Style vs. Materialism

There’s style…

I believe in style, the ability to express through one’s outer layer, portraying a mood, character, or even another time.

It was somewhat of an accident when I stumbled into a five year stint selling designer jewelry at a luxury retail store. It was a college job which continued well after graduating. My professors teased me in school, wondering why the student writing prolific papers on human rights and conflict management was bejeweling the Dallas elite.

Raised by a single father, there was little money for shopping and little emphasis on a feminine appearance. My dad tried fixing up my hair when I was younger—it was a constant disaster.

I had this incredible urge to outwardly convey creativity and rummaged through thrift stores for sport. Unlike the head to toe chain store ensembles adorning most of the other kids my age, I looked unique. Despite being made fun of, I felt good about myself.

Then, there’s materialism…

Working in sales at a high-end store was a vast departure from the bargain bins and musty vintage I preferred. I made good money, but I never fit in.

When I got engaged everyone wanted to drool over an ostentatious diamond ring. I’ll never forget their shocked faces. My hemp engagement ring was unanimously lost on my coworkers and clients.

As you can imagine, half a decade in this posh environment loaded my brain with ammo. I was armed to the teeth with outlandish stories of the rich and famous, those keeping up with the Joneses, and of course, the employees who fell somewhere in between.

My next book, Everything’s Not Bigger, will release on November 10. The premise explores the choice between excessiveness and simplicity.

There’s a well known slogan in Texas…Everything’s Bigger in Texas. You’ll find it on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and shot glasses. The meaning is subject to interpretation, geographically referring to its size and often humorously referring to anatomy.

But, I see “bigger” on a deeper level.

What is bigger–an expensive car, an oversized house, an endless walk-in closet–is not better, leading to emptiness, a life of dissatisfaction. What is not bigger, that which bears no price tag in life, is priceless.

An excerpt from Everything’s Not Bigger…

The female customer species consisted of the same story told in various ways with the same predictable ending. These customers were either married or divorced, socialites or stay-at-home moms, surgically enhanced or scheduled to be.

Their husbands were prosperous business men spearheading the oil industry. They flew from one corner of the world to the other, cheating with any woman that came along, and there were many. Money was used to attract and pay, either with the works—a covert life with a limitless charge card and a sleek apartment—or just plain prostitution.

The wives took on boy toys in their lonely existence. Mainly they found solace in a guaranteed place—Lyman’s. They could walk in at any moment and feel good about themselves. Divorces were born out of these unhappy marriages; handsome settlements kept the ex-wife happy in her accustomed riches, and cleverly away from the royal fund. Marriages also continued in this manner, sustaining the perfect life manifestation.

Some of these women could legitimately afford to shop at Lyman’s, and bought everything with abyssal bank accounts. Most couldn’t maintain and maxed out their cards to saunter out with the stuff, only to wear and return it all immediately.

There was a harsh reality about the treasures at Lyman’s. The large-scale return regime of the wannabees and the moody elite turned this seemingly posh environment into what it truly was—a secondhand store and a pretty sham.

Shoes, jewelry, even the lingerie swam in a vicious cycle from one store to the next, one body to the next. Used then repaired, the illusion was complete with a freshly printed tag, small and neat, covered in a big, dirty price.

Working on straight commission, sales people scooped up valuable customers and ran away from the dreaded returners. They couldn’t ferret out every chronic returner. Newbie employees with unrefined returner radars particularly got stuck with them. They wasted hours coddling their customer’s egos only to have the bags emptied on the counter the next day, frequently the next hour.

Strangely enough, the employees ran parallel lives to the customers, both spending most of their lives and incomes in one marvelous place. Lyman’s credit cards were not encouraged, they were mandatory, adding more fashion slaves who couldn’t look rich and tried anyway.

A corresponding group of employees, gloating with plastic faces and disposable incomes, voluntarily chose to work there. Having found no other place they would rather be, this species preferred the company of resplendent merchandise and the elegant clientele, who were often their personal friends.

Lyman’s employees sparkled on the outside, exuding confidence when they had not a drop. Teetering in a state of materialistic psychosis, they never whistled while they worked. Day in and day out, a seductive hum circled through the air—sell, sell, then sell some more!

After a grueling stint in traffic, Jaye punched the grimy keys of the outdated computer in the back hallway. She was ten minutes late, and the all store meeting was about to begin.

Which Lyman’s category did Jaye Davis fall under? None of the above.

22 thoughts on “Style vs. Materialism

  1. Sterling blog. I’m adding one of my favorites quotes, sometimes it is not that easy to find yourself, to be yourself, it is a constant and exciting search….”If a man happens to find himself, he has a mansion which he can inhabit with dignity all the days of his life.
    James A. Michener.”

    • Thanks, Dianne! You’re on my Goodreads to-read list. I’m getting a Kindle for Xmas, so I can finally read your work. I’m probably the last person on earth without an e-reader. Soon I can support my fellow indies. : )

  2. Britt, I thought of your post today so I had to come by and comment again. When I moved to the States from France a few years ago, one of the things I always laugh at is the size of my fridge (it’s just SO much bigger than the one we had in Paris). Well, a friend of mine who’s originally from Texas came over and said “oh, what a cute, small refrigerator you have!”. I had a good laugh over that as, to me, it seems so big! Anyway, it made me think of your post so I wanted to share this silly story (I now realize this comment is way too long – I didn’t realize it would take this long to tell the story. Sorry!!).

  3. I feel you on the uniqueness front. As a kid I had a really zany mother who allowed me to dress in really cool and vintage things. We would always go out and pick through value bins until we found pretty epic daily wear, then we’d share everything in this massive wardrobe of awesome. Not all the kids got it, and a few were a bit put off, but I was always so happy to be expressive with my own personal style.

    • That sounds like a fun time! Yeah, I got some funny looks and comments from the other kids, but oh well. Being expressive was always more important. Thanks for sharing your awesome perspective. : )

  4. You have an impressive style of presenting ideas! I admire bigger the better concept when it comes to big idea, big picture & bigger heart.
    And there’s a style in being minimalist too. :) I am sure your new book would be an interesting read

  5. Oh my gosh Britt! This sounds so much like my life! I can’t wait for the release of this book. All the years I worked at Parisian, my experiences were very similar to just this little teaser. Even the place I grew up in (and am still living near by) is very similar to what you are describing. Your book couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m definitely going through some sort of internal struggle. Not sure if it is from starting my blog or just from becoming a “grown up” but I feel the pressures of keeping up the jonses vibe goin on. Not necessarily with me, but around me. If that makes sense? Sometimes, I’d just like to move to the beach and live in a hut, but I know that doesn’t really solve anything:) Maybe your book will:) Sorry to rant…

    • Thank you so much for relating to this! Sweet relief for me after writing all of it…yay!

      My intention with this story was to reach out to others who have recognized this modern predicament, and the encompassing struggle to find balance within their lives. I feel very passionately that it’s a common issue we all face and believe me, my hubby and I have had the hut discussion countless times.

      As you said, going native doesn’t really solve anything. In the end, our life is what we make of it.

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