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Why A Recession Might Be A Good Thing
February 5, 2008 11:29 AM   Subscribe

The Upside of the Downside "I never imagined I’d find myself in the curious position of having so much more than my parents ever had, of having more, frankly, than I ever thought I would have—and yet simultaneously feeling like I’m falling behind, that I need to earn more, save more, invest more, acquire more. When did I begin to feel this anxiety of acquisition? How did I become such a jackass?"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (138 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
People (like the author of that article) who wallow in that kind of self-indulgent wankery are one of the top three reasons I'm thrilled I no longer live in New York.
posted by dersins at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2008


The irony is that he got paid to write this.
posted by hermitosis at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


At least he knows it:

This is all tricky to talk about without seeming laughably self-absorbed
posted by JaredSeth at 11:44 AM on February 5, 2008


Gray Beard was right. Why can't we read his article? This guy is unbearable.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Methinks some commenters in this thread are snark-absorbed.
posted by brain_drain at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't mind being a jackass - he can send his money to me.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


His problem isn't money. His problem is self-involvement. Get over yourself and the rest will follow.
posted by DU at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2008


Wow. Cool article, thanks!
posted by agregoli at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2008


He and his wife have children. Three of them. This site, swiftly picked from a Google search, tells me that it costs, on average, $190,528.00 to raise one child to age 18, and that's not even touching major expenses such as private education or college.

If he ever wanted the Cristal-and-foie-gras lifestyle, he never should have reproduced. It's that simple.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:50 AM on February 5, 2008


"Our combined income when we arrived here was about $45,000, and yet we didn’t sit around our table at night wondering, when the time came, which of the cats we would eat first."

This was the first sign for me that however hard the author was flagellating himself, it wasn't hard enough.
posted by hermitosis at 11:50 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like class issues. Here's someone who grew up middle class, and all of a sudden he's discovered that he, and all of his friends, are upper class. And it makes him uncomfortable to be so money conscious.

As self indulgent as it is, at least he somehow feels guilty about the whole thing.

Of course, if he really felt guilty, he could just give away half his income to charity, and he's get back to that struggling middle class in NYC existence again real quick.
posted by MythMaker at 11:53 AM on February 5, 2008


So $250K a year in New York is middle class? I really am going about this the wrong way, aren't I?
posted by maxwelton at 12:04 PM on February 5, 2008


News flash: inflation makes things more expensive. Houses get to $1M faster than your expectations do. My parents paid something like $5000 for the house I was born in. What exactly is the point of navel gazing all day and wondering why my car cost three times that much?
posted by GuyZero at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2008


why don't we all go out and mind our own fucking business and let others say and do what they will so long as they do not harm us or society?
posted by Postroad at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2008


When did I begin to feel this anxiety of acquisition? How did I become such a jackass?

There's a really good chance that it started around the time you became a regular reader of New York Magazine.
posted by The Straightener at 12:09 PM on February 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


He's not upper class, I'd say he's solidly middle-class (for New York). I think the problem is consumerism more than it is class. The entire article is practically just a list of the things he and his wife buy. They define themselves by the ability to buy these things effortlessly, versus what it would take real effort to afford. And yet, those effortless things would all be considered reckless indulgences to the majority of Americans.

Since consumerism saturates our society, if you don't have a firm grip on your identity and your actual needs it will make all those decisions for you. Which is how you find yourself at the point the author is at, looking back guiltily at hundreds of thousands spend on insubstantial fripperies, yet still wary of any moisturizer that doesn't cost $30 a tube.
posted by hermitosis at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


I don't have much reason to snark against him for how much money he has. His thesis is that a recession may restore a more affordable, more gritty New York. I think that might be a vain hope. The polarization of wealth means that it's consolidated pretty well - people who have accumulated savings and property will harvest interest for a long time come, and be in a position to continue living mostly as they have. Real estate may fall, but who will have the money to buy it? Without changes in tax policy and lending regulations, will life for people like him really change at all, or will the recession place the wedge firmly between people just getting by and living all the way up to their income and people who have a cushion to draw from for a long time to come?
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on February 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


You can think of "middle class" in many ways in New York. But people who make $250K in NYC and have three children will drop $75-90K right of the top for private schools (roughly $25K-28K per year plus incidentals). They will be making mortgage payments on a million dollar plus 2 or 3 bedroom apartment or brownstone (often way plus, these days), which should amount to a tax-deductible 80+K per year. They pay city taxes, high state taxes, and all the usual fed taxes, so take away about $100K right there.

If you haven't noticed, we're already in deficit without food or clothing or Cristal.

Sure, private school is the big challenge. You can find decent public schools, and some do (and that game is rigged in favor of the well off too -- them that haves, saves). But there is tremendous social pressure once one is in the private school system, and competing with the kids of people who make 2.5 *million* per year on Wall St.

That's pretty much why people move their broods to New Jersey and Long Island where their taxes cover the schooling costs for their kids. Of course, a nice house in a better school district near a train line will run you 3 or 4 million, at least, but them's the breaks.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder how profitable it is for NYM to sell back shallow New Yorkers their own bad taste. It makes sense when Hollywood does it but Hollywood is quite proud of its shamelessness and is deeply committed to a global audience. But what self-respecting person would read this? Especially if they didn't live in the city?
posted by nixerman at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Real estate may fall, but who will have the money to buy it?

Tenured professors. / Grin.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:15 PM on February 5, 2008


But what self-respecting person would read this? Especially if they didn't live in the city?

Did you read it? If so, there's your answer. If not, your criticism is worthless.
posted by brain_drain at 12:19 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


why don't we all go out and mind our own fucking business and let others say and do what they will so long as they do not harm us or society?
Don't tell ME what to do!
posted by Floydd at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Christ Im getting tired of jaded snark.
And yes I do get that what I just said sounds jaded and snarky.
That irony isnt lost on me.
Im just tired of the Meh Corps and the "This just in! ___________ causes _________. Im so shocked." types.

Im sure Ive been guilty of it at some point or other too, perhaps even recently, but it still doesnt change the fact that its getting pretty old.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


...earn more, save more, invest more, acquire more.

Of those four, I think he's right to feel like he should save more. We all should save more.
posted by davejay at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2008


one is certainly sorry that this guy cannot buy the brownstone of his dreams because now it costs 20 times as much it cost 15 years ago and Maggie Gyllenhall stole it from under his nose, and that he will never ever live in Manhattan because he can't afford it. but it's really a byproduct of the market -- unaffordable real estate is the classic consequence of a free market, there will always be someone ready to buy you out or bid higher.

and the nostalgia for the shithole that was, say, old school NYC is to say the least perplexing -- Times Square is an especially annoying affection, unless one really patronized those skanky peep show places and liked to have his cock sucked in porn cinemas by heroin addicted trannies. I know many people who lived in NYC during the bankrupt years in the early to mid 1970s and they really don't miss that, I quote, dangerous shithole of a city.
posted by matteo at 12:24 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agreed with the first ten nay-sayers (err, snarkers) after reading the first page of the article. But it actually improves on page two. "When did we become like this?" where 'we' is his generation of friends in NYC, is a question worth exploring (although probably not as unique to his generation as he might think).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:25 PM on February 5, 2008


nostalgia for old Times Square is an especially annoying affection
posted by matteo at 12:25 PM on February 5, 2008


This just in! Cynicism causes reverse backlash! I'm so shocked...
posted by suckerpunch at 12:25 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


why don't we all go out and mind our own fucking business and let others say and do what they will so long as they do not harm us or society?

Mind our own business? THIS. IS. METAFILTERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:27 PM on February 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


This just in! Cynicism causes reverse backlash! I'm so shocked...

I just favorited that, so ya dont think I've gone all Greybeard on ya. ;)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:27 PM on February 5, 2008


See the big fish little pond effect He's successful by the standards he grew up with but not as successful as the folk he socializes with. So he's sad.
posted by zeoslap at 12:29 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


For people like myself just entering the housing market this year, the recession is pretty good news. I've been watching housing prices fall in my area (Jersey Shore) from obscene down to extravagent... when it gets down to reasonable, I'm in!
posted by illuminatus at 12:29 PM on February 5, 2008


Here are some protips for New York City:

1. Food is always free: fresh vegetables and bread can be found in the garbage bags of yuppie food stores, charity food banks have tons of food to give out.

2. You can go anywhere you want for two dollars.

3. You are under no obligation to buy anything you don't need.

4. Inexpensive cell phones work in all locations around the city; iphones and blackberries are not required to make routine phone calls.

5. Wireless internet is free (depending on location).

6. A variety of strengths and sizes of beer is available in for a single dollar at your local corner store.

7. The public libraries have many forms of home entertainment available at no cost.

8. You are under no obligation to buy anything you don't need.

9. I'm serious, you are under no obligation to buy anything you don't need.
posted by fuq at 12:29 PM on February 5, 2008 [37 favorites]


What we need is another Vietnam.

Wait... let's try that again.

What we needs is a real political left.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:30 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


New York Magazine was and remains the magazine of yuppie status anxiety. It should be a sympathetic register of the pain of recession. First in, first out. And all that.

Die yuppie scum, etc. You'll be back.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:32 PM on February 5, 2008


Fuq is posting from a 14 year old Compaq in the commons room at the Hells Kitchen YMCA
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:32 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ha, I just had another breakdown over this shit after a bridal shower. The consumerist imperative parties are the worst.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:35 PM on February 5, 2008


Yet another middle-class loser, unhappy because he envies the people a few steps above.

If you gave him another million, he'd probably be all upset that he still flies commercial. A few more million on top of that, and he'd be bitching that his Hawker is cramped and ugly compared to his buddy's Gulfstream.

And it's all the fault of those damned Wall Street pricks.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 12:36 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I personally enjoyed the article. The guy was pretty self deprecating, not that admitting you're an asshole negates the reality of it.

I think he described phenomena that are not isolated to NYC, granted the trends would be exaggerated to the point of unfathomability when compared to what the average American is exposed to.

I enjoyed the exchange between the author and his wife trying to determine when things became the way they are. Neologisms like uber-rich and especially ultra luxury brands are a bit disconcerting. Americans definitely consider themselves connoisseurs much more than they did 8 or 9 years ago. Things like "ultra luxury" wine, chocolate, cheese, beer and liquor have all all exploded, I guess this is due to a lot of factors. It's surprising that even more mundane interests like good barbecue have spawned aficionados all over the nation. As the author mentions, we accept 100 versions of old comfort foods like hamburgers or mac and cheese.

It's definitely strange and I think his comparison to Rome is at least partially apt.

I guess it angers me a little that his overall premise of the article is that maybe a little recession is a good thing because it will bring people down to earth. That's all well and good if you're considering whether or not to buy 26 $/lb cheese, much more troubling if you're trying to feed a family of four on a tenuous 20k a year job.
posted by Telf at 12:39 PM on February 5, 2008 [14 favorites]


Carl Weathers' protips for New York City:

1. I got bumped from that flight. Apparently, they give you $300 if you get bumped. It’s this crazy loophole in the system that the wrong guy discovered. Guess where I won’t be going?

2. (At Burger King) Hey, you know that you can get a refill on any drink you want here, and it’s free?

3. Whoa, whoa, whoa. There's still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you've got a stew going.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:39 PM on February 5, 2008 [17 favorites]


Yeah, recession will be a great little yuppie "get back to basics" movement. Hmm, I wonder what's going to happen to people who routinely have to decide between stuff like heat and food? Oh well, so anyway, yeah, it was so spiritual, I totally decided that my old Nokia was good enough, so take that, Steve Jobs! And I was telling my therapist...
posted by nanojath at 12:39 PM on February 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


I guess it angers me a little that his overall premise of the article is that maybe a little recession is a good thing because it will bring people down to earth. That's all well and good if you're considering whether or not to buy 26 $/lb cheese, much more troubling if you're trying to feed a family of four on a tenuous 20k a year job.

Telf nails it.
posted by agregoli at 12:47 PM on February 5, 2008


Telf nails it.

Yes, agreed. Someone should put a comment to this end on the site itself.
posted by FuturisticDragon at 12:52 PM on February 5, 2008


Excellent. Another belt of ammo for the people who think that folks who have a problem with rampant consumerism are just jealous.
posted by Legomancer at 1:00 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's ironic that so many of the comments in this thread sound like they're coming from class-obsessed people pissed off that the author of the article makes more money that they do.
posted by Ickster at 1:00 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


In the kind of shabby-genteel family that I am talking about there is
far more consciousness of poverty than in any working-class family above
the level of the dole. Rent and clothes and school-bills are an unending
nightmare, and every luxury, even a glass of beer, is an unwarrantable
extravagance. Practically the whole family income goes in keeping up
appearances. It is obvious that people of this kind are in an anomalous
position, and one might 'be tempted to write them off as mere exceptions
and therefore unimportant. Actually, however, they are or were fairly
numerous. Most clergymen and schoolmasters, for instance, nearly all Anglo-
Indian officials, a sprinkling of soldiers and sailors, and a fair number
of professional men and artists, fall into this category. But the real
importance of this class is that they are the shock-absorbers of the
bourgeoisie. The real bourgeoisie, those in the L2000 a year class and
over, have their money as a thick layer of padding between themselves and
the class they plunder; in so far as they are aware of the Lower Orders at
all they are aware of them as employees, servants, and tradesmen. But it is
quite different for the poor devils lower down who are struggling to live
genteel lives on what are virtually working-class incomes. These last are
forced into close and, in a sense, intimate contact with the working class,
and I suspect it is from them that the traditional upper-class attitude
towards 'common' people is derived.

And what is this attitude? An attitude of sniggering superiority
punctuated by bursts of vicious hatred. Look at any number of Punch during
the. past thirty years. You will find it everywhere taken for granted that
a working-class person, as such, is a figure of fun, except at odd moments
when he shows signs of being too prosperous, whereupon he ceases to be a
figure of fun and becomes a demon. It is no use wasting breath in
denouncing this attitude. It is better to consider how it has arisen, and
to do that one has got to realize what the working classes look like to
those who live among them but have different habits and traditions.


In this passage from The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell is describing his own family at the turn of the 20th century, and the prejudices that informed his first understanding of class in England. Lovell almost seems to be describing a reversal of this phenomenon. He has spent a good portion of his life in close proximity to wealthy people and aspires to many aspects of their lives. At the same time he knows he is not of this group. He mentions school friends (some of whom certainly would have had family money), and disparages Wall Street traders (the current epitome of self-made fortunes)- in this way he has idealized his own "shabby-genteel" existence as somehow more authentic than that of someone paying a million for an apartment in Park Slope.

However, in Lovell's essay, there also appears to be an admission that he will never really share the same world as the working people he once lived among (many of whom are likely Latino or Black). He will always be walking around in the evening, looking through people's windows.

In most of Orwell's autobiographical work, he characterizes his childhood as being fraught with anxiety and resentment. I hope this guy sorts out how he feels about his place in the world, or decides to do something about it, otherwise it's going to really suck for his kids.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:03 PM on February 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


Telf - your are correct.

Remember when Calamari was weird and exotic? Now you see it come by the pound in deep fried combo platters along with extra-cheese pepperoni Quesadilla appetizer plates at even the most banal chain restaurants.

I really don't think this guy deserves the vitriol he seems to have inspired here.

All this "Die Yuppie Scum!" nonsense is just so hypocritical when most North American MeFites are essentially yuppies. As in "upwardly mobile young professionals". Though many of you deny it most of us do work for those trappings to one degree or another and if we take a second to think about it we will see.

And MOST of us are materialistic. Do you own cars? How many gadgets do you have? How many game systems, MP3 players, DVDs, Laptops and shit? C'mon.

Most of you ARE middle if not squarely upper middle class. I simply don't understand the gut reaction to run from and deny the reality of our privilege. Seriously. Most of you are college grads. MANY of you have graduate degrees. And that by default makes you of the Bourgeois elite income group regardless what your W2 seems to tell you. You want to know the earmarks of upper middle class? Did your parent or thier parent go to college? Guess what? You ain't working class, kids.

MOST people do not have the luxury of going to college let alone have "professional" carreers. The line between his lifestyle and most of ours is likely pretty thin unless you have consciously chose to deviate. Especially if you view it from the perspective of your average citizen of a developing country. My god. We live like Maharajahs compared to them!

In regards to him musing about a recession maybe being "good" for his fellow yuppies? Well. Certainly that is as equally misplaced becuase most upper middle people won't skip many meals as Telf noted. But healthy self examination of the consumer impulse is always good, over all. If slightly late to the game.
posted by tkchrist at 1:10 PM on February 5, 2008 [18 favorites]


WILL SNARK FOR FOOD
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:11 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I liked this article better when it was Ed Norton's monologue from Fight Club.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has famously said that living in New York is a luxury good, i.e. you pay a premium to live there. Living in New York, in the eyes of the people who run it, is just another form of conspicuous consumption, and that is what I think this article is really about.

Wine. Jacques Torres chocolates. Kiehl’s skin creams. Kids’ clothes! Jesus. Why do we dress our kids like Johnny Depp and Kate Moss? We’ve all gotten pulled into this slipstream of wealth.

Therein lies the confusion. Those things are not wealth. They are not even indicative of wealth. They indicate consumption preferences. I don't know what a Jacques Torres chocolate is. I have never heard of Kiehl's skin creams. And yet based solely on their appearance in that paragraph I know with 100% certainty that they are upscaleluxury class goods marketed to the middle class.

Wealth is assets - stocks, bonds, cash, gold, and real estate owned outright. It's not brand-name anything. It sure as hell isn't skin cream or white electronics. And there's a statement in this same article “Do you realize that almost every one of Addie’s friends owns a house or apartment that costs more than a million dollars?" that is completely misunderstood. Unless Addie's friends parents are extremely wealthy, they don't own these houses, the bank does.

But there's a subtext to this article that is missing and which I find disturbing in its absence. This article is the Ed Norton monologue in Fight Club, but there is no Tyler Durden saying, "the things you own end up owning you."

The author of this article does not recognize the trap, only that his is trapped. The trap is the mindset that going without the luxury skin cream is a sacrifice. The trap is thinking that one has to become comfortable with less.

Not having the skin cream is not a sacrifice, because having it confers no added benefit. Before it existed, no one had it. Does everyone sacrifice for not having the thing which does not yet exist? That notion is absurd. The idea that not buying something that is well-beyond the realm of the non-essential constitutes a sacrifice is to buy into the notion that consumption is a process - that you must purchase the newest highest class goods.

It is not a wealth slipstream, as the author mentions, it is a consumption slipstream. Consumption does not equal wealth. Consumption is the antithesis of wealth.

You want to see the trap? Here's the trap: when you get to the last page of the article, on which the author reminisces about a simpler life, and ruminates pathetically about how he can essentially learn to be happy even if he isn't rich, there is a link to the next article in the magazine, "The Everything Guide to Belt Tightenting". One of the links in that guide is to "Cut Rate Luxuries".

Look at the list of things to buy when you are "tightening your belt": Scotch, Champagne, cashmere, "status" $800 watch (even the poor need status!).

Did you see the trap? The trap is the entire magazine. The trap is the article that ends with a fantasy vision of a city that no longer chases conspicuous consumption (note that it's the city that does the chasing, not the people reading the article), and then segues gently into telling you that buying cashmere sweaters and $800 watches counts as belt-tightening.

I refuse to fall into this trap, and I'm sick of having it sold to me at every goddamn turn. I am tired of companies that are trying to teach me that I'm obliged to give them my money. I am enraged by a government that tried to tell me that after 9/11, instead of sacrificing and pulling together, our job was to suppress our outrage, sublimate our grief, and go right back to work the next day to make more money, pay more taxes, and spend whatever was left at the mall. I am disgusted that nothing has changed when we collectively and individually had an opportunity to change and become great. Instead we get useful idiots that write this:

This is all tricky to talk about without seeming laughably self-absorbed, and I want you to know that I know how loaded we are, comparatively speaking, and not just loaded in that abstract compared-with-the-developing-world way; we’re loaded compared with most of the people in this city

Wonderful. I'm glad so much has changed. I'm glad you didn't think that dropping the luxury brand products your family buys wasn't enough to convince us you were rich that you had to come out and tell us. I'm glad that you are proof positive that wealth is independent from class, because my old examples were becoming stale.

There is so much to blame for the current problems in the economy, but we have to start with blaming ourselves or we will get nowhere. At some point, someone thought they should own a million dollar house on a $100,000 income. At some point, people deliberately chose not to learn how to crunch the numbers themselves, because subconsciously they knew they would never add up. At some point, people started admiring Casey Serin.

You can't blame the people who took the suckers. The street corner hustler is always there, get it? He's always there with the shitty table and his three-card monty game promising big money and ready to take the next sucker. At some point you have to stop blaming the hustler, and start blaming the ignorant or arrogant fool who thinks that he's better than those who came before, and that he can beat the game. It doesn't matter if the hustler is traveling carny, NBC, or Merrill Lynch. The hustler always wins. The hustler makes the rules, the hustler handles the money, and the hustler runs the table. The hustler always wins.

Stop being hustled. Stop being conned. Stop being the fucking mark. Stop playing their game.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:13 PM on February 5, 2008 [155 favorites]


Stop being hustled. Stop being conned. Stop being the fucking mark. Stop playing their game.

AMEN.
posted by tkchrist at 1:20 PM on February 5, 2008


Giving money away is still hipper than spending it, and making or scavenging is still more fun than buying. Earning money is, imo, the biggest drag.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:31 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stop being hustled. Stop being conned. Stop being the fucking mark. Stop playing their game.

Which is just code words for "start playing ours".
posted by Stynxno at 1:34 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I'm sick of having it sold to me at every goddamn turn.
posted by jquinby at 1:34 PM on February 5, 2008


Did you see the trap? The trap is the entire magazine.

To be honest, I lived in Manhattan and, well, everyone knows that NY Mag is a fairly useless rag with shallow articles like this. I'm a bit annoyed that anything from that magazine is even linked to here on Mefi. It just brings us all down when we try to "counter" a puff piece.
posted by vacapinta at 1:34 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


For a guy who writes for the Times, Joel Lovell is kind of a douche.
posted by Mister_A at 1:36 PM on February 5, 2008


For a guy who read the article, Mister_A seems to have missed what publication it was in.
posted by Mister_A at 1:37 PM on February 5, 2008


Which is just code words for "start playing ours".

That's quite a rhetorical twist, but...um...what does it mean in this context, exactly? Are you talking about all the people who are trying to sell you anti-consumerism?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:37 PM on February 5, 2008


Everything was cool until I read this:

My friend Kim, a former lawyer turned painter, was at our place recently. “I hate Christmas,” she said at one point. “By the time Christmas is over, I feel so sick of it, like I’ve spent all this money I shouldn’t have spent and I have all these things I don’t really need or want...

Fuck you and fuck your friend Kim. It must be a real pain in the ass to have the means to give up practicing law to pursue your dreams.

Where's my violin again....?

and yes, I am just jealous
posted by butterstick at 1:40 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anti-consumerism? I'm not buyin' it.
posted by Floydd at 1:41 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


and yes, I am just jealous
posted by butterstick at 3:40 PM on February 5


That's because you're just a panda. You should be jealous of us humans.
posted by suckerpunch at 1:46 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuck all this "oh, we don't need any of that nonsense" people are spewing. I'm sure some of you believe it and are happiest that way, but not me.

I like living in a nice house. It's bigger than we really need, but it's comfortable and wonderful.

I like my sofa and my big flat-screen HDTV. I like my Shun knives, my Façonnable shirts and my expensive cheese. I like my dining and entertaining budget, though it would bankrupt the average household.

I like that I've gone on so many vacations that my airfare bill makes most people's college educations look cheap.

I say this not because I'm an elitist prick, or because I think any of this makes me better than anybody else.

I say it because it's okay to like nice things.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:48 PM on February 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I sometimes wonder what would happen to my little group of friends if we had a real, honest-to-god depression in this country. If we'd all move to some far-flung corner of Brooklyn or Queens and live it up in some crazy loft, or else do it up Cannery Row style in old industrial boilers that have been converted to living spaces. If NYC would return to a forgone age, with Lou Reed trying to cop in Tompkins Square Park and Dee Dee Ramone shooting up on every street corner.

But something tells me that it wouldn't be anywhere near as romantic as this. It would probably just involve a lot of people losing their jobs, and having to work really crappy jobs to get by.

The only upshot would be that people would finally shut their pretentious traps about gentrification, and realize how good they had it before the whole stinkin' country became Detroit.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:49 PM on February 5, 2008


Which is just code words for "start playing ours".

OH SNAP!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 PM on February 5, 2008


Giving money away is still hipper than spending it, and making or scavenging is still more fun than buying. Earning money is, imo, the biggest drag.

Posted at 1:31 PM Pacific, 4:31 PM Eastern.

You're either at a job that's cushy enough to let you screw around on the Internet, or in a financial situation where you don't have to work (yet have enough cash for a computer and the Internet).
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:52 PM on February 5, 2008


I say it because it's okay to like nice things

Yeah, but you like Façonnable shirts, so what do you know from nice things?
posted by dersins at 1:55 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I say it because it's okay to like nice things.

Being unapologetic about the gross inequality that exists in the world doesn't make it OK.

I think this lack of any guilt whatsoever can only be possible in a society that has evolved from avowed meritocracy through to the idea that being rich must mean having earned it, and thence to being poor meaning you deserve nothing.
posted by growli at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


We've been marketed mass-produced paradise, and it's very, very hard to not fall prey to the desire to Have More Stuff, especially when faced with the fact that all of your friends Have More Stuff.

I think the guy is right. And yeah, he's an asshole, so am I, so are a lot of people. But at the core of it, civilization needs an adjustment.
posted by blacklite at 2:00 PM on February 5, 2008


Yeah, but you like Façonnable shirts, so what do you know from nice things?

I probably should've used my wife's clothes for an example. After all, I dress like a straight man.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:00 PM on February 5, 2008


I thought all shirts were façonnable. Should I stop façonning my regular shirts?
posted by Floydd at 2:01 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I say it because it's okay to like nice things.

Why couldn't you have been real, Cloverfield??
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:02 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


You're either at a job that's cushy enough to let you screw around on the Internet, or in a financial situation where you don't have to work (yet have enough cash for a computer and the Internet).

Interesting assumptions. While likely one of those is true, a poster could always be unemployed and posting from a free-use library computer. Or a friend's.
posted by agregoli at 2:06 PM on February 5, 2008


Being unapologetic about the gross inequality that exists in the world doesn't make it OK.

I'm not going to apologize for working 100 hour weeks for years.

I'm not going to apologize for getting an advanced education, and trying hard in school, despite living in a culture that denigrates academia.

I'm not going to apologize for repeatedly risking huge amounts of my savings, along with borrowed money, in an attempt to make some real money.

It sucks that some people don't have anything. I'm in favor of tax-funded universal health care, and I also support tax-funded programs to help the poor and the infirm. I give generously to the Heifer Foundation to help provide sustainable food and water to those who weren't fortunate enough to be born near a good source of potable water or food.

But after that, I'm going to take some of my money, and I'm going to buy some nice things. And I'm not going to apologize.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:08 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


And I'm not going to apologize.

Oh, good. Then I guess I'll be getting some popcorn....
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:11 PM on February 5, 2008


I give generously to the Heifer Foundation

Sheesh, didn't you learn anything from Holden Karnofsky?
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to apologize for working 100 hour weeks for years.

You're not going to have to until you're lying on your deathbed, and then only to yourself.
posted by nanojath at 2:16 PM on February 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


With butter and not too salty!

*dons Gaultier hip-waders and Vuarnet shit-repelling goggles*
posted by Mister_A at 2:18 PM on February 5, 2008


But after that, I'm going to take some of my money, and I'm going to buy some nice things. And I'm not going to apologize.

In fact, I never said you had to apologize for liking the finer things in life -- and even enjoying them above and beyond their actual worth by overlaying these luxuries with a sense of a reward well-earned.

My point was that wealth inequality (earned or not) breeds envy and resentment in a putatively egalitarian society. Why would you not feel at least a slight discomfort (perhaps guilt) if others view you with envy?

You implicitly ask that people not lump you in with the idle rich, but it's all too often easy to lump all the poor into the same bucket of "lazy" or "stupid". I know you don't do this, since you mention some are "not lucky enough to be born near potable water", recognizing the inequality of opportunity in the world.
posted by growli at 2:20 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I say it because it's okay to like nice things.

I think it's okay to like nice things, too. But I think it's also okay to strive for a modest balance, which make the luxuries more luxurious. Most people referenced in this article never grew up having to go without, and it's fair to point that out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:26 PM on February 5, 2008



But after that, I'm going to take some of my money, and I'm going to buy some nice things. And I'm not going to apologize.


Clearly those nice things aren't enough to keep you as busy and happy as you think, because instead of just personally enjoying them you chose to come in here and feel embattled and defensive. Not only that, rather than joining a thoughtful conversation, you came in and talked about your shirts. So clearly you have issues about all this that are more complicated than just a love of "nice things".
posted by hermitosis at 2:27 PM on February 5, 2008


Tacos, you got me there, pal. How dare I work a cushy job while trying to get into grad school, and hate it, and struggle with a fervent desire to quit and go make art while still in debt, and and value freeganism and share what I have with those more in need? I'm not a hypocrite, I'm a composite, we all are. If you don't want to apologize, stop acting guilty.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:28 PM on February 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


On the radio show Loveline last night, a guy called in to thank Dr. Drew. Apparently this guy had been an abuser of women his whole adult life, and had gone as far as to have sex with an unconscious woman at a party. Among other terrible things. This guy self-identified as a rapist, but he had changed his life by listening to the stories of all the victims of other men who had acted just like him.
Drew called this man courageous. He didn't write him off, call him hypocritical, or berate him for what he had done in the past. He didn't insist that this man go to jail. He just congratulated his changing.
Was justice done? I don't know. The caller wasn't some sort of hero - the lesson he learned was pretty obvious. But I think that people deserve some credit when they try to change. Even the bullshittiest platitudes are sort of better than the status quo.
posted by dosterm at 2:35 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Most of you ARE middle if not squarely upper middle class.

Class is hardly the issue here. I know people who are extremely wealthy and who would never engage in the sort of shameful behavior described in the article. They are the product of an upbringing that totally rejects ostentatious displays of money and emphasizes passing wealth on to future generations. Similarly I've met people who literally have no money, who live off the land, and they too would never let themselves sink to the level of the author because they know first hand that money says nothing about the quality of the individual and is largely irrelevant.

The sort of consumerist ethos advocated by the article knows no socioeconomic boundaries. You see it in the streets with kids running around with $250 sneakers and mountains of bling. You see it among witless adolescents who rush out to buy the iphone and then post pictures of it on their blog. You see it among the mega-rich who insist on private jets as the "new new thing." And regardless of how much money these people ever get their grubby little hands on it'll never be enough. Similar to the role religion once played, buying things is the very drama of their lives. And so it's actually the total lack of class, of culture, and of any sort of meaningful interior life that allows this sort of consumerism to flourish. It's a sign of good old fashioned decadence that surpasses even the Romans who at least took the time to justify their wasteful culture with the myth of civilization.

But then the only thing more hilarious than a grown man aspiring to own a stove is way he casually projects such aspirations upon a city as big and diverse as New York. (But then we all know the 'we' is just a codeword for the over-educated humdrums that imagine themselves at the center of New York and the world.) Such hopelessly inert people, people who complain incessantly about being disconnected from others while making no effort at all to escape their imaginary little worlds and actually give something back, contribute nothing to the city. They could disappear tomorrow and nobody would notice.
posted by nixerman at 2:36 PM on February 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


Quick, get Tacos some more nice things, otherwise he'll turn this into another bitchfest about the poor resented rich folks!
posted by klangklangston at 2:37 PM on February 5, 2008


My point was that wealth inequality (earned or not) breeds envy and resentment in a putatively egalitarian society. Why would you not feel at least a slight discomfort (perhaps guilt) if others view you with envy?

I've felt discomfort when I've seen true poverty, first-hand. Families who live in a home that's nothing more than a couple dozen breezeblocks and some tin. That sort of situation is why I feel a moral imperative to help get the poorest citizens of the world the basic necessities required so that they have a chance to bootstrap a better life.

But that said, there are limits to what I can do for anyone. I try to do a lot, but I'm comfortable with admitting that I cannot and will not solve everything myself.

I thank you for having an incredibly reasonable response, but I just feel it important that one should not have their economic class be viewed as a negative, no matter what that class is.

If you're a middle-class family and you indulge in an expensive meal, you shouldn't feel bad about it. The money didn't disappear from the economy, it went to help the waitstaff, the cooks, the busboys, the organic farmers, the fishermen and the vineyard workers who were all responsible for that meal.

If you're incredibly poor and you indulge in a chocolate bar with the hopes that it contains a ticket for a tour of a secret chocolate factory, you shouldn't feel guilty about that either.

It's okay to like nice things.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:46 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Was justice done? I don't know.

Unless the call was traced and his confession forwarded to the cops, then I guess...no?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:46 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


The rich are better, it turns out--the rest of us are jealous hypocrites.

(I don't really begrudge anyone their wealth, I can recognize my own envy. I just don't want to hear them whining about it, or justifying what they spend it on, or pretending it's not such a lot.)
posted by maxwelton at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm pretty sure Tacos is taking the piss here, otherwise he'd be named "Shredded Beef Chimichangas Are Pretty Great".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:54 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


How dare I work a cushy job while trying to get into grad school, and hate it, and struggle with a fervent desire to quit and go make art while still in debt, and and value freeganism and share what I have with those more in need? I'm not a hypocrite, I'm a composite, we all are. If you don't want to apologize, stop acting guilty.

I worked my way through school. So did tons of other people. Very few of them loved their jobs, but they all were a hell of a lot luckier than the hundreds of millions of people who are born into true poverty.

As for your freeganism, it's nice that you have a hobby, but I'd note that your hobby is possible only in a first-world country, and only in areas where some people have such a surplus that they can throw out viable goods, for people like you to scavenge.

About half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. Over a billion live on less than $1. Do you think they'd complain about your job, or your pending education? Do you think they've even thought about "making art", or do you think they were busy trying to survive? I think we all know the answer.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:57 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I never imagined I’d find myself in the curious position of having so much more than my parents ever had, of having more, frankly, than I ever thought I would have—and yet simultaneously feeling like I’m falling behind, that I need to earn more, save more, invest more, acquire more. When did I begin to feel this anxiety of acquisition?

He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet? Do we seek out things to covet? No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.

One of the, say, top 20 quotes I always try to keep at the back of my mind. Extremely good for my mental wellbeing. Nothing wrong with a 45cm TV, for example.

So good I had to say it twice.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:03 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hating rich people is stupid. The fact is, people that have the most ease, pleasure and money in the world are just as blind to their situation as the people who are in constant agony.
posted by milarepa at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm pretty sure Tacos is taking the piss here, otherwise he'd be named "Shredded Beef Chimichangas Are Pretty Great".

Oh come on, who doesn't love a tasty fish taco with some fresh guacamole. Man... I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm a little confused as to why Tacos is telling me off, here, but whatever.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


My favorite thing about the Movie "I am Legend" was watching it and pretending that while Will Smith was living this lonely post apocalyptic existence, fighting zombies in Midtown Manhattan, People in Queens and Brooklyn were going about their everyday business.

Lest anyone who does not live in NY get the wrong idea. Millions of people live in NYC who are not whiny self obsessed yuppies or hipsters. They live in neighborhoods that are diverse, affordable, vibrant and interesting. New York IS a working class city, chock full of affordable cheese.

In the article he bemoans the disappearance of the cute little ethnic bakery he loved so much. As if Park Slope isn't right next to Sunset park, and Flatbush, and Crown Heights.

Please don't listen to these idiots. There's this place called Jackson Heights in Queens. It's amazing. It's like the Disney "It's a small world" ride come to life. The food is delicious and cheap. And as long as the yuppies keep ignoring it, It might actually be the future of America.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:09 PM on February 5, 2008 [11 favorites]


Well, yeah, the victim didn't get any justice, that's for sure. I meant "was justice done" more in the sense of "did Drew do all he should have in that situation"? Shitty and sad, but at least the guy tried to change, I guess.
posted by dosterm at 3:10 PM on February 5, 2008


I'm a little confused as to why Tacos is telling me off, here, but whatever.

Perhaps it's because you appeared to hold yourself up as some sort of person in the midst of a great struggle, what with your graduate-level education, your job, and your life in a first-world country.

Perhaps you weren't trying to say anything like that. Perhaps you just felt an uncorrelated need to tell everybody about yourself and your gross hobbies. But it really came off like you were trying to claim some sort of superiority by way of inferiority.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 3:11 PM on February 5, 2008


The fact is, people that have the most ease, pleasure and money in the world are just as blind to their situation as the people who are in constant agony.

One country's mandate is to disassociate money from the valuation of happiness.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:13 PM on February 5, 2008


Class is hardly the issue here. I know people who are extremely wealthy and who would never engage in the sort of shameful behavior described in the article. They are the product of an upbringing that totally rejects ostentatious displays of money and emphasizes passing wealth on to future generations.

Exactly. I work in an industry that deals with a lot of wealthy people. For the most part they view themselves as stewards, with a responsibility to make sure their money makes the world a better place in the most efficient way possible. This doesn't mean their kids don't get the best dental care money can buy, go to good colleges if they're interested in going, and it doesn't mean they don't take the family to Bali every 5 years. But neither are they buying Kiehl's because it's The Thing to Have. If you met them you'd likely never guess they had the kind of money they have.

In fact, in my limited-to-the-San-Francisco-Bay-Area experience, wealthy people are the least interested in consumerism. They already know that money can't buy the things that count.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:13 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, yeah, the victim didn't get any justice, that's for sure. I meant "was justice done" more in the sense of "did Drew do all he should have in that situation"? Shitty and sad, but at least the guy tried to change, I guess.

I hear what you're saying (and I'm going to keep whispering so as not to derail things) but -- presuming the call was real -- the problem I have is less that his past victims aren't getting justice than it is the presumption that those days are behind this guy. That seems like a fairly unlikely proposition to me. Someone who committed crimes that could put him in prison for years and ruin his life forever does not, if he is at all sane, confess those crimes on a nationally syndicated radio show. So I think the odds are good he could go apeshit tomorrow and revert to form, easily. I have to say, my hope is that someone who knows him heard the show, recorded it, and called the police...as to what Drew could have done, I'm not really sure; if he thought he could have talked the guy into turning himself in, that would seem to be the best thing for (almost) everybody involved, but...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2008


I do not have a graduate degree and what gross hobbies? The projecting you're doing at me here is phenomenal. I have an uneasy relationship with my privilege, know it, and gain no insights from your tired old "starving Bolivians wouldn't complain about your job" schtick. Go enjoy your nice things and let me enjoy my glut of money my way.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:24 PM on February 5, 2008


I do not have a graduate degree and what gross hobbies? The projecting you're doing at me here is phenomenal.

AV, I'm WAY more on your side here than I am on Tacos's, but I'm pretty sure he's referring to the "waste reclamation" part of being freegan.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:28 PM on February 5, 2008


tacos are pretty great: the magic of "If you're a middle-class family and you indulge in an expensive meal," is in the word indulge. I wonder how many people still consider the word indulge as a part of their personal mental lexicon.
posted by nobeagle at 3:31 PM on February 5, 2008


The fact is, people that have the most ease, pleasure and money in the world are just as blind to their situation as the people who are in constant agony.

You might like to think so. Having lived on nearly nothing and living on more than enough I can tell you I am aware every day of the benefits and sublime gift of being able to insulate myself and loved ones from some of life's harsher threats and troubles.

In fact, the little I've read on the question of class envy suggests that most people who are less well-off financially see wealth as something within their grasp if they work for it. Maybe not Trump-wealth, but something cushier than their current situation. To me that sounds like a good thing.

I don't have any real answers to what people are raising here. I think everyone has a point. It's grotesque that people working 60 hours a week can't take their kids to the doctor. But shitting on a person like Tacos for having the honesty to admit he likes to watch his HBO in Hi Def or slip on some fresh-laundered shirts every day just makes some of you sound like total fucking tools.
posted by docpops at 3:32 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


kittens, I knew it, just though I'd highlight the audacity of his snooty view of one form of recycling. There's more than one way to be ungenerous.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2008


"Perhaps it's because you appeared to hold yourself up as some sort of person in the midst of a great struggle, what with your graduate-level education, your job, and your life in a first-world country."

Oh, bullshit. Where you're not projecting, you're wrong (much like in the AskMe where I didn't want to get into another pissing match over your misrepresentations).

I'm sorry, but this deigning to dismiss the struggles of others because they're not worthy of your noblesse oblige is a pretty good reason to hate, if not all, certainly one of the rich.
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, this is like a literature-meets-real-life moment. Did Tacos really pull out his Façonnable shirts and his travel bills?

Do you remember Jay Gatsby, trying hard to prove to Daisy that he'd made something of himself? Poor-kid Jay Gatsby proving that he's finally made it, and all he does is pull out his shirts? Nouveau-riche Jay Gatsby?

Man, I thought shit like that only happened in the books I have my students read.

(Erm, none of you have a big ol' scarlet letter on your chest, do you, 'cause that'd rock!)
posted by John of Michigan at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Sorry, John, though if you want me to suckle a starving tramp, I could so get into that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:28 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


all he does is pull out his shirts

But they were such beautiful shirts!
posted by dersins at 4:30 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Erm, none of you have a big ol' scarlet letter on your chest, do you, 'cause that'd rock!

well, it's small, and it's not the same one, but, um, maybe.

posted by dersins at 4:33 PM on February 5, 2008


Sorry, John, though if you want me to suckle a starving tramp, I could so get into that.

Actually, as hobbies go, I think that one might be grosser.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:45 PM on February 5, 2008


Hey, billyfleetwood -- I used to live in Jackson Heights. It's full of yuppies, and every few years the New York Times does an article on it. It's also full of poor people in illegal, dangerous basement apartments. I liked it, but Jesus, I hope it isn't the future of America. (I do miss the pan de yuca, though.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:53 PM on February 5, 2008


Just went over finances again. I need $5,000 more a year, or I need to find a $600 mortgage for our family of six.

What was the article about again?
posted by mecran01 at 4:53 PM on February 5, 2008


and the nostalgia for the shithole that was, say, old school NYC is to say the least perplexing -- Times Square is an especially annoying affection, unless one really patronized those skanky peep show places and liked to have his cock sucked in porn cinemas by heroin addicted trannies. I know many people who lived in NYC during the bankrupt years in the early to mid 1970s and they really don't miss that, I quote, dangerous shithole of a city.

I agree with this. I have no nostalgia for the sleazoid 70's, but what we had for the past 10 years or so has been a classic overcorrection. And Manhattan has always been something of an offshore boutique. Much of the outer boroughs is pretty much the same as always, except the ethnicities involved have changed somewhat, which really shouldn't be a big deal. New York isn't all SoHo and Williamsburg.
posted by jonmc at 5:01 PM on February 5, 2008


I know people who are extremely wealthy and who would never engage in the sort of shameful behavior described in the article.

Often the difference between "Old Money" and"New Money."

Yeah, recession will be a great little yuppie "get back to basics" movement.

And The New School will charge $1,500 for a six-evening class on "The How-to's For Back-to-Basics."
posted by ericb at 5:20 PM on February 5, 2008


gotta love the Neiman-Marcus ads on the top banner and the sidebar (somehow they evaded adblock).
posted by exlotuseater at 5:31 PM on February 5, 2008


This thread brings to mind Peter Menzel 's Material World: A Global Family Portrait and Hungry Planet: What the World Eats [Menzel - previously].
posted by ericb at 5:31 PM on February 5, 2008


Most of you ARE middle if not squarely upper middle class.

Class is hardly the issue here. I know people who are extremely wealthy and who would never engage in the sort of shameful behavior described in the article.


There you go. Bringing class into it again.

Actually. Yes. Class has everything to do with it. But not in the way everybody likes to think. C'mon. His behavior is hardly shameful. I bet I could examine every life in MeFi and find "decadence" in some for or another.

A personal rejection of gross consumption (and debt life style) is simply more financially (and, dare I say, spiritually) healthy for an individual in the long term. I have been saying this for a while.

But my ears prick when I hear people with graduate degrees, who can wax for hours about the latest gadget and other pretentious trappings call somebody else a Middle Class Yuppie as some sort of pejorative.

In essence the bulk of detractors of the writer in this thread were attacking this man's supposed class. So it matters. His yuppiness, his bourgeois-ness and his middle class-ness - when, as I pointed out, we N. American MeFites are largely middle and upper class people and technically yuppies our selves. We are merely ostentatious in differing ways.

Especially when we compare ourselves to the overwhelming poor masses of the world. The distinction between him, you, and me, in the eyes of the average Kenyan is negligible. I think that is important to keep in mind.

The import thing is to get off the train and own your own life.

And are these uber-wealthy you know less consumptive or do they merely HIDE it better? And the point is the really wealthy, the people with real assets, don't need to go into debt and acquire the mass disposable crass material trappings to distinguish themselves. The true wealthy have captured back their time by employing people to do the things that this guy and his family likely still has to do himself (driving, cooking, etc) THAT is real opulence. Owning other peoples time.

This guy is guilty of being a wanna be and simply not knowing it. Until now.

I agree there is no shame in having nice things. Not at all. There is however great shame in demanding nice things. Or feeling you have a RIGHT to things no matter the social cost. Or consuming many, many, mediocre things that waste resources or harm the environment or unduly exploit and entrench poverty in less fortunate peoples.

I've said it before. We are all rich. But if you want to be wealthy discard all the crap and own your time.
posted by tkchrist at 6:15 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


billyfleetwood, thanks for the reality check re NYC.

When I was reading the article, I came to the conclusion is that he loved the neighbourhood when HE and his family were the affluent newcomers; now that he's the colourful local and the newcomers are weathier, he doesn't dig it so much.

There's nothing beyond the author's own pretensions to stop him from moving back to the upstate NY he left, if he really feels that bad.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:21 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I say this not because I'm an elitist prick, or because I think any of this makes me better than anybody else.

I say it because it's okay to like nice things.


Sure thing, tacos. But what's not okay -- or at least not very much fun -- is to have nice things, but not to enjoy them, because when you look at them all you can think of is how your own nice things don't measure up to the nice things belonging to your neighbors, or your relatives, or people you read about in New York Magazine. That's the situation the author of the article finds himself in. You, happily, don't.

So "geez, you should be less focused on your possessions," is not good advice for you; but for the author of the posted article, maybe.

By the way, I ate a piece of $26/lb. cheese while I wrote this comment. It was delicious.
posted by escabeche at 6:44 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, the late Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, the author Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel, Catch-22, over its whole history. Heller responds, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have: Enough.’

Read it. Learn it. LIVE IT.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:28 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


My favorite thing about the Movie "I am Legend" was watching it and pretending that while Will Smith was living this lonely post apocalyptic existence, fighting zombies in Midtown Manhattan, People in Queens and Brooklyn were going about their everyday business.

I am imaging this right now. I imagine reading one of those MTA announcements:

Service Changes:

( J ) ( Z )
No trains running between Marcy Ave and Broad St

How will this be affecting my trip?
No trains are running in Manhattan. Try walking across the Williamsburg bridge.

Why is service being changed?
Zombies.
posted by fuq at 7:36 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Which is just code words for "start playing ours".

One could, uncharitably, choose to read it that way. On the other hand, it would be as easy to read it as "start playing by yours".

Charitably, I'll choose to assume it was just a typo on your part.
posted by Chuckles at 7:41 PM on February 5, 2008


Tacos Are Pretty Great: I'm not going to apologize for ...

No one is asking you to. One day though, you or your descendants might be sorry.
posted by Chuckles at 7:44 PM on February 5, 2008


Perhaps you just felt an uncorrelated need to tell everybody about yourself and your gross hobbies.

No, actually that was you.
posted by Chuckles at 7:47 PM on February 5, 2008


“Why don’t you stick that thing up your ass,” he said, loud enough for everyone in the near vicinity to hear, and before the well-groomed guy could respond, he added, even louder, “You Wall Street dick.”

Cranks like this (and the passive-aggressive writer of this story) are precisely why the "Wall Street dick" probably chooses to ignore what's going on around him on the bus or train or whatever.

There is nothing wrong with being prosperous.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:37 PM on February 5, 2008


I say we all take a break from this thread, take a quick dip in our pools of gold coins, and reflect pensively on all of this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:43 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am actually not entirely sure why Tacos is getting dumped on.

I bristled at his first post. But he followed it up with a pretty reasonable assessment, which is that people like nice things. How you define "nice things" is up to the person and that person's budget. Someone living in poverty in India will splurge on something very different (and much cheaper) than me. Tacos splurges on something very different and much more expensive than I can afford. And because we value different things, if I had his budget what I would spend my money on is different than what he would spend his money on.

And I think his posts point to something else--which is that even any one person's definition of "nice things" changes as their wealth changes. I think my $70 gymnastics rings is splurging right now, but if I made $150,000 I can't pretend they would seem as much of a splurge. Maybe people are denigrating Tacos because he hasn't retained the same spending mindset he had when he was a poor college student? But he's pointing out that if we expect him to act like he's got the budget of a poor college student, well, what's the limit? Is it right then for him to expect us to act like we've got the budget of a impoverished person in a third-world country?

I'm no fan of blatant consumerism. But I understand that, in some way, it's human nature. Humans want to survive. We want to establish comfortable homes and lives for ourselves and our kin, and find someone healthy to fuck. Somewhere in between living in caves and living in Manhattan "establishing comfortable lives" went from "finding the best hunting grounds and someplace warm to sleep at night" to "Getting big houses and private schooling and a high-paying job or I will never be happy and no-one will ever love me."

I agree with tkchrist. Nothing is wrong with appreciating nice things. It's thinking that you HAVE to have them, and your life is nothing without them, and you must sacrifice your dignity and time with your family and personal and social enrichment for the sake of them, that's the problem with materialism. You're letting your instinct to survive get manipulated by mass advertising.
posted by schroedinger at 9:11 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't have any problem with people having nice things - I'm sure everyone here has plenty of nice things relative to the rest of the planet. So I don't hate the article because he brags about his nice things. I also don't hate the article because he sweats over the fact that other people have *nicer* things. I think that's sad, and it's good that he realizes how weird it is for a man to get a hard on for another man's stove. Fine. What is loathsome is the *conclusion* drawn in the article - that a recession might not be so bad, because it'd bring those he envies down a peg.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:14 PM on February 5, 2008


do you know what i like about living in the midwest? - the fact that this all seems so utterly foreign to me
posted by pyramid termite at 10:35 PM on February 5, 2008


Just went over finances again. I need $5,000 more a year, or I need to find a $600 mortgage for our family of six.

What was the article about again?


Y'know, I love a good sarcastic ignorance as much as anyone here, but maybe you should quit having children if you can't afford it? Yeah, you're right, I only make x thousand a year, that sucks, .... oh but you don't feel sorry for me because I didn't marry anyone and I don't have any children. Here, let me have ten. OH THE HORROR I CAN'T AFFORD MY BILLS. Yeah, now.
posted by blacklite at 11:16 PM on February 5, 2008


Why is service being changed?
Zombies.


fuq, that's awesome! I have editable .pdfs of MTA service advisories on my hard drive somewhere. I might have to make that one a reality.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:09 AM on February 6, 2008


I think we've missed a more important point - what kind of father goes walking around with a baby late at night when he's drunk?
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:22 AM on February 6, 2008


I didn't read all the comments, but I wanted to. It's New Year's here in Beijing and it's time to go throw down on some fireworks.

In four years, I've gone from backpacker English teacher living with stoner expats in a crappy room in a crappy expat ghetto to a translator who has somehow wrangled himself a car, house (I own, not rent, and EVERYONE rents in this city, google Beijing real estate and you'll see what I mean), fashionable circle of artsy and techie friends at the cutting edge of culture and income, and an awesome girlfriend who's lived in these circles all her life. I come from a lower-income family from rural Minnesota. All this at the tender age of 24. Two of my exes are pregnant, more than that are engaged or married, everyone's buying houses and cars and going to much nicer bars and eating at much nicer restaurants than they used to (Beijing's getting a lot of good dining choices fast - there's two Ethiopian places scheduled to open this year). I've watched my chosen city and my life gentrify at an alarming rate.

And in all this, I feel the jealousy creeping up on me. I want more, a higher income, a nicer car, a bigger apartment, better rock shows than the abysmal juvenile punk shows I went to two years ago (and I have them! but I want more! I have These Arms are Snakes in Mandarin, now give me Dismemberment Plan!), cooler more ironical t-shirts than Plastered can print out, better DVD selection than #45 in Sanlitun, bigger thicker more loaded pizzas than Kro's Nest (because 21 inches isn't enough), more connected contacts than the Polybona guys, nicer furniture than what we have now...and I don't know where it ends. I never imagined in my wildest fucking dreams that I'd be this well-off at 24. So why the hell do I feel like it's not enough, and why do I feel that sting more sharply than I did when I had $10 in my pocket and a barely functioning 7-year old cell phone, calling some girl I met on campus in the hopes that her parents weren't home? I could dismiss them as rich pricks then, and I did.

I don't think I'm a jackass for having what I do, but I don't want it to get to my head like this. I want to be as comfortable on a friend's floor as I am in my own orthopedically correct bed. Normally it's not a problem, and I manage to not let it screw with my perceptions most of the time. I drive a crappy motorcycle, most of my jeans are 5 years old, and my computers, cell phone, TV, and all other electronics are secondhand or handmedowns. I don't think I plan on changing that ethos. But without necessity guiding your choices, it's hard to find a reason not to buy new, not to give in to consumerism, not to look for something better.

It's 52 minutes to Chinese New Year, so here's a resolution to let enough be enough. This year, if I don't need it I won't buy it, or want it.

Now I'm gonna go blow shit up in Tiananmen.
posted by saysthis at 7:11 AM on February 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ahaha, links plz, billyfleetwood!
posted by clavicle at 7:54 AM on February 6, 2008


clavicle, try this.
posted by brain_drain at 8:52 AM on February 6, 2008


(Erm, none of you have a big ol' scarlet letter on your chest, do you, 'cause that'd rock!)

I do. It's a big "S" in a field of yellow, surrounded by a vaguely diamond shaped scarlet outline. And it indeed rocks.

Up, up, and away, baby.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:23 AM on February 6, 2008


Posted at 1:31 PM Pacific, 4:31 PM Eastern.

You're either at a job that's cushy enough to let you screw around on the Internet, or in a financial situation where you don't have to work (yet have enough cash for a computer and the Internet).


Yes, those are the only possible explanations. Rumors abound of people whose jobs give them down-time while the white collar world is at work, and who can only think of a monday-to-friday 9-5 as some bizarre unattainable dream, but they're just that, rumors.
posted by arto at 1:50 PM on February 6, 2008


Oh God, please bring on the recession. Just so people like that wanker can learn that living in NYC isn't a right, that sending your kids to private school isn't automatic, that cava tastes exactly the same as champagne, and that economy toilet paper is terrible but economy spaghetti is fine.

Then they can stuff their smug faces with $3.99 ham instead of $23.00 prosciutto and STFU.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:16 PM on February 6, 2008


It's okay to like nice things.

Any of you wealthy bastards want to buy some art? I make nice things.

I'd like to buy some shoes that don't smell like cheese. And maybe some beer.
posted by loquacious at 12:19 AM on February 13, 2008


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