Originally Posted by unstableisotope
Re: Syracusa's comment:
I think more what she was getting at is the way we are expected to feel guilty and apologize for anything we do that could be considered for pleasure only. We're expected to explain to our table-mates if we order dessert rather than just enjoy it, people feel free to comment on what you put in your grocery cart. A glass of wine can be a problem (a pregnant woman in S. Carolina was charged with child endangerment for ordering a glass of wine, even though pretty much every obstetrician out there says a glass now and then is fine). We're made to feel lazy (or fired) if we don't work 50 hour weeks, even though it's been shown over and over again that people are more productive with shorter hours and happier lives. It's not that we aren't over-stimulated and irresponsible consumers - we are. It's the not feeling like we can truly relax and enjoy life without a nagging feeling of guilt - and that comes from our Puritanical heritage.
Unstableisotope explained perfectly what I was getting at. You are right about the cereals at the grocery store. We ARE bombarded with lots of color and gloss in advertising - but at the same time, all this color used in advertising somehow DOES NOT translate into an expression of joy of living in people's every day life. I have noticed that DESPITE rampant consumerism there is a promulgation of the "ugly" in this culture like I have seen nowhere else.
I am not sure how to explain this...from the glorification of Crocs as "cool" footwear (have you ever seen a more hideous thing to be placed on a human being's foot?) to the tons of cheap and ugly clothes that average Joes prefer to buy (instead of 4 beautiful, quality pieces)...America doesn't exactly inspire beauty, art, color, and joy of living when you take a closer look.
It gives an overall sensation of lack of authenticity, syntheticism, uniformity, poor quality and yes! ...even austerity, DESPITE otherwise agressive displays of opulence in houses, cars, and quantity of merchandise acquired.
Once I mentioned to a co-worker that I had made a fragrance purchase at Nordstroms. She blurted in disbelief: "You are shopping at Nordstroms????!! This is the most overpriced store I have ever seen! Besides..do you know what perfumes are made of? Animal glands!!".
She sounded pretty horrified and scornful. She then went on to say that she gets her clothes from Old Navy and that she is always a thrift shopper (her husband will soon be earning 300,000 USD a year as a spinal injuries doctor).
She changes her clothes all the time. She has about a million pieces of clothes - all ugly and of very poor quality...but she rarely wears one piece twice.
This is a mentality I can't get over. You cannot afford Nordstroms but you CAN afford a million pieces of poor quality that will cost you way more than 4 Nordstroms pieces and will also make you look ugly all the time.
Again, the glorification of austerity combined with ugly consumerism - over quality and beauty.
As for fragrance-free detergents: I know that true perfume lovers may not want the smell of detergents in their clothes because they want their nice perfume to shine instead (though I believe that those fresh detergent smells are so light and breezy that they don't really interfere with your perfume).
But think about it: a lot of people do not wear perfume at all!
The point was the "fragrance-free" mentality in everything, at all times.
I know that in Europe not many people can afford to put on nice perfume on a daily basis. Instead they use a fresh, pleasently fragranced deodorant and it's still something.
My mom was always the type who kept her nice fragrance bottle (Caron, Chanel or Nina Ricci) for a special ocasion - and on a daily basis, for work, she was just using a Fa deodorant. She always smelled beautifully when she left the house.
In the end - yes, it is all about Puritanism mixed with rampant and ugly consumerism. Guilt and excesses at the same time, combined with an innate absence of the appreciation of beauty and life's pleasures.
Unfortunately, I think these are some of the flaws in this culture.
That's why you'll see attacks against the "hedonistic" and "unhealthy" Thierry Mugler and the like.
PS: Yes, we have gotten a bit off topic - so maybe a moderator may consider moving it to the "general topics" section?