Dec 26, 2008

A personal post or my life when I’m in a “digital smoothie state of mind”

Posted by: Marian Salzman In: American life| family life| trendspotting

My trends are converging.

Is it just me, or does this year’s holiday season feel like one big media message about deep discounts and Bargain Fridays, and people who aren’t spending? This morning I was in the Westport, Connecticut, shopping district, and there were signs everywhere virtually screaming, “Come in!,” “Cheap prices” and “Buy here.”

I sat in the Barnes & Noble café answering e-mails and reading Tweets, and among them were calls to action from my former stomping grounds: the 5th floor of Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, J. Crew.

But where I once would have been so excited to check out the “60 percent off” racks at Bergdorf and to stock up on tissue T’s at J. Crew, I just have no passion for shopping now, not to mention zero discretionary funds, since I own a house with serious negative equity. (The Fairfield County, Connecticut, market has been hit hard; I believe Business Week recently gave the town adjacent to mine the unfortunate distinction of being the country’s second hardest hit zip code. Always nice to find yourself leading a trend.)

So here I am living the new normal, shopping in my own closet unless I need to replace something that’s worn out beyond repair. I did go to Kohl’s for black tights two weekends ago, a far cry (or step into the basement floor) for a woman who once chose her neighborhood in Amsterdam for its proximity to PC Hooftstraat, with its Wolford and La Perla boutiques. That was so then.

Now I’m on a first-name basis with the shoemaker. The other day, as I was negotiating having half soles replaced, I suddenly remembered my childhood embarrassment that my mother was on very comfortable terms with Mr. Bob, the shoemaker in our suburban town.

It’s taken me more than three decades to start living some of the phrases that my mother (Greatest Generation) and grandmother, a definite product of the Depression, would repeat, typically to one another since none of them resonated with the very modern kids who came after them: Why buy new? Who needs another? Hand it up, and down, and around.

Suddenly thrift stores seem the most likely destination if I do any clothes shopping for spring, and a friend and I have joked that the Palm Beach stores will be chock full of the best of the best, thanks to Mr. Madoff. Seriously, who needs Bergdorf’s 5th floor when its designer floors, lightly used by the elite of the elite, will be on fire sale as South Florida elites try to raise quick cash?

In fact, I was trying to persuade my friend that we should become entrepreneurs and curate fashion collections out of the painful ashes left from the most disgusting, greedy scandal ever recorded. I was actually engaged not by the shopping dimensions, or the styling possibilities, but by the idea of an eBay storefront, not to mention the possibility of some extra cash at a time when the economy has me scared out of my wits (though I have a quirky hopeful streak about what happens at hope’s edge).

I’m running the risk of completely escaping into a solitary third space—text messaging, Facebook-posting, news clip captures, blogging, Twitter and social media tutorials. On the other end of the spectrum, a friend told me last night that she’s thinking of shooting her computer. Another friend told me Facebook was the ruination of his Christmas afternoon because his niece had friended the whole family, and just before they sat down to the ham and mash, four generations were confronted with news about her private parts, former lovers and recent fantasies many of which had evidently been realized in Technicolor.

Last year Facebook suicides were the rage, and last night at our Christmas dinner, de-following people on Twitter was the great debate. What’s clear is that among the clutter we’re clearing out is too many people hanging on and butting in—at the same time, too many lines are getting blurred as uncles get updated on their nieces’ every fantasy and as friends and families get turned into digital smoothies.

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    You say your trends are converging but they appear to me to be contradicting. Just a few days ago you were writing that the Cuspers will take over the world and the main reason is that they are digital. Today you write that folks are getting tired of digital connection and are moving away from it. Which trend do we look at?

    Also, the discussion regarding a recent discovery of thriftiness does not sound very Cuspish. Many of us boomers have been living that way for years and the marginalized in this culture don't have a closet to shop from. I applaud the "new" discovery of thriftiness. It demonstrates a wise move toward responsible living.
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