Now before we
begin I am going to caveat the crap out of this post because 1. I own a few, 2.
I plan to own a few more and 3. this post is very much like the pot calling the
kettle black… I'm the pot, you're the kettle, and like most other females my age, I like having these things… It's not the act of owning them, it's the endless, blindless pursuit that has me baffled. So I'm writing about it anyway
because it is worth thinking about the next time we decide to drop a couple
grand on some pebbled leather, and it is something that is so strikingly
obvious about our tiny island that every friend of mine from out of town has
actually commented on it before (my favourite being: do Singaporean women shit
money or something? That bag costs more than my rent). That’s perspective for
you. So here goes.
The other night, over chicken rice (wee nam kee – have you tried it ? It’s the best), a good friend of mine was relating a story about how after having lunch with a group of girl friends, she suddenly felt the need to buy a new bag, because it seemed that everyone else was buying one or talking about buying one. You see it was interesting to me because she is one of the very few people I know who really, truly can’t be arsed about these things, so it was seriously surprising to hear that coming from her. So we delved a little deeper and came to the conclusion that if it weren’t for the society we all happen to live in, she wouldn’t have entertained those thoughts, she’d prefer to drop that dollar on an amazing holiday somewhere.
The thing about being crammed onto a tiny island, full of other people who strongly believe in having “face,” where we’re told from the time we’re toddlers that you have to run the race (regardless of whether running is your thing), and be benchmarked against everyone else who is even remotely like you (e.g., same age – I still remember those goddamn class rankings, I was one of those kids who was hardly ever in the single digits), is that when you finally graduate into the real world you continue to crave the external validation that you were taught to reach for in school. What happens then? When it’s no longer about who’s smartest or got the best grades, and there’s no report card to tell you (and the world) how well you’re doing?
We reach for other things. Things that people can see. Things that identify us as a certain type of person – rich successful have-it-all. Don’t we all want to be this? Better than the rest? The best of the best? We all want to be that someone who is, by everyone else’s definition, living the good life.
Owning a branded bag (or two or three or four or an entire closet full) seems to be a sign that we’ve passed the “you’ve made it” test [and I suppose for the men it’s that zippy little BMW or Benz]. We’ve graduated into the popular kids club. Owning an It Bag when it is an IT means we must know the powers that be because it’s just. so. impossibly. difficult. to find one. We get a nod from the rest of the world that yes, indeed, thou art better than me.
More influential, more persuasive, more charming, more money, more in the know. Just more. Of everything.
If only owning an It Bag meant genuine acceptance and respect. If only owning an It Bag equated to the actual good life. If only owning an It Bag could make someone more likeable. If only owning an It Bag could imbue someone with a sense of confidence and self-worth so unshakeable they could take on the world. If only it was so easy.
We want It because It stands for something, but the irony is that an object that used to signal that someone was actually living well (luxury was limited to those who could afford it without a thought, who had already met all their other needs in life) has become something so desired for the sake of external validation that people actually sacrifice the very things that make life good all in order to get their hands on that damn It Bag.
Forgoing holidays for a bag. Skipping meals out with friends for a bag. Levered to the hilt or under a mountain of debt for a bag. Slaving till we’re 60 and sacrificing time with kids/grandkids to buy a closet full of coveted bags.… I’m not entirely sure I’d define that as the good life. Or any life at all in fact. But maybe I’m missing something here.
[You think I'm making these anecdotes up as I go along... I'm not. And that's scary]
Wanting nice things is perfectly normal, but when we’re pursuing them to the point of sacrificing those things in life that actually make it wonderful – time with friends, family, traveling to see the world, going for concerts and eating out in the company of good friends... It then seems silly to work a job that saps our souls and makes us want to stab ourselves every morning for the sake of every season’s It Bag.
But then again, maybe it’s a function of one’s definition of “the good life.” Personally, it’s about living well, and collecting experiences – as many as will fit into my lifetime. I find it hard to imagine that the number of dust-bag covered It Bags in your closet could quantify happiness. But then again, perhaps I would feel differently if I didn’t own any at all. I’m as guilty as the next girl for buying into all of this.
That same friend of mine commented earlier this year that money can always be made (therefore nice cars and bags can be bought), but time and youth, are finite. That Celine Phantom could buy you 7 days in the Maldives diving with the mantas and memories to last a lifetime [if you’re interested, let me know, I’ll put you in touch with the organizers]. The Maldives won’t always be there. It’s sinking everyday. But you can rest assured that next season, there will be, a new It Bag on the scene.