Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"I'll Have What She's Having."

    Why do we want we can't have? You order the grilled salmon at the restaurant, but once your friend gets his 12 ounce sirloin steak, you wish you'd ordered the steak. You bought the 32" TV in good spirits, but when your neighbor buys the 48" television, you kick yourself for not spending the extra money on a bigger set. You love your dog, but you can't help wanting to get another one, a puppy that will be oh-so-cute for a few months, just because he's new and different. I think we're getting close to the heart of it here: novelty. [Note: Title of this post taken from a line from When Harry Met Sally. Haven't seen it? You should.]
    Novelty is the reason so many people have so much stuff and spend so much money and want even more. Well, I know that I already have the new I-Pod, but they just put out another newer one, with a touchscreen, and 50 GB with video last week. It only costs $500. I just bought new shoes yesterday, but that girl over there has these awesome-looking pumps that I think I have to have for... $200.
    We like new stuff--that's not news. But is it because it's new, or is it actually an improvement on what we now have? In some cases, we do need an update on something. The stereo only brings in the radio if you stand really close to it? It might be time for a new one. Or at least a new antenna. The jeans you're wearing have holes in them and so many patches you can't even tell where the original fabric is? You may want to invest in a new pair.
    However, it's not these cases that are the issue. It's the cases where you have something that's perfectly good, works fine, serves its purpose, you still enjoy using/wearing it, but the new one just came out, or a cooler looking one just came out, and even though it's way out of your budget, and completely unreasonable to spend that kind of money on it, something inside you tells you that you want it--not only want it, but have to have it. You may even feel like you can't live without it--it's just so much more convenient and user-friendly and better than what you have now.
    I'm guilty of this "grass is greener" mentality as much as the next person. I constantly want what the person next to me ordered, to the point that I mooch off their plate all night. I have bought clothes that I didn't absolutely need for the reason that they were trendier or prettier-looking than something I already had. It's always a frustrating boat to be in, not having something you want, or worse, not being able to afford something you really want. I know how lucky I am to be where I am in this world and have what I have. Some of it I've earned, some of it I've received due to the generosity of others, or with the help of others, but I am grateful for what I have. It's just that sometimes, I do want the new shoes, or that incredible-looking steak on my dinner companion's plate.
    Perhaps it's biology, or evolution, to want what we can't have. It keeps us working hard, doing more, trying to have more, trying to make ourselves cooler, sexier, more attractive, interesting, intelligent--even if it's only in appearance, and not in actuality. [Digression: Appearance actually seems to play quite a large role in evolution and adaptation from what I understand--though I'm no scientist.]
    While the reason for wanting what we can't have may remain a mystery, with only speculation available as some kind of answer to it, at the very least, if we can recognize that we want something for its novelty rather than its necessity, perhaps we can scale that impulse back a little bit. Learn to do without. It probably won't happen, but awareness is the first step on the path to change.
You can't always get what you want. [The Rolling Stones]


Outnumbered said...

I have long been a "grass is greener person" and it wasn't until I became independent(I don't know if I'd call myself an adult yet) that I realized how little other people's crap means to me. I spent quite a bit of time alone after Aiden was born - no one ever invited me out type-thing. So I went to movies by myself and restaurants alone and shopping solo. And it was the coolest thing. Suddenly it was like waking up to this whole new decisive side of myself where I got to make all decisions and no one was around to make me second guess my choices or to influence my likes/dislikes. Now I go out once a month totally alone because I love just loving what I have and what I buy and what I order and what I find. Totally recommend it.

Constant Writer said...

I totally agree. I don't care for shopping alone, but movies and restaurants are a lot of fun by yourself. Sometimes you just don't have a person with you who can appreciate the movie you're watching or the restaurant you're eating at, and that's part of the enjoyment of going there. That's awesome that you found decisiveness was a side effect of this. I don't know if I found that I became more decisive, but I definitely find it liberating. Not having people influence your feelings about something is a big plus when it comes that type of thing.

+Constant Writer

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