Who is That Masked Man?

My self vs. self debate began before the nylons-as-necessity mental tirade. What started as a question about whether nylons were absolutely necessary ended in the complete deterioration of my compact on grounds that it's pointless and arbitrary. So much for self-talk. Could I live without nylons? Of course. Do I want to be seen as the kind of person who goes without stockings? No. I've spent the last 45 years refining my image and learning to live in the limbo between the person I'd project to the world if I had unlimited funds, and the person I can reasonably project. This is a compromise I'm used to. Not so for my teen daughters. They are still at the age where their image is crucial to survival. They haven't achieved the nirvana of not caring--a state made possible by self-esteem. Either the kind bought over a lifetime of struggle or the natural kind a-bubblin' up from the ground like Jed's crude oil. Black gold, Texas tea.

Who is that masked man? Everyone knows. Who is that librarian with the hip glasses, streaked hair and nose ring? Whoops, my ego is showing! I feel devastated by the knowledge that I can afford to have an identity. This particular identity is dependent on shopping, even if it's thrift stores for me and tattoo laden men poking my ears with metal rings. How quaint to have the ability to choose not just anything, but something so very "me." Maybe choosing not to shop is the same as choosing to shop. The mere ability to choose is what brands me as affluent. The choices themselves are insignificant.

The debacle in New Orleans horrified me. Less than a year before Katrina hit I'd been combing Bourbon Street for plastic beads, faux gumbo magnets and cajun alligator sausage, carefully stepping over the homeless and avoiding eye contact with the choiceless. It upset my equilibrium to see the veneer of civility laid bare by a storm. Now people were sleeping and dying in the mall where I'd agonized over which t-shirt to bring home. It's all about perspective. But why is perspective so difficult to maintain?

This year of non-consumption is really a perspective-building exercise. Like having cancer. I hope to emerge a better person.

No comments: