Jacob Hiatt was run on a lottery system, but one that seemed more than a little biased. Not only did the now Mayor of Worcester’s daughter go there, I’m 95% certain I only got in because I was from a white family and lived in the bad part of town and could nicely even out the ratios. This isn’t to say we were rich; my mom worked two jobs and my dad was starting his own business. With four kids that meant that money was pretty tight in the Esty household. Luckily clothes that met the uniform guidelines could be found at places like TJ Maxx, BJ’s and Land’s End. These were clothes that were bought to last through another three kids. So no thin shirts that would rip and stain, and pants got patched over blown out knees.
What you couldn’t find at TJ Maxx was the little butterfly. That butterfly adorned the shirts of all the popular girls. I had no clue where one even acquired such a shirt, I just knew that I needed one. Those shirts were magic. With a butterfly on my shirt I would have been cool, confident, and even respected. The group of friends I had been trying to fit in with for five years would have welcomed me with open arms. That butterfly didn’t come cheap and certainly wasn’t in my mom’s budget plan. Where I saw instant popularity she saw poor quality. Needless to say, I never got my hands on one of those shirts.
Even to 11 year olds there is a difference between the have and the have-nots. We all knew the one girl who was so poor she turned her clothes inside out so she could wear them again the next day. Even at 11 years old I had been conditioned to know that a brand could move me up in the world. Even at 11 years old the social hierarchy had been formed due to the materialistic nature of our society.
Now, would my life have been dramatically different if my mother had gone against her moral values and given into my pre-teenaged self? Stanley Lebergott said that most American’s have, “spent their way to happiness” (Twitchell 46). However, Ian Frazier finds his role of consumer only a patriotic duty, not one with any positive connotation attached to it. In their essays, the contrasting ideas of Ian Frazier and James Twitchell explore how consumerism affects buying habits, our happiness, and the American way of life.
To say that the objects bought everyday are always needed would be ludicrous. Frazier states in his essay that his wife often goes through his shopping bags and immediately tosses unneeded purchases into the garbage. So why do we buy? Maybe it is to keep up with a certain lifestyle. Twitchell talks about how everyone knows who a yuppie is by what they wear, drive, and consume. You are also drawn to people with similar interests as you. Your lifestyle is a coherent pattern of objects. The idea of social conformity starts being saturated into our lives at a very early age. Commercials, billboards, and flyers tell us to buy. So, the next time you go to the store you beg your mom to get you the coolest new toy and the next thing you know you are a part of the mallcondo culture.
The pressure from advertisers is just one reason to buy. In his essay “All Consuming Patriotism” Frazier explores the ideas of consumers buying because they feel as though it is being asked of them by their country. He states that, “people want to express themselves with action”. Frazier looks back to a time when the country in need actually asked their citizens to help out and specifically stated what was needed from them. Now, Frazier says, “money and the economy have gotten so tangled up in our politics that we forget we're