Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Power of the Brand

After finishing Sandra Tsing Loh's Mother on Fire this weekend, I got into a long email exchange with a friend about what I'll call the consumer-identity matrix. You know, it's that thing that describes how you express yourself, even actualize yourself, through what you buy. Because Tsing Loh makes a big point about the actualization-via-commercialization of parenthood in general and motherhood in particular and it's about all the stuff Real Simple suggests you buy but it's also really about private school. I could say a lot about this book, and I probably will in dribs and drabs, but I want to stick to the consumer point, because there's no denying that buying a new pair of great looking jeans makes you feel great, or it makes me feel great, but does that make me a shallow person? A bad mom? So my friend and I mull this over and I finish this exchange laughing at myself for not being able to buy a couch for fear it will be all wrong and not me and actually in bad taste, and we all know how awful that would be. And my friend points out, wisely, that not only that but when you pick your couch you're basically picking your actualized self from one of four catalogues and it's like chuckle chuckle Yeah I know! And I feel like I find my happy medium place in this email exchange. Then I read this article about Speedo's $575 fancy pants (literally) bathing suit that Michael Phelps -- and everyone else -- wore during the Olympics, and it turns out if you're a regular Joe Swimmer (sans six-pack), then the suit and the $175 warm-up parka will make you swim faster. And now, I don't feel so good anymore. Because there's no escape! All this to say, I'm certainly not buying any jeans, not when I have to save up for that swim parka.

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