End of the Line

Two things happened recently, completely unrelated, to inspire today’s post:

1) As readers of this blog know, I became the happy owner of an iPad a little more than a week ago. In the exactly eleven days since, I have fielded several inquiries from well-meaning family members and friends, all asking me if I was going to get the iPad 2 when it’s released in a few months. Can you imagine? The thought that someone (let alone several people) would ask this question so soon into my relationship with my current iPad is . . . well, it’s ridiculous. It’s like asking someone who has just given birth if they want another child. Yes. No. Yes. Ugh!

2) As I dressed the other day, I prepared to wear my  silky wool, olive shirt-jacket (OK, I know a shirt-jac is sort of weird, but it was a blouse-weight blazer. My mom might call it a “top.”) Anyway, as I gently peeled it off the hanger, I noticed a gaping hole under the right arm. Yikes! I quickly put on my magnifier glasses to inspect the garment more closely, and I learned it was, quite literally, thread-bare. It was so worn the threads had pulled away from each other, leaving a 4-inch hole of strings. Without question, the shirt-jac was one of my favorite tops. In fact, it was one of my “go-to” tops that never disappointed. Very well-made (Marshall Field’s circa mid-1990s), and versatile, my shirt-jac could be dressy, casual or business-y at any given time (depending on accessories). I was really bummed. Sad, actually.

So I got to thinking about how long we keep stuff these days. My 80-ish Dad, unaware of the iPad 2 inquiries and the death of my beloved shirt-jac, observed today how his generation (The Greatest Generation, if you’re keeping score) kept stuff a lot longer than we do today. I never really thought about it until now, but he’s absolutely right. Who actually wears anything until it’s “thread-bare” anymore? We get new stuff because . . . well, because it’s new. We like to be on the leading edge of fashion, technology, and more. The Greatest Generation – who lived through Depression-era scarcity and WWII rationing – uh, not so much.

I remember, as a young bride 30 years ago, staying overnight at my husband’s parents’ home. The bath towels were so well-used they were the texture of fine sandpaper. They weren’t thread-bare, so they soldiered on . . . called into service long beyond their fluffiness and ability to absorb. But my in-laws came of age in the 1930s. Need I say more?

No wonder more than 50,000 GGs (Greatest Generation-ites) hired NASMM member senior move managers last year. GGs have years and years of stuff! Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millenials – what will we do in the future? I’m afraid the pendulum is swinging from one extreme to another – from never throwing anything out to replacing everything that no longer enthralls us.

Our 20-something kids can’t believe my husband and I – along with my sister and parents – still use six-year old cell phones. The kids, on the other hand, calculate the precise date Verizon indicates they are eligible for their “New Every 2” discount on a shiny new cell. It’s a date our kids commit to memory like a friend’s birthday. It doesn’t matter that their current cell phones work just fine.

So will our children need senior move managers in 2050? It’s hard to say, but my guess is “Yes.” Besides “new,” we also like “more.” The real sweet spot is more of something new.  It will be interesting to observe our relationship with stuff in the coming years, especially if we continue to live as we do now.  In our Ikea culture, how long should a bookshelf last? What’s the acceptable lifespan of a bath towel in a Walmart world? Who buys the iPad 2 – a newcomer to the device or a devotee of a perfectly functioning iPad 1 seeking more bells and enhanced whistles? I’m asking because I don’t know . . .

Right now, I think I’ll crank up the ol’ iPad and Google “women’s shirt-jac” and see what pops up.  Maybe someone’s selling one on eBay . . .

2 thoughts

  1. We live in the generation of planned obsolescence. The GG’ers had quality workmanship coupled with value for the money. I am sorry to hear that your beloved jacket has bit the dust. Your parents would probably suggest you mend it. I am still not certain what value there is to be had in ancient rubber bands, twists from plastic bags, plastic bags from stores or any number of other treasures we convince people they can safely live without (or at least in pared down amounts). Maybe this year is my year for some version of an Apple something, maybe even an IPAD!

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