Monday, May 27, 2013

Living in a Material World

For the first time ever, I find myself in a steady, long-term state of financial stability. We have health insurance, ample living space and savings in the bank. We keep plenty of delicious, nourishing food in our kitchen, including at least one but usually three excellent cheeses. We're paying down debt and using credit cards infrequently. The best part of this life is that money worries rarely trouble me. I know plenty of other people raise multiple kids on way less, so as far as I'm concerned, we're loaded. 

But if we lived according to true middle-class standards, we'd be super broke. Fortunately, I don't care that my 2002 Pontiac Sunfire is the last car in the country with manual locks and windows, because it's paid off and it works. The rent on our century old house is way lower than the mortgage we'd pay on a more solid abode in a superior school district, plus we don't bother with the upkeep. I spend zero money on makeup or hair styling products and tend to wear clothes out before I buy more. If this sounds like a boast, it is, but only insofar that I feel blessed for my indifference. Do I think I'm better or cooler than people who are more concerned with looking good and owning high quality stuff? Not really. I actually envy their ability to blend into society. Maybe I worry less about money, but I bet they worry less about sticking out.

Case in point - the yard sale. I hosted my first one this past weekend and I am never doing that again. The sum of money I made did not justify the long, dull hours spent feeling self-conscious about my freaky-deaky image. Here are some choice social interactions from that affair:

- An elderly lady looked at our five tons of baby stuff for sale and said with apparent confusion, "Aren't you going to have more?" Ugh. 

(p.s. I plan to save a lot of money by having just one kid.)

- A nearby neighbor introduced herself then unleashed her two toddler sons upon the merchandise. My organized porch became a playground swept up in a whirlwind. As the older one grabbed at every brightly colored toy, giving me false hopes for a sale, the younger one tore into all the bagged items before turning my coffee cup upside down upon his shirt. His mom was really embarrassed, especially about the puddle on the porch floor. Perennial renter that I am, caring about that didn't even occur to me. I offered a free boy's shirt for him, but she was really fixated on cleaning the puddle, using his coffee-stained top as a mop. Once clean-up ended, she hastily selected a pair of one dollar maternity shorts, explaining, "They just look so comfortable." But then she didn't have a dollar. So I said, "Oh, just come back later," and there was this weird silence. "You can take the shorts with you," I added, but I think she really wanted me to say, "Oh, just take 'em for free." And I almost did, but a little voice in the back of my head said, "Hell no." As I watched her walk away in her neatly pressed Eddie Bauer ensemble, I had to wonder if this whole thing was one of those weird, elaborate, southern lady mind games I just don't get. 

(p.s. I don't host a yard sale so I can overlook one dollar purchases. Almost everything was priced one dollar.)

- While all that was happening, another neighbor showed up with her tot. We've met a couple times. From her, I get a definite "Why are you talking to me?" vibe, which may be  because I always note with great enthusiasm that our daughters were born one day apart at the same hospital (we all cohabited the maternity ward, it's so magical!!!). I thought, maybe this will be our first normal interaction. But no. After chatting with whirlwind mom for a few, she glanced at a couple maternity shirts and said to me, "Well, I'm gonna keep moving." A simple "goodbye" would have sufficed. 

(p.s. I later noticed that those same shirts - which I'd purchased used and wore throughout my pregnancy - both had armpit stains. AWESOME.) 

-  A first-time expectant grandma rifled through a one dollar bag full of baby socks. "Are all these grouped together? Because these are both boy and girl socks." I replied honestly, "Um, yeah, I never really saw the point in discerning between the two, especially when it comes to socks." 

(p.s. ...or pajamas, or shirts, or pants. The conventional girls' color palate is very limited and why shouldn't she get into football and trucks, too? I know this sounds like obnoxious liberal garbage, but really we're just sick of pink and I forget that cross-dressing my kid confuses other people because I'm tired all the time. Besides, I swear boys' socks are cheaper, you get a whole bunch at once!)

In the end, I was pleased with my profit if I only considered the time spent getting ready for the yard sale. My mistake was expecting the experience itself to be a relaxing, book-filled day in the shade instead of a relentless, six hour reminder that I don't understand how other people value material things. And then I remember that I probably look pretty weird, with my old clothes and my one boy-dressed baby girl and my coffee stained front porch. But I still don't care to change any of that, so I'm not going to think about it. Rather, I will return to a state of blissful, distracted indifference and never, EVER do this again.

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