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Room For Squares
The Rising Sum
by Philip Wong on Jun 01, 2007
At what point did we start measuring worth by the notches on our nightstands instead of nickels and dimes? Living in a Gay Metropolis may seem to have its perks, but Iíve seriously begun to question whether the benefits still outweigh the costs. While watching the parade of available attractive men walk by can send anyone into a tizzy, itís less fun when you actually have to try to catch one. No matter how beautiful your friends say you are on the inside, you know that inevitably strangers will only notice the outside. This constant preening often leaves me feeling less like a peacock and more like a chicken. How often do I actually get to enjoy the bonus of this virtual menagerie of men without first worrying about whether or not I appear adequately decked out? Would I feel like this anywhere else?
We all know the cost of living in San Francisco is well above that of anywhere else in the Bay Area. To be sure, there are inescapable foibles pretty much anywhere you go. But rocketing gas prices and the increasing cost of food are unavoidable, so thereís no sense in complaining about those. Rather, the little nips come from that added realm of contemporary living. It single-handedly urges you to stay hip and spurs on the desire to best your neighbors in the pursuit of the latest fads. Itís not strictly an urban affliction because it happens to people everywhere. The only difference for us city-dwellers is that weíre given easier access to the feeding bins.
It takes the fun out of things like a stroll through Bloomingdales or a Friends and Family event at H&M. On the one hand are clothes and accessories so ridiculously priced that their very nature makes you want to lash out in a fiery frenzy at unfair trade. But on the other hand, a massive event like a 25% discount off all purchases at H&M renders invalid any search for individuality (which is what shopping is all about anyways). You end up looking for an exit to the madness, but everywhere else exists that same struggle to balance what you want with how much youíre willing to pay for it.
If you have to pay $450 for a pair of Prada shoes, theyíd better be hand sewn by blind, fingerless ladies in the sewers of Milan. And when you have to pay $75 for a cotton blend t-shirt, donít tell me itís for quality and craftsmanship. Whoís picking the cotton, Paris Hilton? Címon, itís obvious youíre no longer being charged for material value. When the decrease in your dollarís monetary value is outweighed by its steep decline in cultural worth, you know youíre in trouble. No matter how much money you make, youíll never be making enough. I ask myself why I want things that were never before attractive to me. Last week on the bus, I discovered the answer.
Before boarding the bus, I was feeling great. The sun was shining and summer was near. It was a long weekend and I had gotten off of work early. I liked what I was wearing and even caught myself smiling -- a rare occasion in any getup. But as I stepped on the bus, there it was before me. All shining, all black, and all hanging off the shoulder of what in all other circumstances would have been a decent human being. As things stood though, I felt as if I had just stumbled into high noon at the OK Corral. I could hear the dry crunch of tumbleweed blowing across the empty seats of the #1 California, and behind me squeaked a rusty saloon door swinging shut. I swear Clint Eastwood and Ennio Morricone were somewhere in the background about to start up ďThe Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.Ē The only difference was that instead of toting guns in our slings we each had handbags slung across our backs. However, he was packing a Remington Magnum whereas I was playing with a plastic water pistol. Suddenly I realized how fragile my contentment really was. I know, I know. Itís silly to hinge your happiness on what someone may or may not think about you based on what you may or may not be wearing/holding/using etc.; itís all just too subjective. But Iíd be a liar to say that it doesnít ultimately dictate most of what I do.
What it comes down to is this. Whether handbags, designer jeans, leather shoes, or single men, weíre all competing for a limited supply. The cost of living isnít so much the high price of those goods as much as it is the exorbitant amounts we feel we need to spend in order to actively compete for them. Call it a new materialism. Youíre no longer being charged for the toy in the box, youíre also paying for what it might help you attain as a result of having bought it. Sure thereís room on the sidelines if you donít want to play the game, but the simple fact remains. If you want to reap the rewards, youíll have to suffer the rules and regulations. Take your eyes off the price, and keep them fixed squarely on the prize.
by Philip Wong on Jun 01, 2007