Affluenza (n) a portmanteau word fusing affluence and influenza and meaning a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.
I wrote recently about my weight loss over the last year. On the whole this has been a good thing in terms of health but I did note a few negatives, one of which was the changed shape meant perfectly sound clothes no longer fitted me. In the case of trousers and shorts, especially, this led to an uncomfortable bunching around the equatorial regions, necessitating a few new purchases.
But it didn’t stop there. As a wise man once hypothesised (French philosopher, Diderot in his essay ‘Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown’) if you upgrade one element the rest seems so shabby so a cycle of spending results. T shirts and collared shirts were next, the former baggy large sizes hanging 0ff me like a renegade Glastonbury tent billowing in the breeze. Jackets sloped off the shoulders rendering years in gym work (ahem) redundant in a surfeit of linen. Even pullovers appeared to have developed the urge to suggest I was gender bending somewhat with a new taste in A line knitwear.
When did the needs become desires wrapped up as needs? As a species, especially in the west, we have been over consuming since the baby boomers settled to their task to rid the world of any post WW2 blues. International stability, whether through a balance of terror keeping nations apart or a growing global consensus that mutual mass destruction really doesn’t cut it, has created a climate where we seem to have more so need more. If you are regularly fighting for your very existence as now happens mostly outside of the west, buying the latest must have isn’t high on your list.
Chasing what the next class up has, has given way to chasing the next celebrity must have, which is never better exemplified by the mobile phone. How many bloody upgrades do we need? It is a matter of time before the telephony tyrants offer us optional phone connectivity on our hand-helds, so overwhelming are the apps and ways we can link up. Seeing an iPhone and all it can do reminds me of the first washing machine I bought in 1982. Even back then I pondered the need for 21 settings. Over its 10 years of life we used 3, maybe 4. Now my phone does so much that I don’t need and often can’t understand anyway and the next one promises… we’ll actually just more of the same with some bells and whistles I don’t need except I’m told I must have it.
I do not want any more upgrades. If the screen cracks I want it repaired. Ditto if the charging point becomes dodge. Why can’t I have a battery that is replaceable when it is tired of life and wants time in a caesium rest home? Did you know Apple was taken to court for blocking phones that the owners had sought to have repaired in non Apple stores? WTF? Their reasoning? To protect the consumer from dodgy upgrades.
I stood in front of a mirror, rather saddened that one of my favoured T shirts made me look shapeless. And then reality stepped in. I’m 60. It’s me who is shapeless, not the T shirt. My elbows, once pert curves over which Fibonacci would have purred because of their perfection just cried out for a new equation, have slumped into little purses of puckered skin. Where is the point in buying more stuff to create a superficial impression of health and well being when my natural covering is that of the deflated balloon kind?
No, that isn’t the answer. I have a far better idea. Since the Lawyer is working abroad until October and has had to leave nearly all his clothes behind and since I happen to have shrunk to fit his sizes, I merely need to open a couple of cardboard cartoons…
Tommy Hilfiger anyone?