and most of what is acquired is probably full of questionable chemicals and worse science. I know that I feel like a goon in lip gloss. I know that it means the tiger is not tamed and the model of careful material completeness described above stands in opposition to my desire for whatever Decelor is shilling. I read the hardline stuff out there advocating for dropping all of the consumer culture but I can’t help but wonder if some of us aren’t wired for that, if some of us don’t inevitably get bored, if those people don’t somehow get pleasure from some small thing and what their small thing is.

I think eventually I will get bored and get a new small thing.


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