a mash-up of breaking (families) & fashion
I’m firmly middle class. Let’s just get that settled, disclosed, admitted, whatever… up front.
Now, about an hour ago I bought something. I don’t buy a lot of things, at least my perception is that I don’t buy a lot of things. I spend money. I shop, occasionally. And I acquire the occasional so-called toys mostly in the form of electronics or entertainment devices that allow me to spend my free time slouching on the couch and zoning out. But an hour ago I went out and bought something quite expensive: I bought, off contract, a top of the line brand new iPhone.
Why? Partially, it’s because my (up-until-this-morning) current phone was getting rather sluggish but, more importantly (at least for the topic of this essay) because the gap between my expectations for how it should be performing and how it was performing had reached a perceptible gap for which I was unhappy.
I’ll admit, a significant part of the reason was just because I wanted something better. I wanted to keep up the appearance (if no where else but in my own mind) that I was “keeping up appearances” as the saying goes.
Now, I can afford it. As I said previously, middle class: I have a steady job, expenses that are in check, and (other than occasionally splurging a thousand dollars on, say, a shiny new phone) I don’t spend a lot of money.
I can see how such a purchase would lead to marital troubles if one didn’t have that kind of cash in the bank: some has suggested that data shows “at least one-half of the 41% Canadian divorce rate – or about 1 in 5 of our divorces – are caused primarily by money?”  That’s a big toll.
But it strikes me as a point worth exploring –and not from the “gee-whiz, couples who live outside their budgets must fight with each other a lot more” perspective, which has probably been explored to death– but rather the topic which I tended to agree with when I heard it discussed in a podcast the other day: that (to paraphrase) the ideas that fit into the same genre as “keeping up appearances” and thinking we deserve to have cool toys for no other reason than sheer “want” is creating a kind of gap between what we as average people expect to have and what we can actually afford to have.