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Language Log

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 - 7:21 a.m.

More shelves! Now my pigments have a place to live. I also did this really civilized thing where I put little hooks in the wall and hung my hand tools on them. No more losing them on my work table or setting them on the floor next to my chair!

I did manage to extract the Davy board. So it's all systems go on the photo albums.

I went to sleep last night composing another rant about funny failures to see eye-to-eye with my mil with respect to baby things. I think I'll leave out the ranting (even though ranting about essentially inconsequential things is one of the things I do best), and merely report.
It came down to lamps last night. Could she buy us a lamp for the baby's room (no; I've been using it as a studio, and it's already pretty well lit, thank you), or could she at least take me shopping for a fun lamp shade for the table lamp that's in there. I said yes, because when someone offers to take you shopping for something, you have to have a darn good reason to say no without coming across as an ass. The fact that shopping for a lampshade (and I know it wouldn't be the kind of simple, "Oh, there's one-- I'll take that then" that I would do if left to my own devices-- it would probably be, in the absence of extraordinary luck, a sort of multi-day odyssey of lampshade shopping) is right up there with having my teeth pulled on a list of things to do (right under it, since you aren't given painkillers when shopping for lampshades) is no excuse for getting out of it. I said, "well, the one on there is fine, I mean, it's not dirty or broken or anything." And she burst out giggling. And then apologized, with a, "I'm sorry, it's just that, something doesn't have to be broken in order for you to be able to buy a new one." I laughed too and agreed. I am pleasant and I do my best.

Note for the record that actually, for me, yeah, it kind of does though. If you have a perfectly servicable object, there's no need to buy another. You use things till they wear out or become unservicable in some way (like clothes, you can buy new ones if the old ones don't fit anymore). You don't just go buying new things because you get tired of the old ones. That's (here comes the w-word again) wasteful! Oh, wastefulness, the most sinful of sins in my secular world.

It was also suggested that we would need an additional chest of drawers because we would need somewhere to put all her things. I'm not really seein it. Dunno. Not seeing her needing that many things, not seeing myself keeping things she doesn't even know she wants, much less needs, at least not before she's old enough to protest.

Ok, so past all these seemingly superficial conflicts over pink objects and the presence or absence of fancified, brand-spanking-new lampshades and window treatments, we have a fundamental conflict. I mean, I had everything I wanted when I was a kid, it's not like I was deprived and think my kid should be deprived, too. But I think pretty much most kids have what they need, as long as they have a safe home and are being fed and loved. The rest is window dressing, and window dressing for whom? In retrospect, I had a lot more than lots of kids, and a lot less than others. And I was happy either way. It's not like I ever didn't get what I wanted for Christmas or anything.

What I wonder about is how we are taught to desire. I have nothing against consumerism (I am a full participant), but there are levels of it, and I guess I have slightly less of a desire of objects than others do. And I think that might make me happier than people who are always wanting more stuff, better stuff, newer stuff. Don't get me wrong, I like stuff, but I don't want ALL the stuff. And I have this worry-- I don't know if it's justified or not, I have no idea-- that buying a baby vast quantites of unnecessary things, and then continuing to do so throughout her life, is a recipe for a person who has a degree of desire for things that I for one would prefer my child not have. I'm not trying to raise an ascetic, here, but.

I sometimes imagine two scenarios-- one where the baby is there, in the room that I have arranged as I see fit, with things that J and I have chosen, wearing clothes that we have chosen. I find that pleasing. Then I have a flash of what the reality will be-- a room filled with extraneous crap that I don't like and never wanted, with a kid dressed all in frilly pink because that's what I have because that's what we were given and I'm too frugal to waste things that are given to me. I don't even own that life. It's someone else's fantasy, someone else's vision.

So, yeah-- I can laugh off lampshades and do what I have to do to get along when the intentions are good. But underneath, what we have is a) fear of loss of control, and b) issues of class, consumerism, materialism. And so a new lampshade is not just a new lampshade. The purchase of a new lampshade and the reasons for its purchase are instantiations of my autonomy and self-identity (see, I am a good consumer!), and those are constantly being challenged these days. They're becoming a bit chafed with all the activity, frankly.

Sorry for the extended self-analysis. But when something bothers me, I like to work out why.

Now if I only knew what to do about it.

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